Often, getting the first words down are the hardest. “Writer’s block.” But not this time.
So let me start by condemning the recent incident of gun violence against Asian Americans in Atlanta. Let me take the opportunity to communicate to all Americans of all races that discrimination, in all forms, is wrong and will not be tolerated. Not in my business, not in my community, not in the private confines of my home.
Specifically with violence against Asian Americans, statistics show an increase in verbal and physical assaults since the onset of COVID-19. So the next time you get a chance to talk about the pandemic — anywhere with anyone — don’t call it, or allow it to be called, the China virus or the Wuhan flu. Not because there isn’t a kernel of truth in its place of origin, but because we can readily call it COVID and everyone will still know exactly what we mean.
Call it COVID because then your language, intentional or otherwise, won’t hit anyone’s ear offensively and won’t stand even a remote chance of being indiscriminately harmful. I know, you’ve heard prominent individuals and certain news media personalities offer cover for making a cultural issue of the virus. But let’s accept xenophobic smalltalk for what it is — a license for someone bolder, coarser, and perhaps even legitimately sinister to push the boundary of another’s rights just that much further in the wrong direction.
We can debate the forensic anatomy of the Atlanta crime and whether anyone’s words in particular led to this shooter’s behavior. Due process should be allowed to run its course in due time — also an American right. But it is indisputable, today, that our individual responsibility to upholding the dignity of all Americans, through actions big and small, contributes to a more just, peaceful and inclusive society.
In my profession, required continuing education reinforces the laws aimed at preventing discrimination in housing; ECOA, FHA, FCRA, etc. Not only were these created with good intention, they were created to address bad practice. It’s essential that we live their values each day because, even through the language we use with our prospects and clients, we have the profound ability to affect the lives of others in very real ways. For decades, access to home ownership has been denied to otherwise worthy Americans exclusively on the basis of race, sexuality, marital status or other classifications. Rest assured the discrimination was not always blatant, and certainly at least some of it happened in the presence of good people who didn’t or couldn’t prevent it. In solidarity with my Asian American neighbors, I feel compelled to say, “Not any more and not on my watch.”
Still, it must be accepted that tackling overt discrimination and preventing acts of violence that shock the conscience cannot be expected to fall within any single individual’s control. It takes villages to do that. So to all of us, in our unique positions as members of diverse and straddling communities; home, school, race, church, sport, neighborhood, sexual orientation, hobby and interest, I understand it’s become increasingly difficult in a culture of high-velocity information exchange to remain outside of range on the core issues of who we are as a nation. Regardless, I encourage you speak up. Let’s commit to begin with the manner in which we communicate, the words we choose and our effort to have those words heard by those around us.
As a grandchild of Italian immigrants myself, I support and welcome the Asian American community — I always have. But the days of doing so silently are over. Our doors are open and they will always find in me a supporter of their equal rights as individuals and a restless champion for their pursuit of happiness here in the United States.
E pluribus unum,
Robert J. Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709
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