Dear campus community,
In March 2020, within days of the region’s shelter-in-place orders and the move to a virtual University, our colleagues in Asian American Studies and our community partners Chinese for Affirmative Action developed a crucially needed initiative to track and respond to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). As national leaders and white supremacist groups demonized AAPI communities, attributing the pandemic wrongly to a single race or nation, SF State faculty and community leaders launched Stop AAPI Hate. They documented more than 2,800 incidents of hate, discrimination, and violence against AAPI communities between March and December 2020, including 708 incidents in the Bay Area alone—and 30 more in just the first few weeks of 2021.
San Francisco State joins our colleagues in Asian American Studies, our community partners across the region, the California API Legislative Caucus, and local elected officials in condemning anti-AAPI rhetoric and violence. We will continue to use our resources to support our AAPI communities. Students and employees are encouraged to report anti-AAPI incidents to the Bias Incident Education Team or, for complaints that may violate Title IX or Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation policies, to Equity Programs and Compliance. The Division of Equity & Community Inclusion and AAPI Student Services are also available to offer support, identify resources and sponsor educational programming. Community members and those off campus are encouraged to avail themselves of the many community organizations poised to help combat anti-AAPI hate, including the Chinese Progressive Association, the Community Youth Center of SF and Chinese for Affirmative Action.
Recently, I watched a webinar that included several of our faculty on “The Fight for Ethnic Studies in California.” Dr. Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, shared a story about his personal experience with pandemic-inspired demonization and harassment. But he, and others, also shared stories of historic and current solidarity among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities (BIPOC). It was a powerful display of solidarity and an important counter-narrative to recent images and stories that attempt to reify centuries-old white supremacist stereotypes and divide communities of color.
This is the moment to listen to our AAPI communities and to document and respond to anti-AAPI harassment, discrimination and violence. And it is yet another moment that calls for solidarity across all racial, ethnic and religious groups. In a recent New York Times podcast, Heather McGhee and Ezra Klein discuss how American public policies based on exclusion and segregation have diminished services and rights for all Americans and highlight the gains of working in solidarity. As Ezra Klein observed, “there are vast ‘solidarity dividends’ just waiting for us, if we are willing to stand with, rather than against, each other.”
The forces of division have been strong across the U.S. and sadly promise to remain that way. But, as I repeatedly note, universities are and must be the sites for more nuanced conversations about anti-racism, about solidarity and about the deterministic binaries that circumscribe too many national and local conversations. No university is better poised to have those conversations than SF State where the “dividends of solidarity” saw the birth of the first College of Ethnic Studies and where today we stand in solidarity with our AAPI colleagues to Stop AAPI Hate.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.