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Unspeakable, yet not uncommon: Confronting the history of anti-Asian violence

Tuesday, March 16, 2021, rampage shootings in the Atlanta-area led to the murder of eight people, including six Asian women

This past Tuesday, March 16, 2021, rampage shootings in the Atlanta-area led to the murder of eight people, including six Asian women. This has to be recognized as a racially motivated hate crime; hesitancy to name it as such speaks of the longstanding and many times silenced United States history of anti-Asian discrimination, violence and hate. Even further, this is a clear, and again, not uncommon, assault on Asian women – poignantly during Women’s History Month.

Racist and violent behavior against the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities is not a new phenomenon but part of the history of xenophobia and nativism that is also a measure of the American experience. In the late 19th century, white nativists groups’ xenophobic propaganda targeted at Chinese workers led to the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act, the first law in the United States that barred immigration solely based on race. In the early 20th century, American officials in the Philippines, then a formal colony of the U.S., as was also Puerto Rico, justified continued U.S. colonial rule in the islands, on matters of “uncleanliness” and “native unruliness”. During WW2, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Executive Order that incarcerated to internment camps Japanese individuals and families under suspicion of being “enemies” of the state.

These are just some of the historical examples that are better known. However, they should be understood as part of a history that has not stopped but continues through different outlets. Over the past year, and as a result of scapegoating, Asians and Asian-Americans have been the victims of increased racism and xenophobia. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate reports over 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since March 2020 until the present. Recent examples of those violent, racially induced incidents include: an 89 year-old Chinese woman set on fire in Brooklyn; a 91 year-old Asian man being violently shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown; a Korean-American man beaten in Los Angeles while assailants shouted slurs at him; an Asian-American woman being shoved to the ground in Queens, New York. Importantly, over half of the assaults directed at the Asian community have been targeted at women.

As a university, we have to unequivocally denounce all forms of violence directed at groups, both historical and more recent forms of discrimination. We stand in clearly solidarity with our AAPI community, both inside and outside the University.

If you witness or experience a hate and bias incident on the University premises, please file a report.

Please join the Standing Together Against Anti-Asian Violence vigil, being organized by The Center, Every Student, Every Story, March 19, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. 

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University Diversity and Inclusion Officer Eloisa Gordon-Mora
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