The differences of speaking to Asian American Audiences

In my line of work, the majority of my presentations are geared towards predominantly White audiences, where I share personal stories to provide insight into the challenges faced by Americans of Asian descent. The struggle to understand experiences of marginalized communities without proximity to them underscores the importance of storytelling.

However, when addressing an audience comprising Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, my focus shifts to listening, validating, empowering, and motivating them to take action. Recent years, marked by the emergence of derogatory terms like “Kung Flu” and the “China Virus,” have deepened my understanding of the extensive discrimination against all Asians.

Avoiding Stereotypes

Yesterday, I spoke alongside Amanda Ma, a Chinese American event planner. We spoke for a global organization’s Asian ERG. The start of this ERG stemmed from my inquiry to this White Male leader about the absence of an Asian ERG group, prompting him to create the Asian ERG. Voila.

We were posed with the question of how we avoid playing into stereotypes. This proves to be a considerable challenge for many Americans of Asian descent, given the influence of “Pride and Shame” cultures, which advocate for collectivism over individualism, emphasizing teamwork and community spirit.

Navigating away from stereotypes presents a unique challenge due to the cultural nuances of “Pride and Shame” among Americans of Asian descent. My mixed heritage as a fourth-generation American, with roots in Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish ancestry, significantly influences my American identity. Notably, I don’t speak Japanese or Chinese, but recent efforts have been made to delve deeper into my Asian background.

Reflecting on my mother’s experiences as a Japanese American in Seattle underscores the extreme measures taken to survive discrimination. Burning anything that hinted at Japanese origins, including pictures of relatives and letters, was a desperate tactic to ensure that my American grandparents’ generation was perceived as true Americans. Unfortunately, this strategy proved ineffective.

However, my mother was fortunate not to be born in the harsh conditions of an incarceration camp. Instead, she came into the world in a hospital in an unfamiliar town far away from their home in Seattle. Given that my grandparents were American-born and some White Americans carried “Kill a Jap licenses” in their wallets, the survival instinct drove my family to downplay their Asian heritage and embrace their American identity. This anecdote provides just a glimpse into the complexities of our journey.

Asian American American Moderator

Rebecca Smith, a Filipina American, skillfully orchestrated a smooth and flowing conversation during a panel discussion. Her relatability as an Asian moderator assured me that I wouldn’t be left out of the conversation. Rebecca’s ability to validate, explain, and provide her perspective bridged the information gap for the audience, a skill not everyone possesses. Also, if she were White she likely would not be able to bridge and connect.

When consulting on moderating panels, I emphasize the importance of ensuring equal or equitable speaking time for Asian professionals. Instances where others dominate the discussion often result in Asians being overshadowed, reinforcing stereotypes. Clear communication with the host and moderator is key to avoiding such pitfalls, with specific planning to allow Asian professionals the opportunity to contribute.

In terms of audience participation, engaging an Asian American audience requires intentional formatting due to the prevalent “collectivism” mindset ingrained in our culture. Politeness and the desire to give credit to others are fundamental aspects, making any attention-grabbing measures appear rude and selfish. To encourage participation, it’s crucial to prearrange and set expectations, prompting individuals who have agreed to participate ahead of time.

Aren’t Asians All Alike?

No. Take the time to learn how we are different

Understanding these differences is vital, and I invite you to hire me to speak or consult with your group for a deeper exploration. For insights into why Asian inclusivity matters in your company, you can also tune into my guest podcasts and interviews.

The differences of speaking to Asian American Audiences

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