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Here's how brands are responding to hate crimes against Asian Americans

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Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent
·4 min read
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TOPSHOT - Tracy Wong wearing a face mask and holding a sign takes part in a rally to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, near Chinatown in Los Angeles, California, on February 20, 2021. - The rally was organized in part in response to last month's fatal assault of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, in San Francisco. (Photo by RINGO CHIU / AFP) (Photo by RINGO CHIU/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Tracy Wong wearing a face mask and holding a sign takes part in a rally to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, near Chinatown in Los Angeles, California, on February 20, 2021. (Photo by RINGO CHIU/AFP via Getty Images)

Unprovoked attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have skyrocketed in recent months, prompting the public to demand that brands and their leaders speak up to denounce these hate crimes.

Over the weekend, Facebook (FB) hosted two Instagram live conversations to amplify "voices from the AAPI [Asian Pacific American] community." Facebook's global head of social Eric Toda spoke with Nobel Peace Prize nominee and political activist Amanda Nguyễn and Benny Luo, the founder of NextShark, a news site dedicated to Asian American issues. "At Facebook, we condemn the violence against the Asian American community happening right now, at the beginning of the pandemic and forever," Toda said on Friday.

In a separate conversation on Sunday, Facebook's ad agency partner Kelsey Gamblin interviewed Gold House founder Bing Chen and Aarti Kohli, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus.

These conversations have brought renewed attention to hate crimes against the Asian American community, which began to increase last year as then-President Donald Trump and others scapegoated China for the COVID-19 pandemic. However, CEOs have been relatively quiet on the attacks and discrimination against Asian Americans.

Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is one of a few chief executives to personally show his support for the AAPI community. On Feb. 14, he tweeted: "The rising violence against the Asian community is a painful & urgent reminder that we must unite against racism in all its forms."

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A handful of brands have stepped forward with statements of support and contributions.

On Feb. 12, Peloton (PTON) and Airbnb (ABNB) were some of the first companies to post their support for the Asian American community. The connected fitness company called the hate crimes a "result of racism and xenophobia, which has become more heightened towards Asian communities since the start of the pandemic." It announced a $100,000 donation to the Asian American Federation, which supports Asian communities.

Airbnb published a blog post with resources for those who want to be allies, publicizing the internal dialogue that had been happening within the home rental company's Asian employee resource group.

'Nike condemns racism'

Using the hashtag #StopAsianHate, major brands have posted on social media to signal they stand in solidarity with the Asian American community. Nike (NKE) posted a video on Feb. 19 stating, "To our Asian community, we respect you, we are with you. Nike condemns racism. Until We All Win."

The athletic retailer donated a total of $500,000 to 20 nonprofits that support Asian American, Middle East, and Pacific Islander communities. "These organizations provide a variety of services, such as fueling play and sport programs, supporting education and career development, and promoting anti-racism and inclusion efforts, to address increased intolerance stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the company.

On Feb. 22, competitor Adidas shared an Instagram post condemning racism and saying "anti-Asian hate crimes cannot be ignored." Other brands, including Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino, and Benefit Cosmetics have publicly posted about the issue.

Yahoo Finance parent company Verizon (VZ) denounced the violence on Feb. 26, with the company saying the "horrific events" have "no place in society."

A spike in reported hate crimes

The brutality of recent assaults against Asian Americans is striking. Elderly individuals, who are especially vulnerable, have been a key target across cities like San Francisco and New York City. An 84-year-old Thai man Vicha Ratanapakdee was on his daily walk in San Francisco when he was shoved to the ground and killed. Lee-Lee Chin-Yeung, a 52-year-old Chinese woman, was pushed to the ground and knocked unconscious in Queens, New York.

New York has seen a spike in reported hate crimes since the pandemic. There was only one anti-Asian crime reported during all of 2019 compared to 20 in the first half of 2020 in New York City, according to city data. The anti-Asian hate crime tracker Stop AAPI Hate received more than 2,800 reports of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans between March 19 and Dec. 31 — numbers that are likely vastly underreported.

Last month, Facebook's Toda urged the ad industry to speak up against the violence in an AdWeek opinion piece.

"No one is paying attention. No big news outlets. No brands. No influencers. No hashtags," he wrote. "Silence...The model minority myth placed on Asian Americans through a systemic, racist system has made us raceless. That dynamic has resulting in silencing us even in the greatest moments of appropriation and violence...Don’t let us die in silence."

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm and on LinkedIn.

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