Eric Toda is a courageous voice who is tired of the way things are in America. Eric is a fast friend, an activist and the Global Head of Social Marketing at Facebook. I asked him 6 questions below.
1. Eric, this has been just another brutal month in America. You were one of the first people I saw who got vocal about everything. Why did you feel you stepped forward now?
I was really angry. Angry that our industry (marketing), an industry that constantly preaches diversity and doing what’s right didn’t do what’s right by standing for me and my community as we were getting murdered, harassed, and targeted. To me it didn’t matter if I was the first one, it mattered that I was one, hopefully amongst many more.
So yeah, I was angry. Angry that our industry chooses when we want to stand for what’s right, and not just always doing what’s right. If that meant sacrificing everything; my reputation, my career, whatever – i’d do it again in a heartbeat.
2. Why do you think all of this is happening? Has it always been happening but we’ve reached a point of “enough is enough”?
What we’re seeing isn’t new. I want to be very clear about that. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1800’s, the Japanese Internment Camps which my Grandparents lived in, to Vincent Chen, to my own grandfather being a target of a violent hate crime in the 90’s, or even the racism I have faced throughout my entire life – not new. My family has had to leave restaurants because someone decides they’re going to harass a family in the middle of dinner, i’ve been told to go back to Chinatown at least once a year throughout my life, and the list goes on. This isn’t new. What we’re seeing right now is a string of attacks and people are getting loud. Really loud.
I think we’re done, we’re done getting punched, and now we’re punching back. Something most society didn’t realize we’d do. I’ve never been quiet, but i’ve also never been this loud for my skin, for my community. And I promise i’m never going to back to where we were a few months ago.
3. You posted an op Ed in Adweek which readers can see here. Can you share what change you hope comes from this?
For my API community: I hope you see how important it is that we stay loud, that we shine, and we continue to fight forward. We can never go back to being silent because it will not do us any favors. We need to fight, and we need to continue to bring more ally’s communities with us.
For my marketing and advertising industry: Don’t hide behind your brands, lead with them with bravery and courage. All your speeches about DEI, about Diversity, about equality mean nothing without action and better believe we’re not the only one’s coming with receipts. Do the right thing, stand with your people, and make our industry truly as inclusive as the messages/narratives we market.
For all minority communities: My fight is not just an Asian American fight, it’s a fight for all underrepresented groups. Believe that. My hope is that you see how important it is to fight but not fight alone, bring more communities with you, be inclusive, because your fight will echo and change so much for all of us.
4. You shared with me that your wife sent you a picture of your son watching you on the news. One, can I share the picture here? Two, why was that powerful for you? How does that drive you during this tough time?
This picture changed my entire life.
It was my first broadcast appearance to advocate for #StopAsianHate, and this was 2/18/21 so the violence was still relatively unknown in the mainstream. I’m doing this live, and during the interview I get the picture of my son watching me.
He screamed ‘daddy!’ while i was in the other room finishing my interview.
Up until this point my marketing career was focused on making beautiful marketing work and the recognition that comes from that. For a decade plus i’ve been hyper focused on that. But right when i saw that picture i realized all of that meant very little.
My whole perspective about the rest of my life changed. yes, I’ll always continue to strive to be the best marketer i can be, but whatever success i comes in my career now needs to be repurposed to give me a platform to advocate for what’s right, to fight injustice, and advance my people and my community.
I want my kids to remember me as someone that fought for them and their people. That i always did what was right in the face of hatred. And someone that was so damn proud to be Asian American, and made other proud to be who they are as well.
That picture changed my life forever.
If the only thing my kids remember about me is being a marketer, then i didn’t do a good job with the rest of my life.
5. This is a weekly dose of Courage. We have 7000 readers here. How can each of us help?
Short term: Volunteer to be a chaperone in New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, or anywhere there is violence in the Asian American community. (https://compassioninoakland.org/)
Long term: Donate to LAAUNCH.org, gofundme.com/aapi, and if you’re a marketer please donate your time and skills to non profits everywhere. Not just for the API community, but use your skills for good, forever. Volunteering with non-profits is how you do that.
6. Any last words of wisdom?
There will be many moments in your life where you’re confronted with doing the right thing. You see someone get attacked, see an injustice, and you may have an opportunity to speak up, step in, or sound the alarm. Do the right thing, even when it feels like you’re risking everything. Do the right thing, please.