Follow up to Asian American Hate Crimes

On March 16, a white man in Atlanta, Georgia shot and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. Though the local deputy sheriff claimed that the shooter had had a “really bad day,” the incident drew attention to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes and shed light on discrimination against and fetishization of Asian American women.
In response to the shooting, the school hosted an open forum on Wednesday, March 17. Following the forum, faculty members and student groups hosted Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) affinity spaces and a joint forum by Black and Hispanic Student Association (BaHSA) and Asian (American) Advocacy (Triple A) last Thursday.
The Record invited several Pan-Asian community members—Ryan Tse ’23, Felix Bao ’21, Amelia Wang ’21, co-head of Triple A, Ms. Nora Yasumura, director of student clubs and affinity groups, Ms. Lei Pan, Chinese program coordinator, and Dr. Anju Taneja, instructor in physics—to share their thoughts.


What can non-AAPI community members do to address racism against AAPI students?

Tse: One major thing that non-AAPI identifying Hotchkiss members can do to help the cause is to simply hold each other accountable. Fortunately, at Hotchkiss, there aren’t any large-scale examples of racism towards AAPI-identifying students, but the small things like calling names or jokes can hurt just as much when combined. If you identify as non-AAPI, just think before you say something, and correct people if they don’t. I know that it can be difficult sometimes, but even calling out the smallest of discrimination can mean the world to someone. Also, you can educate yourself by attending community conversations held by different student groups, such as Triple A, and actively listening to real people sharing real stories. If you hop onto a Zoom meeting with your camera off while you sit back and play videogames on your mobile phone, not only is it not different from not attending at all, it shows just how little you care for a community that has given you everything.

Ms. Yasumura: Like other BIPOC communities, those in the Pan-Asian community are fearful that people who are supportive now will move on and again forget about us. This history of invisibility makes the silence even more painful, so it is important to speak out and continue to learn about the different complex and nuanced issues facing the community. It is important to recognize that these racist actions are not new. They are the result of ongoing and unaddressed stereotypes that have existed for centuries. Asian American history is not taught well in schools, so one thing that people can do is to learn about the history of harmful stereotypes such as Yellow Peril (xenophobic fear of East Asians), Perpetual Foreigner (perceiving Asian Americans as inherently foreign and therefore not truly “American” and viewing them all as one monolithic group based on how they look), and Model Minority Myth (believing that they are all wealthy, smart, quiet, etc.).

Felix Bao: Students should start learning about and understanding the various Asian communities and cultures with the same intellectual curiosity when approaching other subjects. Feel free and relaxed when asking questions or making mistakes – they are an essential part of learning!


Has performative activism impacted the discussion around these issues?

Ms. Pan: Confucius warns us to listen to what people say, and also watch what they do. He reminds us to be authentic and to say and practice what we truly believe. At the same time, I understand the desire to gain some social capital by saying certain things and acting a particular way. While it can be doubly hurtful to those impacted by racism, I am at least hopeful that if they keep performing, maybe something will stick.

Tse: People who practice performative activism really do not learn or care at all about the matter as much as how it affects their social status. To avoid this, individuals in a community should recognize that all they really have to do is simply do their own part, and start by making a change in their immediate surroundings. Social media is something that makes conveying something, whether genuine or not, very easy, but the hard part is actually taking action in the real world.

Wang: While I appreciate that my non-AAPI friends have been voicing their thoughts on social media through reposting news articles, I wish they could go beyond just reposting. Please try to sign petitions, donate, actively start conversations, share resources, and support AAPI organizations in a more concrete manner. Simply reposting on social media can hurt many members of the community, as we see and experience the issues first hand. Reposting without searching for ways to improve the situation only further traumatizes those who identify as AAPI.


What can Hotchkiss do, as an institution, to show solidarity and offer a safe space for Asian students? What are some things Hotchkiss has done that are helpful? What are some things the school needs to improve on?

Ms. Pan: The community conversations have been very informative and powerful. I remember we had a community conversation about diverse Asia at Hotchkiss. We had almost four hundred people show up. It was encouraging that people are willing to see us as who we are. I moved to the United States six years ago. I was not born Asian; Asian identity was imposed on me. Asian identity in the United States is purely a response to anti-Asian racism. Absent pervasive discrimination, I would prefer to be seen and respected as Chinese, an identity that speaks to my unique language, history, and cultural background.

I am not sure if the Hotchkiss community can solve that problem, but we can start by knocking off stereotypical “jokes” and not confusing our names. I would love to see more diverse representation at community conversations – come to show support for your friends even if the topic does not relate to your own concerns. This way, as a community, we can build an environment that empowers those students, faculty, and staff who feel powerless to voice their opinions. I know we can do this, because one thing that Hotchkiss already does so well is to share the warmth of culturally diverse celebrations like the Lunar New Year.

Dr. Taneja: The best way a community can help a cause is by arriving with “an open heart and mind.” Suspend judgement. Come and listen. Try to understand another’s pain. This will change the way we respond to others’ requests for help and understanding.

Felix Bao: I think incorporating Asian history, religion, culture, and language into the English and Social Science Departments will definitely help eliminate some of the Western stigma against Asian cultures. It will also benefit the School as a whole to hire more teachers of Asian descent, especially in the liberal arts subjects.


How do you think discussions about minority solidarity and intersectionality have affected the discourse around the AAPI experience?

Dr. Taneja: We are all fighting individual battles of one kind or another. I start my day by reminding myself “to respond kindly and with empathy.” Solidarity and intersectionality are new terms; but they underscore the need for us to be responsive to each other.

Ms. Yasumura: It is vital that we recognize how diverse and complex the Pan-Asian community is. We are made up of individuals from over 25 different ethnic identities and different generations living in the United States. We also come from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, religions, gender identities, and abilities. Some are multi-racial and transnational adoptees. Knowing this is important because it reminds us that there is a danger of making assumptions about how people identify, how what has happened has impacted them personally, and what their needs are. Being present with one another without judgment is so vital.

Felix Bao: Intersectionality helps because it establishes personal connections and empathy, especially between the Asian and Black communities. I must admit that I have not been able to relate personally to the BLM cause – I support the movement on moral and humanitarian grounds – until recent injustices against people who look and live like me. It is important for the communities of color to stop competing for attention and work together because our challenges are similar.

Students can also reach out to the office of Diversity and Inclusion for support. Affinity groups and clubs such as Triple A and Pan-Asian Affinity will continue to host regular meetings.