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Will beauty take an improved stand against anti-Asian violence?

In light of the horrific mass shooting in America last week, brand founders are calling on their industry to better support the AAPI community.

According to Global Citizen, at least 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans have been reported during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid this violence, which activists attribute to rising anti-Asian rhetoric from ‘political figures and media pundits,’ on Wednesday, March 17, a white gunman was charged with the murder of eight people – six of whom were identified as Asian, seven, women.

The horrific mass shooting, as reported by Associated Press, was at the ‘intersection of gender-based violence, misogyny, and xenophobia’ in a country where verbal discrimination and physical attacks towards the AAPI community only seems to be worsening exponentially.

Now, the pressing question of ‘how can I help?’ is one that’s begun dominating social media worldwide, as consumers look to the brands they buy from to better support Asian Americans without underlying performative motives as was a common occurrence following 2020’s BLM protests.

In fact, a recent study commissioned by Unilever unveiled that 52% of consumers now consider a company’s stance on societal issues when making a purchase – that they aren’t just viewing brands as places to buy products from anymore, but want to know what they stand for.

anti-Asian violence #StopAsianHate

‘It’s as simple as this: violence against any group is a human issue,’ says fashion designer Prabal Gurung, who urges that these industries have a responsibility to lend their support.

‘If they claim to be ‘woke’ and have the visual power to influence billions across the globe, they must speak up and show up for us.’

He adds that fashion and beauty have a ‘duty’ to encourage open dialogue about anti-Asian violence and prioritise diversity in order to ‘help people from different walks of life feel great about themselves.’

Over the past week, a wave of beauty brands, founders, and retailers have indeed been quick to address the current situation.

By way of example, Estée Lauder will be donating $450,000 to organisations including Asian-Americans for Equality, Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

But this aside, while some corporations have expressed their dismay, calling attention to the dire circumstances and making renewed pledges to act with more inclusivity, a large majority of beauty’s most powerful companies have yet to take a stance against anti-Asian hate crimes.

And it’s been up to Asian-American industry leaders to be outspoken about the violence in the months prior to the shooting.

Founder of Very Good Light, David Yi, believes the model minority myth to be the cause of this, which was created to divide, and divide it did.

A persistent stereotype that paints Asian Americans as inherently successful and problem-free (particularly in contrast to other minority groups) has encouraged people to stop paying attention to the Asian community, to ‘see them as invisible and to further perpetuate the idea that Asian people should be erased and remain silent.’

‘Beauty leads the charge when it comes to inclusion, diversity, and equity, but I do feel sometimes that the Asian American story is lost because this,’ he says. ‘Brands always capitalise on Lunar New Year, but are failing to use their resources to support the Asian community right now.’

19 Best Asian American Founded Beauty Brands — Interview, Shop Now | Allure

What remains to be seen is whether beauty is ready to welcome the cultural sentiments of the moment as society reaches another pivotal turning point in the ongoing fight for equality.

Meanwhile – in addition to signing petitions, contacting government officials, and donating to organisations fighting racial injustice – how better to lend ourselves to the cause than to get educated about Asian-owned businesses and invest in them wherever possible?

A vast wealth of Asian talent within beauty industry has not received nearly the amount of attention it deserves, and its due time we dedicated ourselves to showcasing more of its exceptional work.

Particularly amidst a pandemic that has put retail in a more vulnerable position than ever before.

Take a look at this list of companies you need to have on your radar.


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