Some of the country’s most powerful businesses are embarking on an ambitious plan to support organizations and causes centered on aiding the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Today, e-commerce behemoth Amazon, online marketplace Etsy, sportswear giant Nike, the National Basketball Association and big-box chain Walmart were among the retail, tech and finance companies that pledged $125 million to the newly formed Asian American Foundation — a convener, incubator and funder for AAPI people. The foundation’s board — which is chaired by hedge fund Himalaya Capital founder Li Lu and includes Alibaba Group co-founder Joseph Tsai and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang — has also committed $125 million to the initiative over the next five years.
The funding marks the largest philanthropic gift devoted to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who represent about 6% of the United States population. Historically, however, according to the Asian American Foundation, AAPI communities have received less than 0.5% of charitable giving.
“We created TAAF to stand up for the 23 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in this country and help bring us all together in the fight for our own prosperity,” president Sonal Shah said in a statement. “TAAF wants to strengthen and build power for AAPIs, particularly as we face an exponential increase in hate and violence.”
To start, the foundation will focus its efforts on three areas: building “long-term solutions for measuring and defending” against anti-AAPI violence; developing the common data standards to better track incidents of hate and violence targeting the AAPI community and investing in research to inform future policymaking and advocacy; as well as creating K-12 and higher-education curricula that reflect the history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“AAPI communities need systemic change to ensure we are better supported, represented and celebrated across all aspects of American life,” added Shah, who previously served as deputy assistant to former President Barack Obama and founded the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. “TAAF plans to spark that systemic change and help fundamentally transform AAPI empowerment and support well into the future.”
The announcement was made in the early days of AAPI Heritage Month and comes amid a spike in violence against the AAPI community. A major catalyst for the hate is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spurred rhetoric that has exacerbated anti-Asian xenophobia and racism. According to research released by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased 169% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period last year across 15 major cities.