The One Year Plan for Diversity:
“Dear Asian Youth,
Hi! We are the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, the newest department addition to DAY. As a department that was created with the intention to diversify DAY content and ensure that DAY is a safe, inclusive, and diverse space for all Asian youth, we took it upon ourselves to author a diversity plan that addresses the needs for diversity and how lack of diversity and inclusivity play a role in Asian activism. DAY is committed to our values of learning and growing, both of which we hope are reflected in this document. We thank you for your support of DAY and for taking the time to read this statement.
The motivation behind authoring this diversity plan rests on the sole fact that we cannot be proponents of social justice, equity, and equality without championing those same ideals and values within our organization. It is no secret that the majority of Dear Asian Youth is of Southeast and East Asian descent; we are not approaching this matter in an accusatory way, rather highlighting that there is a disparity of diversity and representation in the DAY team. By writing this diversity plan, we hope that as an organization, we can commit to concrete measures that will further diversify our team and the environment at DAY. In the latter part of this document, we will propose solutions and detailed plans to increase diversity and inclusion at DAY. The intent of the publication of this document is to encourage transparency among our organization, audience, and team members so that we are able to hold ourselves accountable for fulfilling the things promised in this document. This one-year diversity plan will serve as a framework of development for the diversity within our organization and also as an accountability measure to ensure that we are doing the work that was promised within this document. The DITF has been looking through DAY’s content and demographics and we have come to the conclusion that there is a significant lack of representation of Central, South, and West Asians, as well as Southeast Asians outside of the Filipino community. This lack of representation gives room for errors in DAY’s content and can lead to the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes, continued use of offensive terminology, and the spreading of misinformation.
DAY is an organization that has made a name for itself within the realm of Asian activism, and we have to make sure that we are not aiding the persistent, Western misconceptions of what it means to be Asian. The lack of representation within DAY’s social media content also extends to Asians who do not fit into a heteronormative, cis-gendered, and able-bodied molds. As an organization that aims to promote and celebrate Asian identities, we also have the responsibility and moral obligation to point out the parts of our cultures and identities that may not be the most deserving of celebration. By cherry-picking the beautiful parts of our cultures without calling out outdated ideologies, we are doing a great disservice to Asians who are underrepresented in terms other than ethnicity. It is important for our organization to call out the colourism, sexism, and ableism that runs rampant in our communities. It is also imperative that we specifically call out the anti-Blackness and lack of awareness of Indigenous topics that is prevalent within our communities. We need to recognize that although Asians are a minority group and are discriminated against, non-Black/Indigenous Asians can and do benefit from the marginalization of Black and Indigenous groups due to our perceived proximity to whiteness stemming from the model minority myth.
We want to aim to remove the naturalized Eurocentric lens that has become a part of the information we see and are exposed to. Eurocentrism is a worldview that is centered around western civilization, culture, societal norms, and is inherently biased against non-western civilizations. The Eurocentric lens becomes harmful because it leaves out historical accounts that form our histories and cultures, inadvertently reinforcing stereotypes, one-sided accounts, non-European perspectives, and individuals of non-European descent that become portrayed as “backward, incompetent, and under-developed.” The most harmful thing that a Eurocentric lens does is reinforce the white savior trope, fueling an “us versus them” mentality. Asian contributions have been largely overlooked and ignored, as well as the widespread integration of other cultures into western standards, most of which is done in an unwilling and systematically imposed manner. Eurocentrism enforces western complacency and unrealistic western ideals.
The Model Minority Myth feeds on perpetual stereotypes of individuals from Asian descent being perceived as more intelligent, diligent, and law-abiding than the average citizen. While, at first glance, these might seem like “positive stereotypes,” these unfounded beliefs place high expectations on Asians creating potential feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a lack of individualistic identity which supports the myth of Asians being perpetual foreigners. This myth also enforces the belief that there are fundamental differences among various racial groups which pit other people of color and minority communities against each other which, in turn, hinders solidarity and alliance efforts. The Model Minority Myth is often used to help perpetuate an anti-Black agenda by denying or downplaying the impact of systemic racism, discrimination, and prejudice against people of color. This pits people of color against one another, creating a detrimental hierarchy within minority communities, and distracts from striving for liberation for all. In addition, the model minority myth erases historical racism against Asians and ignores injustices of the past including, but not limited to, the US’s ongoing Muslim Ban agaisnt several Asian countries, the Patriot Act of 2001 (decreased civil rights for West and South Asian Americans), the Japanese Internment in 1940, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the country’s long relationship with yellow peril.
One thing that we also aim to do is to address the inaccuracies that feed into prejudice. People who come across our content view us as “experts” on Asian perspectives. Sometimes our content is biased against certain Asian identities. Our audience assumes our content is written by the people it represents, which means they are taking our prejudice as fact. This is undermining the voices of the oppressed. There will be kids at school who will be silenced by other kids who cite us as a source for why that oppression isn’t real. This is the very opposite of what we hope to achieve as an organization. The inaccuracies are not fueled solely by our own biases, but also by the biases in the sources we use. It is wrong for news organizations to racially profile Asians, but it is even more wrong for us to do so as an Asian organization. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our audience to address this problem.
DAY Diversity and Inclusion Task Force
Dear Asian Youth is committed to the appreciation, celebration, respect, and welcoming of each individual and their cultural backgrounds, heritage, and identity. We strive to create a positive, secure, supportive, and safe environment for all members of our organization and all members of our larger DAY community. We are committed to raising intersectional awareness about social injustices that affect various Asian communities while also raising awareness about issues within our global community. Dear Asian Youth’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force strives to create a more diverse and inclusive space for its members and community by ensuring that the content we put out, people that we onboard, and organizations that we work with are all proponents of equity, equality, diversity, and inclusivity.
We believe that it is imperative to establish base level understanding of certain concepts that are relevant in the realm of intersectional activism. We want to define these concepts and also define how they pertain to DAY.
Merriam-Webster defines “representation” as the act of serving as the counterpart or image of something. At DAY, when we say representation, we mean that we would like to see people from diverse Asian backgrounds be a part of this organization. While the definition above provides a very surface level answer as to what representation is, at DAY, we value the boundary between representation and tokenization. When seeing individual Asian diasporas being represented, we will not tokenize the individuals/let them be tokenized because of their background.
The cherry-picking of our cultures is the act of suppressing evidence and selecting certain facts in order to present a topic in a desired light than what is actually seen in reality. Many news and media outlets like to choose certain facts of a group of people or events to paint a false narrative. This not only leads to fake information and propaganda, but it is also a way for respective ethnicities or cultures to be targeted and to be put under a bad light.
Tokenism is defined as “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort” by Merriam-Webster. Mentioning that a particular problem is worse for certain Asian identities without addressing the cause of the disparity or the unique struggles faced by the more oppressed group (e.g. centering a post around East Asian perspectives and throwing in only one non-specific line about how other Asian groups experience the problem more without addressing why/how just so that the post is technically about more than one region of Asia). All Asians have issues that deserve to be represented. East Asian, straight Asian, able-bodied Asian issues are all important and deserve their own space in our content. But it is equally important to uplift other, less commonly heard voices. Only showcasing under-represented groups in a one-dimensional way. For instance, only mentioning queer Asians in the context of the prejudice they face without also celebrating queer Asian achievements or featuring queer Asians in posts that are not centered around the queer experience. Expecting one person to be able to speak for their entire community is also a form of tokenism.
The DITF recognizes that the Asian community is composed of different individuals from vastly different walks of life and it is important to us that we all have an idea of what inclusion means within our organization. As defined by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, the word “inclusion” denotes the collective. It is about embracing and respecting everyone’s differences and making a conscious choice to ensure that everyone feels represented and included. It is also about being aware how our content can be exclusionary and taking the right steps to correct that content.
The definition of authority means that an individual with “authority” has the right to rule over something such as truths. When we mention the word, “authority” at DAY, we mean that no one person, regardless of how unique their background is, is able to speak on behalf of their entire community. This one person, regardless of who they are, will never be representative of the entire population and therefore should not be treated as such. This is very similar to the concept of “tokenism.” At DAY, we are committed to ensuring that opinions and experiences are respected, but not used to make generalizations about the entire community.
Implicit/unconscious biases refers to the biases we are unaware we hold. These biases can affect our understanding, interactions, and decisions. People have preferences and aversions towards certain things and people that are a result of the stereotypes that infiltrate our actions without our conscious knowledge. Implicit biases vary depending on an individual’s personal experiences and what they were exposed to growing up.
These are just some of the definitions that the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force found necessary to bring awareness to. One cannot engage in intersectional activism without ensuring that these things are addressed. We will continue to update the document with additional definitions and information that are needed.
DAY Instagram Account Data Collection
On the DAY Instagram account, there are 144 total posts (as of November 2020). East Asians are often referred to as “Asians” on the DAY instagram, but those hailing from other regions are referred to exclusively by their regional names and identities. For example, not directly from the DAY instagram, “Asians use chopsticks. West Asians use their hands.” This is inherently othering towards other Asians that are not of East Asian descent. One thing that we did notice was that Southeast Asians are called “Asian” when they are being portrayed positively and “Southeast Asian” when they are not. This creates an “othering” that places East Asian people at the top of an imaginary Asian hierarchy. Another thing that was noted was that there has never been a post on DAY’s instagram that is exclusively aimed at Central Asians.
DAY Committee Breakdown
In efforts to gauge what each department of Dear Asian Youth needed from the DAY Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, the directors of each DAY department met to discuss what was lacking in terms of diversity and inclusion. Here is a breakdown of the things that were discussed and the problems that were identified:
DAY PROJECTS TEAM: The projects team explained that they are actively seeking speakers who are not from East Asian descent, Asian speakers that reside in other countries outside of the US, and Asian individuals in the LGBTQIA+ communities. A bulk of the diversity issues for the projects team were rooted in the fact that there was little to no diversity in the external individuals and groups DAY has brought in for various speakers series, webinars, and more.
Solution: After discussing potential solutions to combat the fact that a lot of the speakers and collaborative organizations are of East Asian descent, the Task Force moves to engaging in a more holistic approach in looking for diverse speakers. We believe that members of the Task Force can provide suggestions in efforts of reaching out to a diverse group of individuals in hopes of partnerships for DAY events. However, it is important to highlight that the DAY team will not engage in the tokenization and othering of the individuals it represents. We are committed to a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters respect for all people.
DAY SOCIAL MEDIA DEPARTMENT: The social media department’s issue was that the director was left in charge of diversifying content. The issue with this is that the director is one sole person and working towards diversifying content across all DAY platforms presented itself as a challenge, especially because the responsibility of creating content ideas, researching the topics, overseeing the creation of graphics, and social media engagement rested on the shoulders of one sole individual. When discussing further issues, it became more apparent that a lot of issues that the team had was with the inaccessibility of DAY content by the disabled community – especially in terms of font choices. Since we met to discuss issues on the lack of diversity, the Social Media Department at DAY has hired a co-director to bring in a diverse perspective and another person to balance responsibilities.
Solution: In terms of diversifying content, DAY will begin by guiding its members that contribute to social media to resources that explain diverse, ethical, and inclusive writing. To begin with, one of the solutions we have outlined is to have on-boarded team members sign a document entitled “The Intent Agreement.” This agreement would point its signatories towards resources that very precisely discuss ethical and inclusive writing and would be a binding agreement to ensure that each individual is committed to learning about how to write in an ethical and acceptable manner. Another solution we have highlighted to combat inaccessibility to content is to use various platforms and forums to ensure that DAY content is encompassing the needs of the disabled community by choosing different fonts, inserting post texts, and using captions in any and all videos produced. In reference to diversifying our look on DAY, we will visually diversify illustrations so that they represent different communities in Asia.
DAY CHAPTERS TEAM: The chapters team wants to make more of an effort to appeal to a more diverse audience in order to establish chapters in diverse areas and schools.
Solution: In an effort to appeal to more diverse Asian communities and to diversify our organization, we will increase diversity initiatives for the schools that are trying to start their own chapters. We will try to implement an implicit bias quiz in efforts to ensure that we are confronting our own subliminal biases and not perpetuating harmful narratives about anyone.
DAY LITERATURE TEAM: The DAY literature content needs to be diversified. It tends to focus on personal narratives, prose, and poetry about Asian, namelySoutheast and East-Asian identity, and not so much on current events. The literature writers for DAY are mostly Southeast and East Asian and are mainly girls.
Solution: We will encourage people from diverse backgrounds to submit their pieces of literature to DAY by explicitly stating that they have a platform and space here at DAY.
After lots of discussion and deliberation, the DAY Directors team in junction with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force devised the following accountability measure:
Before we explain the accountability measure we have implemented, it is important to note that the DAY Diversity and Inclusion Task Force will be expanded from its current five-person group. This will help to ensure that there are more task force members assigned to each DAY department. For organizational purposes, there are two people per branch of each DAY department.
We have decided to implement a strike system. On determining what constitutes as a strike, we have decided that the following factors should be considered:
Onboarded members will be asked to sign agreements on diversity and inclusion. These agreements will clearly spell out our expectations for each of our team members. These expectations include the aforementioned characteristics and go beyond the bare minimum. Members that are already serving on DAY’s team will also be asked to sign these agreements. As far as the strike system is concerned, violations of the agreement will count as one strike.
We also recognize that as young activists, we are always learning. Learning is at the root of our work and as people who are growing and evolving, we want to ensure that we are facilitating an environment that people are able to learn and grow. For this reason, any recurring reminders to be inclusive in one’s writing will be counted as a strike after four reminders. Before we breakdown how each department will address these issues in relation to the accountability plan, it is important to discuss the removal process.
The removal process begins with a reminder, in the form of a message. If there is another issue, we will send a warning through an email. After the reminder and warning, this is when the strike system begins. The strike system calls for five strikes. After five strikes, there will be a removal of the individual. Like we mentioned before, if there is a genuine desire for improvement, we will make an exception to the strike system and remove a strike. In that same vein, if there is a serious offense, we will make the exception and call for the automatic removal of the individual. This will be done on a case by case basis.
We have made it clear that at DAY we value growing and learning. We want to foster an environment in which our members are learning, un-learning, re-learning, and growing. Before we issue a strike, we will have an educational moment. This will be done through a workshop or a conversation if someone produces problematic content. Of course this will be handled internally, and that content will obviously not be posted on our social media platforms. We have a set evaluations after each post is created to determine if a strike or warning is warranted.
We will now discuss how each department will address these issues in addition to the accountability measure.
Podcast: The podcast team will draft up an agreement of appropriate behavior for guest speakers to sign. In addition to this agreement, the guest speakers will be vetted through the DITF.
Newsletter: The newsletter team will make sure that more sections of the newsletter encompass various regions of Asia.
Projects: During the projects that DAY puts on, the projects team will ensure that there are moderators in the audience (from the DAY team) to ensure that discussions are ethical, inclusive, and holistic.
Literature: For the literature team, we are working on bringing more people onboard. We have decided to have new editors and writers come in. In addition to that, we will be better about putting content warnings on our content if necessary. The literature department will also be undergoing an ethical writing training session.
Chapters: We will continue monitoring the content that various DAY chapters put out to ensure it is in line with our values at DAY.
As far as directors and the diversity and inclusion task force are concerned, we will be holding each other accountable. The directors team will hold the task force accountable and the task force will hold the directors accountable. For the directors, we will create an anonymous reporting system so that people are able to notify us if any directors have said or done something out of line with our DAY values.
Our three biggest goals for 2021 are proportionate representation, establishment and availability of resources dedicated to LGBTQIA+ Asians, disabled Asians, and minority Asians, and to stop actively contributing to harmful narratives against West and Central Asians communities. Our objectives include to create and maintain a safe environment by increasing the sense of belonging and cultural competency through educational and personal growth initiatives. We also plan on broadening the diversify of team members and the content we produce at DAY.
It is our vision for DAY that we introduce and implement a diversity training that recognizes biases within Asian communities, ableism, sexuality, and gender identity. Other possible topics for training include dealing with diversity backlash to learn how to properly take accountability for our actions and how to combat the resistance against diversity initiatives. We also would like to implement multigenerational diversity, diversity of thought, and cultural diversity in any capacity we are able to.
Our expectation for the DAY community is simple and rests solely around intersectionality. We cannot continue to label ourselves as activists when we are not intersectional and absolve ourselves of the roles we play in the harmful perpetuation of certain thoughts and ideas. We expect members and supporters of the DAY community to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” We expect these values to be addressed within DAY, on DAY platforms, but also in the individual lives of the people involved with DAY. The most important thing to remember is that no one is perfect. Over half of the world’s population lives in Asia, and no one singular person is capable of knowing the nuanced ways that oppression affects all Asian people. As an organization run by Asian youth, we understandably have made mistakes, as we are still learning. While this is no excuse, we are committed to trying our absolute best to make sure we are uplifting, celebrating, and showcasing a wide variety of voices moving forward. We are excited to learn and grow with everyone! Thank you so much for your constant support.”