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Yum! In The News

Yum! Brands employees speak about Asian-directed hate

image with orange background and the words "Belonging at Yum! Brands" along with the company and brand logos and headshot photos of four people

Image provided by Yum! Brands.

Published on July 07, 2021

Yum! Brands, a global restaurant company whose employees, franchisees and customers hail from all backgrounds, is committed to fighting injustice and creating a safe and inclusive environment for our employees and customers around the world. Yum! will always stand unequivocally against hatred, discrimination and violence against any group of people.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, reports of verbal and physical attacks against Asian and Pacific Islander communities have increased in number and severity. 

Applying Yum!’s culture of listening and learning around this important issue, Taco Bell Chief People Officer Kelly McCulloch recently spoke with Joe Park, Yum! Brands vice president of Innovation; Melissa Chang, KFC U.S. instructional designer, and Vivian Tsao, Taco Bell Design account manager, on an episode of “Belonging,” Yum!’s equity, inclusion and belonging-focused internal podcast. Together, they discussed their perspectives and experiences as people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, including confronting stereotypes, finding their place in a community and challenging misconceptions.

Here are highlights from their conversation.

Park, who grew up in New York City, noted that even in one of the world’s most diverse cities, it’s still possible to feel like you don’t belong.

“I grew up in a predominantly white, Jewish neighborhood and was one of the few Asian kids in class for a long time,” said Park. “There were a lot of immigrant kids — not Asian Americans, but Asians who moved to the U.S. — who would give me flak because I wasn't ‘Asian enough.’ I didn't speak Korean like them, or I dressed ‘white.’ So that sense of belonging escaped me for a while because you're made to feel like you’re not white enough or not Asian enough.”

Chang acknowledged the pressure to assimilate to the predominant local culture and how it affected her family as she was growing up.

“When my parents immigrated here, they both spoke different languages and had the opportunity to either teach us Vietnamese or Mandarin,” said Chang. “I always asked them why they didn't, because we only spoke English at home. And my dad said, ‘I didn't want you growing up with an accent. I don't want people to discriminate against you.’”

Tsao spoke to the implications of rising violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for her and her family’s safety. She was surprised when her mother suggested Tsao’s husband walk the family dog to keep her from going out alone.

“Just a simple task like that — that I can't do and feel safe — it just makes me really sad to think about,” said Tsao. “But now, as an Asian woman, I have to be very careful about my surroundings. Just last week, I took my son to a doctor's appointment in an area that wasn’t familiar. As I was putting him in his car seat, I was checking my environment every couple of seconds. And that was just silly to me to have to do that, but I had to do that to make sure my son was safe.”

Park, Chang and Tsao also shared ideas for how allies can inspire solutions and lend support – ranging from the respectful way to ask someone about their background (Chang suggests, “What’s your heritage?” as opposed to “What kind of Asian are you?” which she has been asked numerous times) to showing up in a strong way online.

“Having allies share Asian American and Pacific Islander stories, incidents, sharing how they feel about it and broadcasting it shows, ‘Hey, that's not an Asian, but that's someone who's advocating on our behalf, and they're saying that that's not normal, that's unacceptable,’” said Park. “That goes a long way.”

While more media coverage and allyship are bringing greater awareness to the discrimination and dangers that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are facing, there is still plenty of progress to be made.

“It's great to see the communities of both Asian Americans and allies standing up,” said Park. “That's been uplifting. But for us, there's still a lot of work to do. I feel like we're still in the middle of it trying to process all of it together.”

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