Phillip Lim On #StopAsianHate, Donald Trump And The Importance of Kindness
Phillip Lim, who launched his eponymous brand in 2006, has been praised by critics in recent years as a member of the new wave of Asian American fashion designers. But he doesn’t enjoy the label. “I am often referred to as an ‘Asian designer’ instead of just a fashion designer. Why does my profession have to be profiled by my race?” he says.
Lim has experienced this sort of othering all his life, since long before the recent wave of Asian hate in the US that started to make the news in March and has seen dozens of people of Asian heritage killed, assaulted and harassed. But, he says, “hate” isn’t necessarily so extreme or newsworthy. “Whilst recently we’ve seen the devastating effects of violence, hate also occurs in microaggressions, othering, poor choices of words and all the misconceptions driven by the model-minority myth.” And, he believes, the backlash against Asians is due in no small part to the way former president Donald Trump and his administration blamed Covid-19 on the Asian community, using phrases such as “kung flu” and the “China virus”. “This caused so much damage that is lasting and it has clearly led to an increase in the violence in our community,” Lim says. “These violent attacks on Asian communities are hate crimes and a symptom of a larger issue rooted in systemic racism which is a direct result of the xenophobia and colonialism that has existed in America for decades.”
Lim, like so many others with a platform, decided enough was enough. “I think we have been silenced for so long and we are at this tipping point now where we need to demand change,” he says, calling himself not an activist but a person who has been activated. Together with several other prominent Asian Americans, Lim set up the AAPI Gofundme initiative, a fundraising campaign that supports grassroots Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organisations across the United States. “We felt a responsibility to establish a centralised platform to donate, raise money and create a place where vital information could be accessed by anyone who wanted to combat against the attacks on our community,” he says. “It’s important because it is bringing resources to different grassroots organisations, businesses, victims affected directly by these hate crimes.” As of July, almost US$7 million has been raised for the fund.
Ultimately, Lim believes we can all do more to stop Asian hate and rectify racial inequalities in society. “Educate yourself and educate your community,” he says. “Most of the time I think people don’t realise how much hurt some of the comments they say carry. We must all learn how to be more mindful, and speak with understanding and kindness.”