How Funders Are Fighting Anti-Asian Hate

By Noor Al-Sibai | April 05, 2021

On March 16, a growing epidemic of anti-Asian violence and discrimination came to a deadly head when a shooter in Atlanta went on a killing spree that left eight people, including six Asian women, dead.

For most of the United States, these gruesome murders were a tragic wake-up call to take seriously a steep rise in hate crimes and racist incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people, a trend that has accompanied anti-Asian rhetoric during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For funders that serve Americans who are part of the Asian diaspora, or are located in places with large AAPI populations, the Atlanta murders marked the latest and most severe incident in an extended history of discrimination, stereotyping and violence directed at Asian Americans.

Back in February, for example, San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell wrote a statement of solidarity with the AAPI community on February 11, coinciding with Lunar New Year. “We have been horrified to read about the latest attacks, which have targeted elderly Asian Americans.” He mentioned the deadly assault on Vicha Ratanapakdee, an elderly Thai-American man, that occurred in San Francisco a few weeks prior, and added that “these crimes are part of a long, racist and xenophobic history of violence against Asian Americans.”

In response to the Atlanta murders, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), an organization focused on forging greater bonds between AAPI communities and the philanthropic sector, is calling on philanthropy to repudiate anti-Asian violence, challenge the “model minority” and “perpetual foreigner” stereotypes often applied to Asian Americans, support AAPI groups with regular grantmaking, and to “honor and support cross-racial efforts that strengthen rather than divide the United States along racial lines.”

In late March, AAPIP published a letter calling for solidarity and collective action against anti-Asian hate and violence. Over 500 philanthropy leaders signed on. Part of it reads, “First, we start with solidarity. Asian American, Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Indigenous, Middle Eastern Americans, other people of color, and immigrants all experience the harsh reality of systemic racism in America.”

Most recently, a coalition of Asian American business leaders launched Stand With Asian Americans, a campaign that includes a collective $10 million funding commitment. The effort publicly launched last week with a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal, which served as an open letter and a call for others to get involved. “We ask for your support in ending violence against Asian Americans. We no longer want to fear being stabbed from behind, fatally knocked to the ground, having acid thrown on our face or gunned down like the mothers and grandmothers in Atlanta,” states the letter, which now has over 5,500 signatories.

These are just a few of the growing number of funders and collaborative philanthropic efforts publicly condemning AAPI hate, directing donors to organizations by and for the Asian diaspora and donating to groups directly opposing anti-Asian rhetoric and violence. We’ll continue to update this post with new developments, but here are some notable responses coming from philanthropy and some key funders providing support for AAPI communities.

Asian Pacific Fund 

The San Francisco-based Asian Pacific Fund (APF) is one of the largest AAPI-focused funding organizations in the country. Like other pan-Asian groups, this community foundation considers itself “a bridge that connects the diverse spectrum of Asian Americans.” Indeed, the diversity of the many people and communities often referred to as “Asian American” is a fact many AAPI groups and allies are stressing in a time of rising anti-Asian violence.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, APF launched its Solidarity Fund in partnership with local NBC and Telemundo affiliates in San Francisco, as well as Comcast. With an initial investment of $100,000, the fund promises to “provide grants to organizations working to address the persistent anti-Asian racism, including supporting the physical and mental health of survivors, ensuring the safety of seniors and advocating for racial justice across racial lines.”

Stand With Asian Americans

While not a grantmaker itself, this new coalition of Asian American business leaders has pledged $10 million in funding over the next year, and has rallied thousands of people to sign on in solidarity. To distribute funds, the campaign is partnering with the Asian Pacific Fund, and grantees so far include StopAAPIHate, AAPI Women Lead, NAPAWF, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Association for Asian American Studies.

“The Asian American business leaders in our community are committed to fighting for change,” their statement reads. “The change that is needed requires a national awakening and a dialogue that involves leaders from every community if we are to undo the generations of systemic bias and racism. We are business leaders. We can help make change happen.”

The effort will support work to report and document hate crimes, provide legal representation to those impacted, and create and fund AAPI employee resource groups.

Ford Foundation 

Unsurprisingly, this social justice and human rights stalwart is among the top funders working to serve AAPI communities and fight against anti-Asian discrimination and violence. A recent report that AAPIP assembled on philanthropic funding for AAPI communities found that from 2014 through 2018, the Ford Foundation was by far the most generous philanthropy in this space, disbursing over $200 million. Ford’s total made up nearly 23% of total philanthropic funding for AAPI communities during that time.

Following the Atlanta shootings, Ford President Darren Walker situated the violence alongside a longer history of anti-Asian hate and bias. “As Americans, we must reckon with our past in order to transcend it,” he wrote. “Ours is a past that includes Chinese exclusion and Japanese internment, xenophobia directed at South Asian and Muslim communities after 9/11, and too many other instances to name.”

Recently, the foundation became one of the financial backers of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund’s Anti-Racism Response Network. Other funders include the Groundswell Fund, the Susan Sandler Fund, Unbound Philanthropy and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is 90 years old, and like Ford, its giving priorities reflect an attention to racism’s deep roots. Kellogg joined the Ford Foundation in funding the new Anti-Racism Response Network, and in a statement, used decisive language about its commitment to combating racism in an intersectional way.

“Any assault on the humanity of one threatens and harms us all,” a March 19 statement read. “These dehumanizing actions are part of the enduring, centuries-long legacy of racism, intertwined with a deeply engrained misogyny toward our Asian relatives and community members. To stop the cycle of violence, loss and grief they perpetuate, we must acknowledge the racism at the root of these hateful incidents and stand together to build an equitable future.”

According to AAPIP’s report, Kellogg also stands among the top five funders of AAPI communities, with over $31 million in grants from 2014 through 2018. In addition to the Anti-Racism Response Network, some other recent Kellogg grantees include the New Mexico Asian Family Center, Asian American Federation Inc. and AAPIP itself.

Wallace H. Coulter Foundation

Although this foundation is much smaller than the Fords and Kelloggs of the world and tends to fly under the radar, it has been a solid supporter of AAPI communities. In fact, it ranks second only to Ford in AAPIP’s analysis of top grantmakers. From 2014 through 2018, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation gave $45 million to AAPI causes.

To advance the civic representation of Asian American communities, the foundation’s “Coulter Consortium” of AAPI organizations has worked in part to encourage participation in the U.S. Census. Some of the foundation’s AAPI-focused human rights grantees include Asian Americans Advancing Justice (national and local branches as well as the organization’s law caucus), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, APIAVote and the Chinese Progressive Association. Coulter also regularly supports human rights advocacy groups for immigrants to the United States.

United Negro College Fund

In a statement published on March 23, UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax expressed solidarity with Asian-Americans and specifically derided conspiracy theories that have targeted and scapegoated people of Asian heritage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the 19th century, Asian people, just like Black people, have been singled out in federal, state and local laws that have given statutory legitimacy to discrimination and unequal treatment,” Lomax said. “Recent hate crimes are the latest in a long history of American violence against non-white individuals, citizens and communities.”

The UNCF walks the talk when it comes to racial solidarity. A Candid foundation database search found that to date, the fund has given nearly $60 million to AAPI groups.

“We have stood with our Asian brothers and sisters, just as they have stood with us,” Lomax said. “Now, we must be even more explicit and clear that we stand with and we stand for our Asian sisters and brothers, and we stand in solidarity and support with the Asian American communities across America today and always.”

California Community Foundation

Based in Los Angeles County, the California Community Foundation has already given hundreds of thousands of dollars to L.A.-based Asian American organizations in 2021, including the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (which received the largest grant amount of $170,000) and the Koreatown Youth and Community Center.

Along with its own giving, the CCF also released a statement following the Atlanta spa killings in support of Angelenos affected by the uptick in anti-Asian violence who “feel targeted, devalued or afraid.” The foundation listed several nonprofits and other organizations to support and offered resources for educating others about anti-AAPI hate and discrimination, COVID-specific resources and bystander intervention training with the AAPI community in mind.

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