By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
More than a year after suing a private equity firm for gender and racial discrimination, the hurt in Michelle Lee’s voice is still evident.
Today the attorney volunteers her time with Stand with Asian Americans counseling others who have been discriminated against.
“I can turn my negative experience into something positive by helping other people,” she said to AsAmNews. “At the same time, when I am fielding calls and I’m hearing how people have different iterations of my story, it is kind of reliving that traumatic experience. We don’t fully appreciate how psychologically damaging it is when we are giving our all to the workplace and to our careers and yet we’re constantly facing discrimination.”
Friday, December 15, Stand with Asian Americans announced the launch of a new reporting portal where Asian Americans can report discrimination they face in the workplace.
Its Workplace Justice Initiative is an online portal where individuals can share their stories both anonymously or publicly. The group plans to connect individuals to mental health counseling, legal counsel and community support.
“It’s whatever they need, some people just want a vent and that’s fine. You know, we’re here for moral support,” said Justin Zhu, a co-founder of Stand with Asian Americans who himself has filed a discrimination complaint. His case is in the early stages of arbitration.
A survey from the Pew Research Center found 57% of 7,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders surveyed see racial discrimination against Asians as a real problem and even more say not enough attention is paid to it.
Stand with Asian Americans holds monthly group sessions with a therapist where those who have faced discrimination can discuss any trauma or tension they may be feeling.
“It’s really interesting to just see how different members who support each other have parallels in their stories. Then over many months, they kind of feel more encouraged to go and confront their manager or whoever’s contributing to the discrimination in their workplace,” Zhu shared with AsAmNews.
Lee sees what the group is doing to fight back against workplace harassment as the next step in taking the mantle from the generation that came before them.
“We talk about a lot about how our parent’s generation has sacrificed so much for us and many of them sacrificed by working long hours and hard labor facing rude clients. Me as a parent of three East Asian boys, I realize there are sacrifices I also need to make to make the world a better place not only for ourselves, but the next generation. What is all that worth if our self-value and dignity, if the way people are treating you is so like demeaning because of the way you’re constantly underpromoted and underpaid,” she said.
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