Advancing Racial Equality for Asian Americans Has No Borders

By: Raul Anaya, President Bank of America Los Angeles

Since the outbreak of the pandemic last March, anti-Asian American hate crimes have surged across the state, including in our own Southland communities. According to a recent report presented to the Los Angeles Police Commission, hate crimes against Asian Americans and other members of the Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities rose sharply in 2020 — marking a 114% increase over 2019.

Approximately one-third of Asian Americans that live in the U.S. live in California, making up 16% of the population. Los Angeles County has the largest Asian population of any county in the United States, with 1.46 million persons of Asian descent (per 2017 census estimates), making up 14 percent of the County’s total population.  

We can’t ignore this increased racism and violence against Asian Americans – or the need for the private and nonprofit sectors to come together and address racial equality. As we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we have the opportunity to examine how we can advance racial equity for all Americans.

One example of how the private sector has successfully engaged and invested in our communities of color is a recent a $1.25 billion, five-year commitment by Bank of America to accelerate addressing racial equality and economic opportunity through investments and high impact partnerships to make lasting changes around health, small business, housing, jobs and re-skilling.

Included in this was the addition of Connie Chung Joe, chief executive officer of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, to serve as a member of Bank of America’s National Community Advisory Council (NCAC), in support of ongoing dialogue and stakeholder engagement with the Asian community in the U.S., and on broad issues of gender and racial equality. Members of the NCAC engage with leaders on Bank of America’s business policies, practices and products in support of employees, clients and local communities.

Also part of the bank’s racial equality commitment was a recent $1 million grant to Asian Americans Advancing Justice to help advance civil rights, bystander intervention, in-language advocacy, social services and legal support in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and to the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD) and The Leadership Conference Education Fund on Civil and Human Rights.

Our support of the AAPI community is not new. Our local bank leaders have long volunteered with many of L.A.’s nonprofits serving these important communities over the years, including serving as Board of Directors members with ACE Foundation, Asian American Professional Association, Asian Business Association L.A., Chinatown Service Center, Center for the Pacific Asian Family, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association.

But we knew we could – and should – do more here in Los Angeles. So Bank of America quickly moved to help impactful organizations by so far directing an additional $320,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

Bank of America assistance funds Chinatown services programs

These include:

  • Chinatown Service Center (CSC), which provides health and human services not just to L.A.’s Asian American neighborhoods but across downtown and East Los Angeles as well;
  • ACE Foundation, API Small Business, and Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE) which all provide support for small businesses and business districts impacted by COVID-19 and anti-Asian discrimination; and 
  • The local Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (AAAJ-LA) chapter for civil justice support. 

Last fall, Bank of America named Chinatown Service Center as a Neighborhood Builder for their work in the Los Angeles community to address issues fundamental to economic mobility, specifically providing social and health services to underserved communities. The grant enabled the organization to expand its capacity during the pandemic to offer COVID-19 testing and treatment to local Chinese American and Latino communities disproportionately impacted by the virus and expand its capacity for COVID-19 testing in these communities to reach 5,000 individuals a year through the purchase of a quick-result COVID and Influenza testing machine, hiring additional staff and enhancing its social and business services. 

In addition to grants, Bank of America also donated 200,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) to Chinatown Service Center to ensure the most vulnerable households in at-risk school districts and senior housing centers in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley have more protection against the coronavirus. 

These are just some of the ways that the private sector can begin to expand its positive, lasting impact for diverse communities – bringing employees, community partners and nonprofits together to cultivate awareness, inclusion and support. By addressing the factors that contribute to the current climate of race relations in America, particularly in the Asian American communities, together, we can make a difference.

Raul Anaya, President Bank of America Los Angeles