Some of the wealthiest and most influential Asian-American business leaders are mounting an ambitious plan to challenge anti-Asian discrimination, rewrite school curricula to reflect the role of Asian-Americans in history and collect data to guide policymakers.
The group has pledged $125 million to a newly formed initiative, the Asian American Foundation. The foundation has raised another $125 million from organisations like Walmart, Bank of America, the Ford Foundation and the National Basketball Association.
It is the single largest philanthropic gift devoted to Asian-Americans, who comprise about 6 per cent of the population but receive less than 1 per cent of philanthropic funding.
The effort comes amid a surge in violence against Asian-Americans. Over the past year, hate crime against Asian-Americans has jumped 169 per cent, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, which tracks the crimes in 15 major American cities. In New York City, hate crimes have risen even more, by 223 per cent.
The donors to the foundation include Joseph Bae, the co-president of the private equity firm KKR; Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the founder of the caregiver marketplace Care.com; Li Lu, the founder and chairman of the hedge fund Himalaya Capital; Joseph Tsai, the co-founder and executive vice-chairman of the Chinese technology giant Alibaba; Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo; and Peng Zhao, the chief executive of the market maker Citadel Securities. The group’s advisory committee includes Indra Nooyi, the former chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo; Jeremy Lin, the professional basketball player; and Fareed Zakaria, the journalist.
Donors to the new foundation say that Asian-Americans face discrimination and challenges that have long been ignored by policymakers and philanthropists.
Asian-Americans are often stereotyped as successful and wealthy. This “persistent and powerful model minority myth” reveals “a lack of understanding of the disparities that exist”, said Sonal Shah, president, Asian American Foundation.
In New York City, Asian-Americans win a disproportionate number of spots at the most prestigious and exclusive public schools. But while Asian-Americans make up 12 per cent of the US workforce, they comprise only 1.5 per cent of Fortune 500 corporate officers. Among all ethnic and racial groups in the US, Asians have the biggest income gap between the top 10 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent, according to Pew Research. Asian-Americans hold only 3 per cent of Congressional seats.
The donors behind the new initiative are taking a page from a recent effort by Black executives, who mounted a campaign against voting bills in Georgia and elsewhere that disproportionately harm Black voters, pushing much of corporate America to join them.
“They feel the urgency of now, because they realise that racism transcends class and success in America,” said Darren Walker, the chief executive of the Ford Foundation.
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