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Prabal Gurung: Anti-Asian sentiment runs deeper than you think

April 6, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.7%. 2 min read.

The Nepalese American designer writes on the torrent of anti-Asian hate crimes, his continued fight for diversity in fashion and the need for Asian American communities to "be in every corner and exist in every space."

Prabal Gurung is a Nepalese American fashion designer based in New York.

Among them is 65-year-old Vilma Kari, who just last week in New York, was told "F**k you, you don't belong here, you Asian," according to the criminal complaint, before being pushed to the ground and kicked repeatedly by her attacker.

Fashion inspired by minority cultures, or rooted in the heritage of a minority designer's heritage, may be tokenized as "exotic" or "ethnic," or disparaged in hushed tones as "tacky and garish. " Tone-deaf campaigns and racist garments are often created because there are no people of color in the room that feel empowered enough to stop them from going ahead.

But I became used to witnessing microaggressions or blatant discrimination against the few Asian people who, like myself and other people of color, were able to break into this industry.

Today, I still see Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American and LGBTQ peers being tokenized by the industry, called upon to perform inclusivity.

But as a first-generation Asian immigrant, as a minority, as a queer person of color, I wanted to redefine the country's style because our experiences have been underrepresented.

I ended up turning that collection into a celebration of American identity and belonging, sending a diverse cast of models down the runway in denim, white short-sleeved shirts, rose prints and, during the finale, sashes bearing the question: "Who gets to be American?"

And, let's be honest, brands' efforts to embrace Asian culture have been motivated by the spending power of countries like China, India and South Korea, not some moral awakening.

But, cynicism aside, just like conversations brought about by the Black Lives Matter protests, the Stop Asian Hate movement is inviting renewed scrutiny of fashion's role in perpetuating racism and discrimination -- from runways and collections to workplace culture.

Asian Americans in the industry should recognize that we have an important role to play.

Take this time to donate, build your skills by participating in harassment intervention training, and support existing social justice organizations and initiatives such as Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

Familiarize yourself with non-profit organizations like Gold House and Define American who are shaping culture, forming solidarity through intersectionality and creating impactful, sustainable long-term solutions for challenges facing our communities.

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