Soon Mee Kim: It’s not enough to be quietly anti-racist

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

The Transcript - Interview with Soon Mee Kim

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Well, good afternoon. Today we are talking with Soon Mee Kim about Asian American and Pacific Islanders month and how we can talk about race and racism at work. But before we get started today, I want to share that I am drinking a fabulous, uh, Napa Rosé. This is actually, um, uh, called black girl magic and it's by two women, the McBride sister, I didn't have a valley and they have an entire portfolio. And so we're going to put a little push out for them, for you to go and enjoy some, some black girl magic It's nice April day So, uh, anyways, that's what I'm drinking, Amanda, what are you drinking today?

Amanda Hammett: I'm super jealous. Now, I have a little espresso I needed an afternoon. Um, so if by the end of this episode, I'm bouncing off the walls. My apologies to everyone. Well, wonderful. Wonderful. I am very excited, not just about my espresso, but actually about our guests. Um, it's my honor to introduce Soon Mee Kim, Soon Mee is the chief diversity equity and inclusion officer for Omnicom Public Relations Group and the Omnicom Brand Consultant Group. Um, the worldwide leader in marketing communication.Soon Mee is a dreamer and a doer and drives purposeful action. A twenty-five year communications agency veteran. She's a proven leader and creative problem solver with a passion for workplace culture, supporting the talent life cycle, very important stuff, and confronting systemic bias. Her forte is in uncovering and articulating the reasons why people should care about complex issues. Hence why she's here. So formally and informally, her favorite roles are that a mentor, coach and student.

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Soon Mee, welcome to Win(e)d Down Wednesday. And of course I have to ask what's your beverage of choice?

Soon Mee Kim: Well, Jeffery, Amanda, thank you so much for that very warm welcome I'm so excited to be here with you. My beverage of choice is an iced Korean coffee. It's in the stainless steel mug. That happens to say, Kyle, I have no idea where it comes from. I don't know who Kyle is, but somehow it's in my cupboard and I'm a, yes, I'm an enjoying a, a tall iced coffee.

Amanda Hammett: Well, thank you to Kyle this morning. Well, okay. Let's, let's dive in because we have a lot of ground to cover. Um, this year AAPI heritage month takes place against the backdrop of a rise in anti-aging crimes. Including online harassment during the pandemic. As some people have falsely blamed Asian-Americans for the spread of the coronavirus. Soon Mee, can you provide some background on AAPI heritage month and also talk for a minute about your background and the group that you recently co founded. Voices for AAPI.

Soon Mee Kim: Thank you so much, Amanda, for the question. So there's a lot in there. So I'll start with, um, Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month. Um, so the month, um, was first started as a, uh, a week and I think it was really difficult to even have that passed by, um, the US until even recently, I didn't really grow up celebrating, um, Asian-American Pacific Islander heritage month until I would say in the very I don't know, maybe last five, 10 years, but ultimately what it speaks to is just the need and the desire to understand a little bit more about Asian American and Pacific Islander, um, history as part of American history as a time to really celebrate the culture and that beautiful tapestry. That is part of what makes up, um, specifically America and, um, Really the fact that we are so interconnected, how we are all really interwoven. So it's really a commemorative time to think about history. Uh, sadly I think history is something that we all need to learn more about in many forms, but specifically, um, when I think about Asian-American and Pacific Islander history is something that's been very much invisibilized over, um, a long, long period of time. Um, Amanda, you also spoke about. The hate, sadly, the issue of hate against, um, our communities is not something new. It's something that has been going on, um, for a very long time. But it's certainly what we realized during this pandemic that it hasn't gone away. And it's very much targeted, um, to our communities. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 10,000. Incidents that have been documented. We know there are more, um, and if you're following online, it doesn't, it hasn't stopped. It has not abated when bit we see continuous examples of terrible hate incidents that are directed towards people in our community. Um, More likely than not the elderly, um, and more likely than not women. So it's really terrible to see how in the midst of all of that. However, um, it's been a galvanizing moment for many organizations to form to address that into visibility that silencing, and certainly the hate as well. And voices for AAPI is one of them. Um, it's one of the ways that we're really trying to make sure that the fullness of who we are in our communities is recognized and that we are achieving systemic equity across our specific industry of communications, marketing and creative services.

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Um, so as we think about this and realize that we have mostly a business audience and we certainly want to connect and bring, you know, vital points to them, what are some of these experiences, both positive and negative Uh, of Asian-Americans in the workplace. Yeah.

Soon Mee Kim: I think there are a few concepts that are so important for those that are in the business setting in particular need to know about, because if you don't know about these concepts, that it's very likely whether you are a part of the community or you're not at that, you're thinking like, oh, it's just a one-off. Right. But, um, so when we realized like trends, like these are concepts, like these really point to a larger issue and a larger trend than it's different. So one example is the Model Minority Myth. Um, so it's often like, oh, you're a smart Asian, um, didn't your people go to Harvard or aren't you taking up, you know, like certain roles let's say in stem fields. And, you know, there can be things that are positive attributes that are directed towards folks. The sad thing about that, however, is that guess what? Maybe you're not a stem person. Maybe you're someone who wants to go into a creative field and you're deemed as someone who does not have, let's say the language skills or, um, the capabilities outside of that, but also just the term itself. There was a time I would say, in this country, um, where there was so much, um, discrimination. Um, well, let's just talk about Japanese internment as an example. And so this whole idea of the model minority was created as a wedge issue against the black community. It was created as one when the US for example, was very heavily invested in, um, In efforts overseas, particularly in Asia, so needed to address, like how do we improve upon our image and the world stage? So that's where a lot of the model minority myth even comes from. Um, there's also the issue of this idea of the perpetual foreigner. So Amanda, Jeffery, I don't think of you as somebody like this, but guess what? For a lot of people, they might see a name like mine, Soon Mee Kim They might see it come across their resume, that resume across the desk. And if they don't know me.There are several biases, implicit or explicit I'm immediately, like you might think like, oh, she's not American. She's not from here. Maybe she doesn't speak English. Um, and frankly, I was born here. I've been here probably a pretty long time. I would say I speak English pretty well. There's a lot of assumptions that can be made in those ways. That is, um, again, that idea that you can be here, multiple generations, you might've come here in the 1850s, um, to help build the transcontinental railroad. Um, you're, you know, there's so many different ways that, uh, of belonging, but if you are always considered a perpetual foreigner, if you're, if the default is to ask someone like, Hey, where are you from? No, no, no, no, no. Where are you really from? That is the idea that you're really at best. You're a guest here. And guests have to follow rules and understand rules, and it's not surprising then to be then told the K um, go back to your country. If you know, you're, you're not feeling that sense of like, um, belonging, if you will, but also, so the model minority myth, they perpetual foreigner. I think a third concept that folks have to be really recognized is one called the bamboo ceiling. So it's a kind of a play on the whole, glass ceiling, if you will. And so the bamboo ceiling really just speaks to the fact that, Hey, you know what, to me, somebody like you, you're a great worker, please continually continue working on these spreadsheets for us. Um, but you know what? I don't know that you're someone that I can really trust in a management position. Maybe you don't, you know, um, display what we think about as Um, leadership skills. And so very often folks get trapped in certain roles. Um, often Asian, Asian Americans, um, including Pacific Islanders are the most under promoted folks within, um, our organization. So that notion of the bamboo ceiling is real. Um, again, if you're talking to somebody individually, they may think like, Hey, this is just happening to me. Maybe there are things that I need to correct about myself and sure. We all have things that we need to improve upon. Um, but when we see this as a widespread issue, um, collectively yet certainly those trends begin to emerge.




Amanda Hammett: Let me switch gears for just a, just a second. Um, and in the wake of racist events, I mean, it's really, it's hard to know. What is the right thing to say, what is the right thing to do? I know that I've, I've personally struggled to know what was the right thing to say or do in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd or the murder spree that we experienced here in Atlanta that impacted the Asian community.What would be your suggestions? What, what is something does someone like Jeffery and I, we want to be allies. What would be your suggestions for us?

Soon Mee Kim: Yeah. Thanks for the question, Amanda. You're not alone. I mean, there are many times when there are situations I'm not as familiar or comfortable with as well. And so that question is a certainly A really good one. Um, I think when we are struggling to know what to say or to do, it's a cue for us to listen. It's a cue for us to learn and to lean in. So very often we have, um, a bias towards action, right. Which is definitely a very good thing. But action that's not rooted in more of an understanding can often come off as performative to others and then sometimes even reckless. So we have access to so much information out there. I remember during, um, you know, June of 2020, I just for fun would just kind of. Start kind of Googling in my little Google search box, like how to dish and then it would like auto fill the rest of them, just systemic racism. Right? So it's an example that, um, it's a very popular topic and something that we have access to a lot of information there. So, um, that's one thing that I would say. But there are so many great resources specifically in terms of the AAPI community. A few that I would recommend is there's a really fantastic book by Cathy Park Hong called Minor Feelings. And what it does, it really goes into a lot more than what I just shared earlier about the different concept than myths and it's, but it shares it in a really interesting way that is. Also some personal narrative. So that's one that I would, um, recommend. Um, if you want to learn a little bit more about what's happening from these Asian hate incidents, there is a group stop AAP. I hate, I think it's dot com might be that the word. Um, but that gives you the latest of what's going on. And sadly, so many groups like this have had to form in the wake of many Um, hate crimes, hate incidents that have been happening over a large period of time. And then another easy one is just in terms of diversifying like our, our social media feeds. Right? So next shark is a really good when I'm Lisa Ling, there are a lot of really good ones that just give you a sense of what's going on. That's not covered in perhaps the mainstream media or the local news, because sadly not enough of these incidents get. the coverage um, that it deserves. But one more thing I do want to say is that often when we are like pausing and trying to like say the right thing, I think it's so important that we not let the silence win and that we choose the progress over perfection. Um, I think that we let's take the risk if someone gives us correction, um, or, you know, I don't know, wags their finger at us for whatever reason let's consider it a gift that someone is, you know, given us some guidance that we need to address something. I'm so glad that I had people in my life that are from different communities to give me correction. Um, I know not all of us will react the same way. But I, for one, I tried to receive the good intentions, um, and the things that people say with the intentions in mind. So just to have someone to say in the wake of anything that happened, and certainly, um, many, many of the things that you shared, Amanda would be to say like, Hey, I don't know what to say. Um, but I'm here for you. I am thinking of you. I'm mourn with you. I'm going to acknowledge this, that this is happening. I'm so sorry that it is. And just even something as simple I think is that is to show your empathy and care is, is I would say that always the thing that, uh, is the easy kind of shortcut to, uh, expressing, um, expressing our thoughts and feelings.

Jeffery Tobias Halter: Wow. Those are great. Um, and thank you so much for that. And for our listeners, we'll have those links to that information posted on our website. Um, well thank you for those great comments as we wrap up, is there one thing, one immediate takeaway that you would ask senior leaders to do, and then also individual contributors to do. What would be those two quick pieces of advice?

Soon Mee Kim: Jeffery, one thing that's so hard. Um, so here's one thing that I'll say is that make a friend, um, if I can say, like make a friend, there's a few study that's out there that just shows that we don't have, um, really diverse spend friend groups. Most people look just like us. So if you're in a work setting, my hope is that there is someone out there, whether it's a peer or a mentor does come up with your circle, go have coffee, go have lunch together, go have virtual coffee depending on your work situation. And I really think that through those interpersonal connections, that that can be a catalyst for greater understanding and support from one another, um, and support in the workplace. So if I have to just say one, I'll say, make a friend.

Amanda Hammett: That's excellent. I love that. I think we should all be doing more of that. Well, we'll Soon Mee. Uh, thank you so much for joining us today to talk about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders month. Um, and specifically how we talk about race and racism and hate crimes at work, it can be. A difficult thing to navigate, to know what to say, what to do. Um, I certainly hope that you're going to join us again, uh, to continue this important conversation. And for those of you listening, I hope that you look into Soon Mee, and follow her on LinkedIn. You can check her out there and to learn more about voices for AAPI. Visit the website, Thank you so much. And we will see you in the very next episode.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.