Women in 3D Printing hosted a vitally important conversation this week, taking a stance against hate.
On the whole, Women in 3D Printing (Wi3DP) is dedicated to a more equitable future for the additive manufacturing industry. The 3D printing industry as a whole has long been intolerant of intolerance, as many companies have publicly stated their positions regarding equity. We saw this on a large scale last year, when following the murder of George Floyd many 3D printing companies took a stand for equity.
Recently, anti-Asian sentiment has been on the rise. With roots deep in Western societies like the US, this systemic inequity is nothing new — but has been ramping up with highly public anti-Asian crimes. NBC News cited a statistic that “3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women” have occurred in the last year.
These and more statistics featured strongly in the opening of this week’s Wi3DP panel, “Ending Asian Hate,” in which four AM professionals of Asian descent shared their takes on how this ongoing discrimination is impacting them personally and professionally.
Ahead of the panel discussion, Janet Kar shared an overview of historical Asian hate in the US. This traced systemic racism against Asians from the 18th century — including 1798’s “Naturalization Act” when Asians were not allowed to own property or vote — through present day. In 2021, Kar noted:
“Rise of Asian Hate: Coronavirus + China Rhetoric
Racism against Asian and Pan-Asia community rises (+3.4K reports) – started with [rhetoric that used ‘Chinese virus’, ‘Kung Flu’ and painting China as a competitor.”
From there, more than 80 live viewers followed a discussion empathetically led by moderator SJ Jones, Applications Engineer at Siemens Energy. Panelists included well-known figures in the industry comprising Dr. Ellen Lee, Technical Lead – AM, Ford Motor Co.; Christina Perla, Co-Founder and CEO, Makelab; Eliana Fu, Industry Manager, TRUMPF; and Mina Lee, Manager of People and Culture, MakerBot.
Each of the speakers had personal reasons for joining the conversation, and a lot of that boiled down to the fact that it’s critical to acknowledge what’s happening.
One of the phrases to pop up again and again was “keep my head down,” which is a well-ingrained response for many to being on the receiving end of negativity. When one is “othered” as a targeted minority, it can be instinctual to try to keep a low profile, to keep one’s head down. But there’s also very much a time to speak up.
“After the slew of really awful hate crimes against the elderly, I knew I needed to say something,” Mina Lee noted. “I looked at my grandparents. They kept their heads down, they tried to stay so far under the radar, because they didn’t want to be victims of hate crimes. I knew I couldn’t sit back. The media misses backstories — which is not to say you need backstories for empathy, but our stories are so unique to us and so important, I’m glad to be on this panel to share a little about my story.”
Christina Perla added:
“I also have been very head down. I am by no means a quiet person; I can be, though, especially when it comes to racial injustice. But with everything that’s happened in the past year I feel I need to speak up. Small actions change things; change happens at a micro level.”
The idea for the conversation arose from Eliana Fu’s suggestion.
“I’m not going to stand there with my head down and stay quiet and shut up, I’m not going to do nothing,” she said. “I reached out to Nora [Touré, Wi3DP’s founder] and wanted to have a discussion about this. I’m also grateful to my employer, TRUMPF, that they are backing me up. It’s so important for me to raise this topic. This is not fake news, this is happening now. The more we talk about this and say it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. We also need to find positive ways to talk about the situation, to help, not make things worse.”
That’s all rather big picture, and a discussion that could be happening anywhere. So why have this conversation specifically in a 3D printing event?
Because it’s happening here, too. Because these sentiments affect our colleagues in this industry professionally as well as personally.
“Honestly it has hit me very hard, both socially and professionally,” Mina Lee acknowledged. “As someone who sits in HR, I am constantly thinking about this and how to address these issues for all our BIPOC employees, and non-. Trying to simultaneously be a support system and provide resources professionally for my team, while also navigating all of this in my personal life has been very, very difficult.”
People are facing direct impacts, including to their mental health.
“It’s affected me more from a mental health standpoint,” Ellen Lee acknowledged. “I’ve been fortunate… the region I live in is relatively diverse and liberal, so I haven’t myself been the subject of any attacks, neither have any of my close friends or family. Still it’s had a significant effect on my mental health. Like Mina said, I’m bracing myself and thinking of what-if scenarios.”
The conversation turned to a natural question, then:
“What can we do as allies, on the street, in the workplace?” moderator SJ Jones asked.
Here’s the difficult part: there’s no easy answer, there’s no right answer. But there are steps to take. First, as each panelist pointed out, is simply understanding.
“The first part of the conversation is recognizing that these problems exist,” Eliana Fu noted. “People may say we’re blowing this out of proportion; we’re not, people have been killed. The second, third, and fourth parts are taking steps for healing, for positive action, for dialogue. I don’t know what all those steps are. This right here is a step toward those.”
Further, panelists pointed out, is that those in positions to do so can use their privilege “for good.” Stand up for colleagues, stand up for anyone you might see slighted or with negativity or aggression directed their way. This can be as simple as saying, “That joke isn’t funny.”
Some of the points raised during the panel included:
#1 – Recognize there’s a problem
- Connect with communities — reach out to learn and share your stories with AAPI and non-Asian communities to share we’re going through
- Spread awareness and be an advocate
#2 – Take Steps to Heal
- Set an example of treating people with respect
- Call out racially infused jokes
- Know when you want to exercise being proactive in voicing out your opinions
- Healing Circles — allows you to rest and feel gratitude
- Take some martial arts classes (feel empowered)
- You control your narrative
- Forgive and let go – will help your healing
- Ask for help
- Take advantage of company health benefits (i.e.: counselling)
- Set boundaries
- Act with empathy – know your audience, listen and be compassionate – be a sounding board if they request it
- Reach out to let them know you care and are open to chatting
- Call out racially infused jokes
- Shift the conversion by saying ‘that’s messed up’ or ‘not funny’
- Use privilege for good by stepping in for someone who can’t do it for themselves during that moment
- Amplify their voice — help enable confidence over time
- Spread awareness and be an advocate — keep the topic alive
- Promote diversity and eliminate inequality
- Work on proactive phrases to defuse violent situations
- Learn how to engage with bystanders / take bystander training
A few caveats go with these:
- Do not ‘ask what you can do’ as it can become a burden
- Do not tokenize Asians
- Do not try to save your friends
- Do not judge someone from being aggressive if they are pouring out their feelings
The hour-long panel is available here, or you can just watch it here:
Conversations like these aren’t easy, they’re not comfortable — and they are very, very necessary. Inequity, racism, and violence are impacting our colleagues, our friends, our world, and our industry. We need to acknowledge this and each do our part. Stand up. Stop Asian hate.