RACIST BY DESIGN
Check in on your Asian friends. The past week’s Atlanta murders are tragic, and a reminder that women and minorities still face violent marginalization. Even in the world’s wealthiest country.
As a Taiwanese-American, I’m feeling the weight of last week’s senseless murders. As a designer, here’s how I hope to express my frustration through the lens of UX.
If someone were designing a system, how would you feel if they make the design so that it intentionally excludes people based on race? That would probably strike you as racist (and totally user unfriendly)—and you’d be right. If we think about societies as systems (which they are), then those systems should strive to treat all of its “users” – citizens – with dignity and respect.
Racist policies are
bugs viruses within a system. A lot of friends are shocked about the recent rise in attacks against Asian Americans. They’re even more shocked when I tell them about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 or the laws that prohibited marriage between minorities and whites, or how Hollywood is complicit in its racism against Asians (and nearly all other minorities). This hate doesn’t appear out of thin air—it is, like any system, constructed over time.
After publishing How UX Allies Can Support Black Lives Matter, I received some nasty messages from those who’ve unsubscribed, asking me to “stick to UX.” This is puzzling, to say the least. This is a field called user experience, and we deal with designing for real people. What doesn’t race have to do with UX? Heaven forbid people of this toxic mindset from ever designing experiences for others.
If we sweat over microcopy on CTAs, then it should be no stretch of the imagination why calling Covid-19 a “Chinese virus” is alienating at least, and destructive at worst. And we’ve already seen the worst.
In times like this, I find myself reaching for a solution. I realize that there’s power in just sharing (thank you), having the conversation, and especially acknowledging the innocent people who lost their lives.
Know their names:
- Soon Chung Park, age 74
- Hyun Jung Grant, age 51 | GoFundMe
- Suncha Kim, age 69 | GoFundMe
- Yong Yue, age 63 | GoFundMe
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33 | GoFundMe
- Paul Andre Michels, age 54 | GoFundMe
- Xiaojie Tan, age 49
- Daoyou Feng, age 44
There will be a long list of AAPI resources towards the end of this article, including ways to support the victims’ families.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”
– NATO’s Collective Defense agreement, reiterated by President Biden
“An attack on one Asian American is an attack on all Americans.”
This is a community-sourced tool tracking over 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since March 2020. The numbers are disheartening to see, but at least there’s some avenue that exists for reporting. I’m crossing my finger that the maxim “what gets measured, gets managed” applies here.
I’m so glad something like this exists. Co-sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and Hollaback!, this workshop teaches attendees how to intervene effectively as a bystander to violence against Asian Americans. Looking at the syllabus, it looks like good knowledge that applies to beyond any one race, covering:
- Hollaback!’s 5D’s of bystander intervention methodology: distract, delegate, document, delay, and direct
- The spectrum of disrespect—from microaggressions to violence
- How to prioritize your own safety while intervening
March is Women’s History Month. I’ve learned some new names here:
- Patsy Mink, first woman of color in Congress
- Tammy Duckworth, first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, first woman with a disability elected to Congress. No relation to the also badass Angela Duckworth, author of Grit
- Cecilia Chung, transgender rights activity of more than 20 years, Director at Transgender Law Center
API (Asian & Pacific Islanders) Who Design is a live directory that features API creatives in the design industry. Drawing inspiration from Latinxs Who Design and Blacks Who Design, APIWho.Design strives to connect, support, and inspire talented designers.
Mx. Asian American is a podcast hosted by Karen Zheng who collaborates with guests from all different backgrounds and disciples to detail the Asian American experience. In episode number 20, Karen invites Elise Mas, a NYC-based Filipino-American singer-songwriter and UX designer to share her experiences in finding identity after moving to New York. Intertwined with her story, Elise shares how about her transition into UX design.
Follow Mx. Asian American on Instagram: @mxasianamerican
“Treat your users like first class citizens.” Sounds like an ideal to strive for in design, right? Author Isabel Wilkerson explores in depth how people get treated like second-class citizens, particularly in the caste systems of India and Germany.
Wilkerson then explores how a two-tier caste system pervades American hierarchy. By looking at caste rather than just race, the author constructs a compelling argument about structural power.
This book has been recommended many times in the discourse about race. The editor (Oz) picked it up on Audible and is kind of blown away.
[CASE STUDY SPOTLIGHT]
Exposé: An Anti-Discrimination App
Designer: Austin Bedford
Case Study: Exposé
This app is focused on community wellness through prevention and healing (as opposed to community policing).
Why this case study is awesome:
- Data-driven: this project integrates findings from 98 participant responses and highlights real pain points from would-be users
- Content design: Clear before-and-after picture of how changes to voice & tone improved the user experience
Read the Exposé case study—it is both humanizing and informative. The project is very community-driven and the points for change are all backed by data gathered. The final product is inclusive and welcoming to put users at ease.
Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Resources
Donate directly to families of survivors and victims:
- Yong Yue: https://www.gofundme.com/f/memorial-for-yong-yue-and-family
- Delaina Ashley Yaun: https://www.gofundme.com/f/funeral-and-family-financial-support
- Paul Andre Michels: https://www.gofundme.com/f/atlanta-spa-shooting-victim-paul-michels
- Hyun Jung Grant: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-hyunjungkim-to-support-my-brother-i
- Suncha Kim: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-loving-memory-of-sun-cha-kim
- Elcias Hernandez Ortiz: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-elcias-hernandez-ortiz-cover-medical-bills
- Vicha Ratanapakdee: https://www.gofundme.com/f/84yearold-killed-in-san-francisco
Donate to and learn more about Atlanta-based AAPI organizations:
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta: https://www.advancingjustice-atlanta.org/
- Asian-American Resource Center in Atlanta: https://www.aarcatl.org/donations
- Asian American Advocacy Fund: https://www.asianamericanadvocacyfund.org/
- Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS): https://cpacs.org/social-services/
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum: https://www.napawf.org/
- The Korean American Coalition—Metro Atlanta: https://kacatl.org/
Asian (American) communities you can support:
- Red Canary Song
- Asian Americans Supporting Justice
- Enough is Enough
- Hate is a Virus
- Heart of Dinner
- Stop Asian Hate
- Stop AAPI Hate
- They Can’t Burn Us All
- Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Support Network
- Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project
- Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
- AAPI Women Lead
- Asian American Feminist Collective (AAFC)
- The Center for Asian Pacific American Women (CAPAW)