A Pledge to Recognize and Stand Up to Anti-Asian Hate and Violence
To Our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Students, Colleagues, and Community:
It is with heavy hearts that we, the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University, mourn the loss of eight lives, six of whom were women of Asian descent, murdered in three Asian-owned businesses in Georgia by a white gunman. A Georgia county deputy sheriff’s trivializing comments, that the killer was “fed up,” “at the end of his rope,” and “having a bad day,” underscore the long history of U.S. militarism and legacies of colonialism in Asia that planted the seeds of anti-Asian violence, hyper-sexualization of Asian women, violence against transgender people of Asian descent, and stereotypes of perpetual Asian foreignness in the historical and contemporary United States.
It is horrifying to mourn yet another instance of harassment, assault, and murder targeting Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
o On March 14, 2020, Bawi Cung, an immigrant from Myanmar, and two of his children, ages 2 and 6, were stabbed in a Sam’s Club in Midland, Texas. All three survived the attack but Mr. Cung and one of his children have permanent facial scars, and the six-year-old child was left with partial facial paralysis. The attacker has been charged with a hate crime.
o On January 28, 2021, Vichar Ratanapakdee, who immigrated to San Francisco from Thailand, had just received his first coronavirus vaccination when an assailant ran across the street and shoved the 84 year-old grandfather to the ground.
o On February 3, 2021, Noel Quintana, a 61 year-old Filipino commuter, was slashed in the face with a boxcutter on the NYC subway. According to Quintana, no one came to his aid.
o On March 17, 2021, Xiao Zhen Xie, a 75 year-old Chinese woman, was punched in the face while walking down Market Street in San Francisco, CA. The same assailant had previously attacked 83year-old Ngoc Pham, a survivor of a Vietnamese concentration camp, in a grocery store.
o On March 30, 2021, Vilma Kari, a 65 year-old Filipina woman walking to church in Midtown Manhattan, was viciously beaten in broad daylight. Lobby security cameras that recorded the incident showed that people who saw the assault closed the door while the attack was taking place.
o Also On March 30, 2021, Plaza Sundries, a convenience store owned by and run by the elderly parents of Mark Sung in downtown Charlotte, NC was vandalized by a 24-year-old male assailant yelling racial slurs as he caused over $9,000 in damages.
Sadly, these are but a few of the nearly 3,800 reported incidents documented in 2020-2021 by Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. The mass killing in Georgia is yet another episode in a recent uptick of anti-Asian violence that many AAPI community leaders say was incited by former President Donald Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric, particularly his regular use of terms such as “kung flu” or “China virus.”
We are scholars whose life’s work is dedicated to combating the ignorance that maintains xenophobia, militarism, and white supremacy. We see it as an imperative to amplify the work of scholars and activists on the intersection of race and gender politics around AAPI lives. In direct contradiction to some political figures and media outlets that attempt to downplay or even deny the racial animus in these recent attacks, the truth borne out by listening to BIPOC voices and research shows that the intersection of race and gender violence against Asian communities date back centuries to Western nations’ perception of East Asia as an existential threat which manifested as the “Yellow Peril” discourse. This anxiety is mirrored by “yellow fever,” or an objectifying desire for Asian women. In more recent history, we can track systemic violence against Asian people in the Page Act of 1875, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the U.S. colonization of the Philippine Islands from 1898-1946, as well as the U.S. occupations of Guam, Samoa, Hawai’i, Mariana Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. We must recall and decry the attitudes that allowed for the 1942-1946 internment of Japanese people living in the U.S. during World War II, and former President Harry Truman’s rhetorical justifications for mass death and destruction in dropping atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
To our AAPI (Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander) students, faculty, staff and other members of our University community, we recognize this as a difficult and anxious time. In the past year alone, violence targeting Asians and Asian Americans has increased by 150%. This violence takes many forms. In this past year, peoples of Asian descent have been verbally heckled, spit on, beaten, stabbed and even subjected to acid attacks. In popular culture, Asian women in particular are depicted as all too willing colonial sex objects to white men, with Asian men’s sexuality effaced or mocked. Perpetrators of violence against transgender people of Asian descent often act with impunity. Casting Asians as the “model minority,” wherein they are held up as a desirable or acceptable “race” by comparison to others, is a mythology which white supremacy maintains to divide solidarity between BIPOC communities but also obscures the vast diversity (and inequalities) amongst “Asian” experiences and cultures.
We recognize and denounce all forms of microaggressions and anti-Asian violence. We want you to know that we stand with you. If you need support, please reach out to us. You can find our contact information at https://anthro.appstate.edu/people.
We have compiled a separate “living” resource document where we have started to compile links to AAPI led local and national organizations, online workshops and panels, and resources containing reading lists where one can learn more about Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences. As teachers and scholars, we are in conversation about what we might be able to organize and offer in terms of panels, teach-ins, or integrating more AAPI voices into our curriculum. We want to be especially sensitive to the concerns of our students, having read the recent article “Breaking the minority myth: Asian American students react to racism in South, disregard from community,” recently published in The Appalachian (2021 X. Marin-Lopez). We are open to listening to the needs of the community at this time.
The Faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Appalachian State University
Primarily authored by Dr. Christina Verano Sornito with the assistance of Dr. Sophie C. Dent, Dr. Cameron Gokee, Dr. Marc Kissel, Dr. Susan Lappan, and Dr. Alex J. Nelson
We have started a list of online sources focusing on self-care and AAPI organizations where we hope members of our AAPI community might find camaraderie, care and safety. In addition, we have included resources for any person seeking to learn more, donate, or volunteer. This is by no means an exhaustive or complete list. We consider this a “living document” wherein we will be adding and accepting suggestions from the community.
You will also find helpful information on counseling & psychological services here at the University: https://counseling.appstate.edu/
If you want our support in advocating for more resources, please reach out to us, and we would be happy to work together on this: https://anthro.appstate.edu/people