Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong is stepping forward with strong words about unconscious bias and racism in America, saying, “This country had better wake up to this.”
In the wake of continuing attacks on Asian Americans, the biotech multi-billionaire Soon-Shiong, who is of Chinese descent and was born in South Africa, said in a CNN Business story published on Friday that he’s “been completely disenchanted” with systemic racism in the U.S.
Soon-Shiong expressed dismay over recent hate crimes against Asian Americans and racial tensions that have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. “The unconscious bias and racism is pervasive. It is almost inherent, sadly, in the historic fabric of this country,” he said. “We have to recognize that, accept it and then break it,” he told CNN Business.
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“I came from South Africa, where I saw [racism] growing up,” he said. “The difference, in a funny way, is that it was apartheid, but it was apartheid in the open.” Soon-Shiong, who moved to the United States in 1977, added, “I thought we were coming to the land of the free. And, frankly, I’ve been completely disenchanted.”
His comments make him one of the highest-profile business leaders of Asian descent to speak out about recent attacks against Asian Americans, including an incident in late March in which a gunman killed six Asian women and two others in spas across the metropolitan Atlanta area. In another recent instance, a 65-year-old Asian woman was attacked in midtown Manhattan, the assailant kicking and stomping her while yelling profanity and racial epithets. Passers-by did not intervene, which Soon-Shiong said he found “heartbreaking.”
He has been grappling with issues of race and bias in his role as owner of the L.A. Times, responding to complaints that former executive editor Norman Pearlstine had failed to take active steps to diversify the staff. In a September letter to the staff, Soon-Shiong wrote:
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“The national reckoning on race and that within the Los Angeles Times are welcome developments that have already led to productive conversations, concrete plans and accelerated progress for us. We are committed to change, both because it is just and because it is mission-critical for our business. Only a diverse newsroom can accurately tell this city’s stories. Only a newspaper that holds power to account and uncovers injustice can truly succeed.”
In the CNN report, Soon-Shiong urged other Asian business leaders to speak out about the recent attacks. “Unfortunately, the Asian culture and mentality is just to suck it up. Do your work. Do your thing. I don’t think that can happen any longer.”
He added, “This country had better wake up to this, because it becomes something that this next generation has to deal with.”