We were devastated to learn of this week’s murders of Asian women in Atlanta, but unfortunately, we were not surprised. These tragic deaths come amidst a spike in racist violence and hate speech directed at members of the AAPI community. A recent report by Stop AAPI Hate examines 3,795 documented hate incidents against members of the AAPI community in the past year, which is “only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur.”
It would be nice to say this is not who we are as Americans, but the sad fact is this tragedy is consistent with our nation’s history of violence against communities of color.
From the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment that impacted so many families right here in the PNW, to hateful language about the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” – our nation has a long history of scapegoating, excluding, and demonizing the AAPI community through policy and rhetoric from the highest offices of the land.
And yet we still have hope, because we believe that America can be better than this. Every day we have the honor of working in a diverse community of students, family, staff, supporters, and partners who are working to dismantle white supremacy and stand up to domestic terrorism.
These tragic deaths are an important reminder to all of us to do the personal work to better understand the unique ways that white supremacy impacts the AAPI community, and how immigrant women are so often exploited in invisible ways.
As a community, we must take time to honor those who were murdered. We don’t yet know all of their names or their unique backgrounds, but we know that six of the eight were women of different Asian heritages including Vietnamese and Korean. Even more importantly, they were more than a statistic. They were daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, and beloved friends. They had hopes and dreams for the future.
We also must take time to center the members of our own community who identify as AAPI. Our friends and family members are hurting and scared right now, during what is already an incredibly challenging time of fear and upheaval. This week is not “business as usual” for our AAPI families and we won’t expect it to be.
The past year has provided stark reminders of the work we must do to build a world in which all students can be their authentic selves while achieving their dreams. Let’s dig deep to stay engaged in that work.