At Delta, our mission is that no one better connects the world. We’re not just connecting places to places, but people to people. As a global airline that celebrates diversity and promotes respect, we strive to ensure it is reflected in our people, the companies with which we do business and the way we treat each other, our customers and the world.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in violence, harassment and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. These incidents have deeply impacted our AAPI friends, families, employees and customers. As an anti-racist, anti-discrimination global airline, we stand with this community against hatred and violence and will continue to take action to build a safer environment for all.
One of the first steps in creating change is driving awareness and education around racism, even when those conversations are difficult. To discuss the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, more than 800 Delta employees tuned in for a virtual “Let’s Talk About It” session on March 5 to discuss this issue. The session was hosted by Delta’s Asian Pacific Business Resource Group (FUSION) in partnership with The Global Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and featured Delta leaders Ranjan Goswami, V.P. – In-Flight Service Build Operations and FUSION Executive Sponsor; Jennie Ho, President – Delta Vacations; and Timothy Wang, Associate General Counsel.
“We often say that society comes to work, and sometimes the events, happenings and pressures of society mean that there are issues that simply cannot go undiscussed,” said Delta’s Keyra Lynn Johnson, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer. “With the recent increase in violence and hate crimes toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, we felt this was something we needed to acknowledge, talk about, and consider our role in shaping a better tomorrow.”
The discussion began with all three Delta leaders sharing the same sentiment: that this was a difficult, but necessary conversation to have.
“This is not ok. It’s not something that we can just look over and it’s not a situation that we can accept,” said Ho. “There is a sense of danger for me and my family that I never had before and there is a situational awareness that for me has changed.”
The group discussed how COVID-19-related rhetoric such as the “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus” have reinforced a negative stereotype about the AAPI community, and in many cases, resulted in violence. They also discussed the media’s lack of coverage of anti-Asian hate crimes.
Wang shared several thoughts on why there is a lack of coverage including historical suppression, language and cultural barriers, and the Model Minority Myth.
“The term ‘model minority’ was used as a wedge between the AAPI and other minority and underrepresented groups like Black and Latinx communities,” Wang said. “We’re more aware now that it wasn’t a compliment and that it was meant to harm other groups. It explains why the AAPI community has not collaborated historically as much with others. But at the end of the day, we’re all after the same goal – which is true embracement of diversity, equity and inclusion in this country for everyone.”
When asked by the audience what they could do to help influence change, the panelists cited awareness, understanding, solidarity and action.
“I always think about the ways that I am unwittingly or wittingly being unjust to other people in my life,” said Goswami. “What I love about the path that Delta is on is that we know we’re not perfect. We aspire to be anti-racist. Knowing this aspiration, we treat every moment as a learning opportunity.”
Ho added that it begins with conversation and engagement. “A lot of situations where a topic feels so big, we may feel powerless in terms of what we can do to actually make a difference. If we continue to think this, then nothing will ever change,” she said. “Engaging in conversations like this is the beginning. You don’t need to make that perfect move or say exactly the right thing.”