Editorial: The importance of sticking together during a crisis

Note: All photos within this story were taken before the Coronavirus outbreak and any mask regulation.

Gary Locke, Former Governor of Washington:

Gary Locke

As the first Chinese American to be elected governor in United States history and the first Asian American governor on the mainland, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke has been a leader in the areas of education, employment, human rights and more. As an avid traveler (Alaska MVP Gold) who celebrates diversity and enjoys experiencing different cultures, Locke was troubled to hear stories of COVID-19 triggering bias and harassment of Asian-Americans.

Locke: Over my many trips in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I’ve always been greeted by the warm and friendly faces of travelers and Alaska Airlines employees. Now, more than ever, I realize how valuable and meaningful a smile is in creating human connection. Today, many things remain uncertain, but I know when the time is right, we will be seeking travel and human connection like never before and Alaska Airlines will be there to get us there safely and with the upmost care and welcoming service.

This month, we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage month – honoring cultures and traditions as varied as those from Tonga to Indonesia to China and Japan. As U.S. Secretary of Commerce, I have had the great privilege of traveling around the country and firmly believe the strength and essence of America is our diversity of people, cultures, customs, and perspectives of every shape and color. That diversity has been the fuel of our nation’s dynamism. And generations after generations of Asian American Pacific Islanders have contributed mightily to the progress and defense of America and have much to be proud of.

I thus find it troubling to hear many Asian-Americans have been targets of harassment and bias amid the COVID-19 crisis.  We can and must do better. Now more than ever, it’s imperative we all come together to overcome this pandemic. During Asian Pacific American Heritage month, I hope all of us can take the time to recognize and reaffirm to a friend, colleague, neighbor—whether in person or virtually—that they are cared for, respected and play an integral part of our country’s ability to rise up from this crisis.  As a former diplomat, I’ve learned that we can build lasting bridges by starting with a simple act of kindness to our fellow individuals.  I am heartened to learn that Alaska Airlines has always been an advocate for diversity and inclusion and is taking additional steps to spread awareness of this topic and is equipping their employees with the tools to support each other and Alaska’s guests.  Keep up the great work! 

Annabel Chang, Alaska Airlines Bay Area vice president and executive sponsor of the Air Group Pan-Asian (AGPA) business resource group:

Annabel Chang

Chang: Alaska has always strived to cultivate a workplace where different points of view are welcomed, where employees feel empowered to discuss tough issues and where successful—and unsuccessful— practices can be shared across organizations.  

Last month, we virtually brought our employees together to have an open conversation about COVID-19 and the impact it has had on the Asian American community.  By talking about the topic openly and discussing best practices, our hope is to empower our employees to do the right thing, lead with kindheartedness and support each other and the communities where we fly.  Our Alaska Airlines Foundation is also supporting free virtual training that is being jointly provided by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Hollaback.  The virtual training shares practical tools and tips to respond to discriminatory situations 

This year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is more important than ever – it provides us the opportunity to share our stories and highlight the contributions of Asian Americans  And as we begin to travel again, I look forward to the sheer joy of experiencing new places, catching up with old friends, and simply smiling at each other.