Philanthropists call for more grants to aid Asian Americans

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Attendees march from Pittsburgh’s Flagstaff Hill to Schenley Plaza during the “PGH Rally for Solidarity” event to protest recent acts of violence towards Asian Americans, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The rally was organized by the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). (Alexandra Wimley/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Nearly 500 philanthropy leaders, mostly from foundations, signed a letter Friday calling on grant makers to increase their support of nonprofits that benefit Asian people and put efforts to combat anti-Asian racism squarely in the broader fight for racial justice.

“To make progress, we will redouble our support of multiracial coalitions to combat systemic racism and ensure that our own country embraces us for who we are and not as perpetual outsiders,” the letter states.

The letter was circulated by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, which also released a study outlining the paucity of philanthropic support for Asian American communities. The letter and the study follow a year of increasing violence directed against Asian Americans and the killing of eight people, including six Asian American women, in Atlanta this month.

The group released the letter on the eve of the #StopAsianHate Day of Action and Healing, a virtual protest of anti-Asian violence and discrimination.

Using data compiled by Candid, which tracks giving by foundations, the study found that nonprofits serving Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians rose modestly from $143 million in 2009 to $174 million in 2018, even as overall foundation giving more than doubled. The share of giving to those groups accounted for 20 cents of every $100 in foundation grants in 2018.

The letter is not just about getting “a bigger slice of the pie,” said Patricia Eng, president of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy. Foundations need to push for Asian American groups to be included in multiracial coalitions and increase their visibility, free of negative stereotypes, in the American consciousness.

“What we’ve learned over this past year, particularly around the pandemic and the hate that has so readily surfaced against Asian Americans, is that we can’t have a complete racial-equity strategy without including Asian Americans,” she said. “That has been a missing piece for a long time.”

Asian Americans have suffered both from the “invisibility” of having their successes and challenges overlooked and the “model minority” myth, which suggests Asian Americans are high achievers and don’t “rock the boat,” said Don Chen, president of the Surdna Foundation, who signed the letter. Chen said foundations, researchers and public officials need to collect more granular data about Asian Americans to provide a more complete and nuanced picture of the Asian American experience.

“This combination of stereotypes masks what’s really going on in AAPI communities and the challenges our communities face,” he said. “The model-minority myth has been used to drive a wedge between different racial groups and so used to make other racial groups like Blacks and Latinx folks look bad.”

The letter comes nearly a year after Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy called on philanthropy to support an equitable response to the Coronavirus pandemic and to bear witness to the growing prejudices against Asian Americans centered on the early outbreak of Covid-19 in China.

From March 2020 to the end of last year, more than 2,800 incidents have been documented of Anti-Asian violence, verbal harassment, and civil-rights violations such as refusal of service at a business establishment, according to Stop AAPI Hate, which collects such data.

Those incidents are surely an undercount of the times Asian Americans are victimized, said Mariko Silver, president of the Henry Luce Foundation and one of the letters signers. While the mass killing in Atlanta spurred foundation leaders to take action, Silver hopes that a sharper focus on anti-Asian racism can help before another tragedy takes place.

“Death should not be the marker of when we take action,” she said. “We need to engage long before that.”

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This article was provided to The Associated Press by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Alex Daniels is a senior reporter at the Chronicle. Email: Alex.Daniels@philanthropy.com. The AP and the Chronicle receive support from the Lilly Endowment for coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits. The AP and the Chronicle are solely responsible for all content.

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