Open Letter to Orange County: A Reminder for Unity & Collective Response

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Orange County Grantmakers (OCG) and its members join with the National Asian American Community Foundation (NAACF) and Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) in a call for unity and solidarity in response to the continued increase of xenophobic attacks and heightened discrimination faced by the Asian American community in Orange County during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a threat to our physical health and overall community wellbeing. At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a dramatic increase in racial bigotry and violence directed towards Chinese American and Asian American communities in the U.S., fueled by fear and racism. This continues today. Recent news has highlighted a spate of attacks in Asian American communities in the US, and Orange County is no different. In 2020, the Orange County Human Relations Council received about 40 reports that targeted Asian Americans. Historically, hate incidents and crimes are significantly underreported, so we know that the real number is higher. While the 2020 figures are in process of being collected from partners across the county, the current data suggests a 10-fold increase in anti-Asian hate incidents and crimes from the last published report from 2019.

 We must not let these cruelties define us. We call on the Orange County community to unify, and to continue to speak out against all forms of prejudice, discrimination and racism. Together, we can demonstrate that xenophobic responses do not reflect our values. We invite our community to:

  • Issue public statements or include in COVID-19 responses language that denounces hate related to COVID-19
  • Connect with Chinese American & Asian American staff, colleagues, grantees or constituents you serve to see how they are doing and offer support
  • Practice responses to xenophobia. Commit to interrupting, questioning, educating and echoing to fight hate rhetoric. If safely able, ask questions to better understand why the person said or did what they did. Follow guidelines suggested by the Orange County Human Relations Council.
  • Consider equity when making funding decisions. Ensure those smaller organizations that serve the Asian American community is supported during this time of crisis
  • Include efforts that address viral racism as part of rapid response fund guidelines

At the start of the pandemic, the Orange County philanthropic community came together in an unprecedented way, raising over $4M for the OC Community Resilience Fund. This outpouring of support is the true example of who we are – a place that responds in a time of crisis to ensure the health and success of all who live here. We remind Orange County residents that while some have responded to the current crisis with hate, so many others have responded with inclusion and positivity. We invite all residents to focus on our collective strength and not allow xenophobia to win. Together, we will come through this crisis a stronger, more unified community.

If you witnessed, or have been a target of, a hate crime or racist incident tied to the outbreak of COVID-19, we urge you to report it to the OC Human Relations at www.ochumanrelations.org/hatecrime/report/ or the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council’s Stop AAPI Hate website here.

About the National Asian American Community Foundation

The National Asian American Community Foundation (NAACF) is a new initiative led by Asian American philanthropists, non-profit, and academic leaders in Orange County. The mission of NAACF is to cultivate a culture of giving among Asian Americans, to bring visibility to Asian American needs and causes, and to create connections that strengthen Asian American communities. 

About the Orange County Community Foundation

Founded in 1989, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) works with donors, strengthens the local nonprofit sector and works to find solutions to community needs. Since its inception, OCCF has awarded $690 million in grants and scholarships and ranks in the top one percent in grantmaking activity among more than 780 U.S. community foundations. For more information, visit oc-cf.org or call 949-553-4202. Be a part of our conversation on Facebook  Twitter and Instagram. View OCCF’s 2019 annual report here.

About Orange County Grantmakers
Orange County Grantmakers is a community of philanthropists committed to improving outcomes for Orange County and beyond. Our mission is to advance social impact by supporting, strengthening and building adaptive leadership across our nonprofit and philanthropic community.

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How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.