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Safe Spaces & Silver Linings

There's a mental safe space that we have to create — and the physical space that we operate in.

When I think about safe spaces, there’s a mental safe space that we have to create, and there’s the physical space that we operate in. Our physical space out in the world right now isn’t safe because of the coronavirus. Then, there’s the racial tension that’s exploded and the financial crisis that we’re now entering into as a country. There’s an inherent fear that has to do with economics and well as your actual safety. Then on top of that, our political system is oppressing people in all kinds of ways.

How I Find My Safe Spaces

My safe space comes from having a healthy, supportive tribe around. I’m in the business of creating communities. I’m really lucky to have a great community that’s always been around, pushing me forward.

And I’m adjusting to the physical safety in the best way I can. I have lung and respiratory issues, so I’m hypersensitive to that. But I can control staying home. I can control staying safe by wearing masks. The things that are really hard to control are the things that come from our leadership.

A Silver Lining Amid Racial Backlash

My parents are in Minnesota and operate a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant, and I look at the backlash against Asian-Americans, which has been sparked by misinformation. It opens the doors for others who have these feelings toward immigrants, and it gives them the space to hate. Those are the things that are hard to control.

The silver lining, though, is that It’s become really clear where people stand. Are you actually helping us create a more safe space for all people? Do you believe in the safety and the rights of all people, or do you believe that there’s an inferior race in our country?

I’ve been called names. I’ve been told to go back to my own country. It’s not on a daily basis, but it happens. But I was born here — this is my country.

Traditionally, Asians don’t ruffle feathers. But we have a cultural mindset that we will persevere. We’ll work harder. That’s been a very strong mantra growing up in my Chinese-Vietnamese family. I think Asians have a little bit of a luxury of being considered the model minority. And culturally, we don’t typically step up and vocalize our opinions, which isn’t helpful for moving things forward.

I’ve been called names. I’ve been told to go back to my own country. It’s not on a daily basis, but it happens. But I was born here — this is my country.

There’s a history there that often isn’t told. Most people don’t know about the Japanese internment camps that happened right on U.S. soil, for example. And Asian-Americans also are a big part of the history of America — in building railroads, for example. But all of that history is often lost, and that leads to us not realizing that America truly was built by immigrants. There’s a blatant disregard for that history. And I think about how that leads to a whole generation that has a different perspective of our history and doesn’t recognize or respect all of the people who have made America what it is.

What Keeps Me Moving Forward

In our business, we have new opportunities to solve real problems and use all the things that we’ve learned over the years to solve these new problems.

But it’s tiring having gone through building several companies, knowing how much work that takes, and doing this major pivot now. Moving forward, I know that it’s going to be a lot of work and it’s very exciting. I also know it’s going to be very exhausting.

It’s just this combination of super excited and super heavy. And I feel like that’s everyday living in the COVID world.