There has been a sharp rise in discrimination targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, and this has increasingly turned into violence over the past few months. We’ve seen this directly here in Portland, where Asian American businesses have been targeted by vandalism. We’ve seen a spate of news reports of assaults targeting the most vulnerable among us, the elderly; one such attack resulted in the death of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco. And now today, we are reeling over the news of domestic terrorism; the massacre in Atlanta targeted Asian spas and left 8 dead, including 6 Asian American women.
I am outraged by the continuing racist and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans. Everyone deserves to live without fear; to feel safe in our neighborhoods, in our places of employment, our community centers and our educational institutions. The OCOM Library stands in solidarity with our Asian American students and faculty. We are all a part of a community, and I see your pain, your fear, your sadness and outrage.
There is a desire to place blame for the rise in violence against AAPI community members on the politicization of the pandemic, on anti-China rhetoric that has spun into anti-Asian diaspora sentiment. But I also want to note that although we have seen a huge increase in violence towards Asian Americans over the lifespan of this pandemic, violence towards AAPI communities are not specific to pandemic fears. Rather, this is an ongoing struggle. Asian Americans have had laws passed specifically to prevent them from entering the United States; been “interned” during wartime; had little representation in the media other than being the butt of racial “jokes” and stereotypes; been both feared and ridiculed for their “otherness” and regaled for being a “model minority,” a stereotype that looks not-so-racist on the outside, but is actually insidious. The stereotypes and microaggressions have been there all along, and we are now seeing this manifest (once again) in explicit violence. Many have already forgotten the story of Vincent Chin, who was beaten to death in an act of White Supremacist aggression and whose murder sparked a movement nearly fourty years ago.
I have heard directly from Asian American students at OCOM about experiences of microaggressions at the college — not only from peers, but from staff and faculty. OCOM must do the hard work of addressing this, both to support our AAPI students and faculty, but also to ensure we are not unconsciously contributing to harming one another. Some of this work is on us as individuals (especially those of us who are not Asian American) to unlearn unconscious biases and stereotypes, but it also includes systemic change. As the Library works to investigate how we can support our community and continue to address White Supremacy in our culture and systems, we encourage you all to take personal accountability, to stand against acts of oppression when you see it, and to empathize and care for one another. As Grace Lee Boggs said, “The only way to survive is by taking care of one another.”
Candise Branum, Director of Library Services
- How to Address the Surge of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes (PBS News Hour)
- Addressing Anti-Asian Violence (Commonwealth Club of California)
- The Tragic Death of Vincent Chin: A Triumphant Reform for Asian Americans and Hate Crimes