It’s 2022. Many Asian Americans Just Want to Belong.

Susan and her mom in Hawaii

Listening Is Important.

Susan and her mom in Hawaii

It’s 2022. Many Asian Americans Just Want to Belong. Listening Is Important.

By Alaska Airlines

A little empathy and understanding go a long way. 

Susan Zou is Chinese American. 

The Senior Project Manager on Alaska Air’s Strategy and Transformation Team was born in China, but grew up in Honolulu, Hawai’i since she was a year old. While her family didn’t have much, her parents always showed their love through food, safety and resources.

“I am thankful for my parents,” Zou reflects. “They worked so hard to get here and used all their time and energy to make sure my sisters and I didn’t have to struggle like they did.”

Susans parents in either a visa or passport photo when they were younger in China

Her parents embraced the differences in their respective environments, but many Asian Americans continue to struggle with feeling like a foreigner in America. Some of it is unprompted, like when Zou went to an Ikea and someone randomly began speaking to her in Mandarin.

“It’s just a little odd sometimes in those situations because the automatic assumption is that I don’t speak English,” Zou explains, “Which is a reminder that some people don’t see us as Americans.” 


She wants others to see a situation from someone else’s perspective. 

Some incidents for the demographic have been more violent, and disturbing, especially during the hardship of the Covid pandemic. Zou, who has been at Alaska for seven years and served as co-leader of the Air Group Pan-Asian (AGPA) business resource group, tried to lead by checking in on people with open conversations. Last year, she also led meaningful listening sessions for employees, addressing the violence against Asian Americans.

“I’ve learned that we are not alone,” Zou says. “A lot of us have really struggled to speak up on issues because of how we were raised, the expectations society has of us, and we often downplay our own issues because we don’t think they are important enough.”

She knows what’s important now: her voice and her community. Alaska will do TK event and celebrating with employees. 

For now, Zou is looking forward to giving someone else an opportunity to lead AGPA in 2022, and prioritizing spending more time with family this year.  Lunar New Year will be a big dinner with her mom’s famous fried crab, sauteed with ginger and green onions.