The murder of eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, in Atlanta recently is a disturbing example of the escalating violence and attacks against Asian and Asian Americans in the United States. Discrimination and racism against Asians and Asian Americans have been a reality in US for centuries, but the xenophobic rhetoric associated with the pandemic has contributed to increased anti-Asian racism and violence. Racism against Asians and Asian Americans is often ignored or perpetrated through the myth of “model minority,” which assumes educational and occupational success and does not reflect the reality of people’s experience.
As we continue to live through these terrible events highlighting racism in the US, it is hard to know how to react and easy to feel overwhelmed and immobilized. One action we can take is to continue to educate ourselves and commit ourselves to address both individual racist acts and institutional and systemic racism which perpetuate ongoing oppression.
The faculty in Asian American Studies Department housed within SGISD, specifically Peter Kiang, Shirley Tang, and Lakshmi Srinivas, have focused their work on the experiences of Asian Americans. They have highlighted the racism experienced by individuals, raising up and empowering the voices of Asian and Asian American students.
In Spring 2020, Dr. Tang’s digital storytelling work created the Outbreak Racism Story Project that profiled students’ experiences with COVID-19. We encourage you to take time to view a sample of these videos, and to reflect on the personal, family and economic impacts of COVID-19 on these students.
The Washington Post has an article on the history of Anti-Asian American racism, which provides insight into the systemic processes intrinsically responsible for creating this history and the current climate. The article highlights government actions and court decisions that have contributed to anti-Asian sentiment. While the heinous shooting in Atlanta can viewed solely as the action of a one person, we must recognize the role that racism and xenophobia played in these murders.
In addition to educating ourselves, there are other steps we can take to address anti-Asian American racism. Please consider taking advantage of the following resources:
- Listen to director of the Asian American Studies Institute at UMass Boston, Paul Watanabe’s interview on NPR titled, “Perpetual Foreigner: Two Asian Americans Reflect on Living in Massachusetts”
- Read Parents magazine article on How to Talk to Kids about Anti-Asian Violence
- Check out Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network’s excellent list of resources and information in their Massachusetts Town Hall on Anti-Asian racism Resource Guide
- Attend one of the bystander prevention trainings provided by Hollaback!. Their work is helps protect access to public space for all individuals and has been done in conjunction with the advocacy group Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
- Our Voices, Our Histories: Asian American and Pacific Islander Women is a recently published book that highlights the experience of Asian American women in their own voice and includes a chapter by SGISD’s Professor Shirley Tang, GISD student Kim Soun Ty and Asian American Studies alumna Linda Thiem.