More than 10,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been recorded between March 2020 and December 2021 according to the latest report from the nonprofit organization Stop AAPI Hate.
Sadly, these kinds of crimes are nothing new and the number of reported incidents climb day by day. The way these attacks target the vulnerable—specifically elderly and women during a pandemic surge—was particularly frightening and difficult to process, says Michelle Fong, Oracle program manager, applications development.
Fong was particularly shaken after she learned about one incident in her hometown, San Francisco, a year ago. Isolation made the emotional shock worse; like most other Oracle employees, she was working from home during COVID lockdown.
“It was a really awful day. I had to go into Zoom meetings, but I felt distracted by what was happening to people in my neighborhood and larger community. I remember checking Oracle channels for acknowledgment of these atrocious hate crimes being committed. I was looking to see if others felt impacted,” Fong says.
She reached out to Oracle Professional Asian Leadership (OPAL), an employee resource group of Asian employees and allies, to find out if there were plans to create a space to help people process the events.
That incident led Fong to help found and lead the OPAL Equity Committee to inform the larger Oracle community about increasing hate crimes against Asians and to build space and events for awareness and healing.
“We want to offer a safe space for people to share messy feelings they might be experiencing as a result of the attacks, including fear, anxiety, and anger,” Fong says.
The OPAL Equity Committee also contributes to a monthly newsletter connecting employees with resources, including upcoming bystander intervention training and information about counseling from Oracle’s Employee Assistance Program.
The committee brings in experts to discuss the history and legacy of racially motivated attacks, including Dr. Josephine Kim, who spoke on the history of Asian exclusion in America, and Dr. Russell Jeung, a professor at San Francisco State University and cofounder of the organization Stop AAPI Hate.
|“It feels meaningful to have a team of engaged and passionate colleagues to direct energy toward helping others.”|
|—Michelle Fong, Cofounder and Leader, OPAL Equity Committee|
“We supplemented our learning series with more casual listening sessions where folks could come and share what’s on their mind—a safe space to continue the conversation, to find camaraderie and support from other employees around topics of identity,” Fong says.
Listening sessions are facilitated every two months for members to share their own perspectives and stories. Allies are invited to join the sessions, to show support and learn.
Allies can help by staying informed and checking in with Asian coworkers when hate crimes are in the news, to signal to colleagues that they are not alone. Bringing these things up provides opportunity for shared discussion—or not, if that’s what the coworker prefers, Fong says. “We also have allies who have taken intervention training, who volunteer with nonprofit organizations, and take part in our giving campaigns.”
The Equity Committee started in early March of 2021, with members from multiple geographic chapters of OPAL. They meet monthly and collaborate over Slack.
Oracle’s opposition to hate crimes and support of its Asian community puts the company in step with changing attitudes toward work and employers’ social responsibility. Younger employees in particular demand employers take a stand against hate.
One year after the founding of the committee, the attacks continue. Just before the committee formed in March 2021, eight people were murdered, six of whom were of Asian heritage, across three Atlanta spas. This was followed by yet another attack in San Francisco that coincided with OPAL’s first Listening Session with leaders and executives from Database, Finance, HR, Marketing, and other parts of the company.
Although heightened reporting of racially motivated murders increased awareness, the violence continued. People across the nation mourned and continue to grapple with the loss of loved ones, such as Anh “Peng” Taylor in San Francisco as well as Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee in New York City. While the news coverage of these hate crimes was eye-opening to some, many in the AAPI community understand thousands more go unacknowledged.
After hearing about Michelle Go, Fong had an open conversation with her manager. She said having the ability to be candid with her manager made her feel seen. “I appreciated the open communication to not have to hide what was going on with me from my manager.”
Leaders participating in these conversations show that they care about employees as people—demonstrating that employees are more than just their work output, Fong says.
“Growing a community of support at Oracle has been affirming,” Fong says. “It feels meaningful to have a team of engaged and passionate colleagues to direct energy toward helping others.”