How the media and advertising industry can help Stop Asian Hate

22nd September 2021

Josh Chi who heads up Media & Strategy at OMG UNITE shares his personal thoughts on the #StopAsianHate movement and how we can help.

Josh Chi has occupied the role of Head of Media & Strategy at OMG UNITE for over 7 years now, but the time he has been an advocate for racial equality spans back further.

He says: “As an East Asian from Taiwan who has been living in the UK for more than 10 years, there are many stories from fellow Asians on the aggressions that they have faced. The situation in the UK may be different from the US, and we know people from other cultural and religious backgrounds are often facing similar or worse aggressions, even in a very multicultural London but these are all something to be addressed.”

“Those who know me will probably know that I am someone who doesn’t always express my view loudly, however this is a time when I do feel like my background might help bring a perspective to yet another ongoing issue – and hopefully make a difference.”

“In a recent gal-dem article, Siam Hatzaw summarised Anti-Asian racism as its own particular brand of bigotry. The situation has become even worse since Covid-19 with Asians being scapegoated for the pandemic, especially with narratives like ‘Kung Flu’ or ‘China virus’ – the latter coming from the former US President Donald Trump.”

Police data has indicated a 300% increase in hate crime reports from East and South East Asians in the first quarter of 2020 and that doesn’t even include the many microaggressions that some people face on a daily basis.

One of Chi’s roles at OMG UNITE includes dissecting client briefs to advise on topics relating to ethnicity, religion, gender, LGBTQ+, disability and many other intersections of demographic groups. He has worked on many social change and communication projects led by charities and brands including the Government, to address discrimination and inequality.

This work-life overlap has helped “make me more aware of the issue that we are facing” says Josh.  

As an organisation that not only values but celebrates differences within the workforce, we collaborated with Josh Chi to see how our industry can help #StopAsianHate and how we can push further awareness.

How, as media industry leaders, can we help #StopAsianHate?

The most important thing anyone can do, regardless of industry category, is raise awareness. There are still people who are sadly ignorant to the fact that this type of racial inequality exists.

It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again – it is not enough to not be racist, we must be anti-racist. And for that to happen, we must actively demonstrate our support for those most vulnerable when it comes to any kind of discrimination, be it race, religion, sexuality or so on.

Josh Chi says: “For people in our industry who work in creative and comms, there are more way for us to facilitate long term and positive change. These are relevant, not just for stopping Asian hate, but for stopping hate in general.”

He continues to outline 3 things all workplaces can begin to implement with reference to the media and advertising industry.

1. Celebrate difference in your team

By now we would really hope that every workplace has a D&I (diversity and inclusion) department, team or specialist. If you work at a place that doesn’t, it may be time to suggest one. 

From those of us who thrive off diversity in the workplace, we promise it’s truly one of the best things you can give your organisation. By ensuring diversity in your team, you can ensure a wide range of differing perspectives.

Not only will your team learn and grow as individuals, but in the media and advertising industry, you can use these perspectives and lived experiences as cultural lenses for client briefs. This leads nicely onto point two.

2. Challenge stereotypes in your work

Josh Chi says: “The creative work that our industry produces can set the tone for society”. And he’s absolutely right. The advertising world plays a much bigger role than selling product to a consumer – it sets boundaries on perception and suggests what’s acceptable and what’s not. Moreover, it can either make you feel seen and heard, or completely invisible.

That’s why it’s so important to get it right. That’s why it’s so important for media to go live with inclusion at the heart of it. That’s why we believe in what we do at OMG UNITE.

Josh adds: “We can help influence what is cool and what is not. Ensuring positive representation and challenging negative stereotypes in our creative is a good start. It helps normalise differences and can even help drive social cohesion.”

“To understand how this might work, try to imagine how Henry Golding may have changed the dating life of some East Asian men by being the lead character in Hollywood and British love stories, like Last Christmas or Monsoon.”

To reiterate Chi’s point, we need to see people like us in adverts, on billboards, on our TV screens for us to truly feel a sense of belonging rather than feeling like the ‘other’ box you tick on a list at the doctors.

But even then, it’s not enough. We need to see people like us portrayed respectively and not stereotypically. As an outlet that so many different demographic groups encounter, the media and advertising industry must do more to ensure societies such as the East Asian community feel empowered and inspired whenever encountering a piece of creative. This is where those in-house cultural lenses come back into play.

Side note: how great was it to see an entire Asian cast take over the world in mainstream media spaces? Read our case study on how we helped Warner Brothers engage with East Asian audiences in the UK to drive more cinema sales for Crazy Rich Asians.

3. Show empathy and support

There are a couple of ways you can do this within your organisation or agency to ensure each member of your team feels respected at work.

The first is simply knowing how to support your colleagues, especially those who may be less outspoken about the issues they may be facing. Reinforce a ‘no bullying, no racism’ policy and that includes any racist humour or ‘ethnic banter’.

The second is speaking up for those who feel they can’t. If you witness racism or bullying in the workplace – anything from verbal micro aggressions to hostile mistreatment – can you step in and express that what was said or done is completely unacceptable? Alternatively, ask the person who has just experienced aggression 3 simple words: “are you okay?”

The third is to ensure there is diversity in your leadership team so that individuals feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help or support. This interlaces with point 1, and not only celebrating diversity within your organisation but helping develop and grow that diverse talent towards leadership roles.

It is often always the case that it is easier to open up and speak to someone who we feel we can identify with and can empathise with us. And in a similar vein, this links back to point 2 of seeing our cultures and races portrayed within mainstream media to feel and be more visible.

We’d like to end this piece in Josh’s words:

“In order to get everyone to understand the issue, we need more people (and not just Asians) talking about it. A quick Google search will show that there are some celebrities talking about it but more of the Asian ones.

Kudos to for urging viewers to stop Asian hate in The Voice UK, but we need more from all backgrounds to do the same as well. One step at a time and one issue at a time, we can all learn to be better human beings.

And for those who are considering sharing their thoughts to help drive awareness. Never think that your voice may be just another similar article or social post. To stop hate, we need as many people as possible to support in their own ways. Even if you don’t think you can change the world, you will change someone’s world by doing the right things.”

Stand up. Stand out.
Stand united.