In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Stark & Stark’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee are shining a spotlight on some of our AAPI employees.
We sat down with Laurel Robbins (Korean name: Sun Hee), a personal injury paralegal in our Hamilton office, to discuss her favorite cultural traditions, and what AAPI Heritage Month means to her.
Stark & Stark (S&S): What is your cultural identity?
Laurel Robbins (LR): This one has always been a struggle to me. I grew up in a predominately Caucasian family. My mom’s side is Polish/Czech and my dad’s side has roots to England. With this, I grew up quite Americanized. I look Asian-American, sometimes I feel Korean-American, and other times I joke that I’m white.
S&S: What is your favorite cultural tradition?
LR: I did not really grow up with Korean traditions in my household. My parents sent me to adoptee camp where I met a lot of other people “like me.” During that time, I was introduced to the foods, martial arts, fan dancing, and more. I even started doing the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do. Fun Fact: I hold my second-degree black belt and I am a certified instructor!
S&S: What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?
LR: For me, AAPI Month is the time for people of the AAPI community to be recognized for their contributions to society from the early roots to present. It is the time when individuals can learn about the history of this diverse community, learn about different cultures and traditions, arts, literature, try something new (like food!), learn more about the ways in which the community has contributed and continues to contribute to the world we live in.
S&S: The theme for Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month this year is advancing leaders through opportunity. How do you think we can all work to achieve this goal?
LR: I honestly don’t know, but room needs to be made for the AAPI Community at the table. Doing so gives a voice in leadership, a voice in change, and a voice in different perspectives.
S&S: How do you think your culture has influenced you in your professional life?
LR: I’m not sure my Korean side has influenced my professional life. I think my parents, who supported me, led by example, and showed me that if I work hard and am disciplined, I can achieve anything. They’ve also taught me to be open-minded, listen, and be compassionate.
S&S: What do you hope to see for the AAPI community in the future?
LR: First, I hope to see that the AAPI community isn’t here just to be a number. Being diverse is something companies seem to want to pride themselves on, but they have one colored person represented at the table. Leaders and companies cannot facilitate change, or understand minority cultures or backgrounds, if they do not have someone at the table to help them learn. But people have to want to learn and be open to feedback of where change is needed to keep and promote the AAPI community, or any minority community. We need to be heard, respected, and valued to the same extent as our peers. Too often of times, we are here to fill a quota. Diversity should be a standard, not a metric. Secondly, I hope to see less hate within the AAPI community and less hate from outside the community. This month is to celebrate us, and the deep, rich traditions from our cultures that date back centuries. Yet, our communities have some deeply rooted disdain for others within the community itself, whether seen through the caste system or through homogony. These thoughts are outdated and only separate the community. I hope to see less hate toward the AAPI community, a community that spans decades and sacrificed so much for the founding of this Nation. The racism, the hate speech, the baseless attacks on individuals and communities, MUST STOP.
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