Fighting Anti-Asian Hate

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, VP for Equity and Inclusion, addresses and denounces rising violence and hate crimes in the USA motivated by anti-Asian racism.

March 3, 2021

Dear Mount Holyoke community, 

I write to you with great heaviness of heart about the horrific violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans we have witnessed over the last few months. Since the spring of 2020, there has been an alarming increase in hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment across the United States of America and around the world. 

Since March 19, 2020, the organization Stop AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] Hate has received over 3,000 firsthand reports of anti-Asian hate across 47 states and Washington, D.C. The New York City Police Department reported a 1,900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, according to Time magazine. The story of Vichar “Vicha” Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant who was fatally attacked during a walk in San Francisco in January, is only one of an escalating number of attacks on Asian Americans.

These incidents harken us back to a time when vitriolic language targeting Asians led to terrible violence. Anti-Asian stereotypes in the United States are steeped in a legacy of bias, including  the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1850, the 1930 anti-Filipino riots in Watsonville, California, , the Japanese internment camps of the 1940s, the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, and more recent Islamophically-rooted attacks on South Asians, including the 2017 fatal shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotlato. 

In naming these histories, we recognize that communities of Asian peoples do not exist in a monolith. In addition to the grief and stress of navigating and surviving the global COVID-19 pandemic, Asian peoples continue to struggle against the structural oppressions that disproportionately impact those on the margins.

We recognize that the xenophobic language and harassment of Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the beginning of the pandemic are interlaced with ongoing issues of classism, misogyny, disability justice, health disparities and systemic racism. In offering support to our community members most deeply impacted, we reflect on our previous communications, educational programming, resources and spaces of dialogue. 

Counseling Service continues its ongoing work with Deeper Than Skin, a support group for Asian students, and numerous events are hosted by the Asian Center for Empowerment, known as ACE, and the Office of Community and Belonging that build solidarity in collective efforts to challenge anti-Black and anti-Asian racism. 

College leadership has issued statements outlining steps for collective action focused on anti-racism. As part of that action, we deeply believe that all of us should continue to speak out against these overt acts of violence. We all have a stake in continuing to educate our community and the wider world on challenging stereotypes that lead to bigotry and harm. Everyone can and must consider ways that we might disrupt dangerous tropes and stereotypes that lead to these hate crimes — not only during moments of protest, but in our legislatures, in our local businesses and in the groups we create in our personal lives.

Over the course of the last year, many of us are holding multiple griefs. To those of us making sense of personal loss due to COVID-19, financial precarity, or a milieu of harms connected to our sociopolitical standings, we want to offer meaningful resources and support. In an effort to build coalitions and care for our community, we’d like to share that the College will engage in the following efforts, including a special dialogue as part of our ongoing work towards becoming an anti-racist community.

On March 8, 2021, at 4:30 pm Eastern time, we will host a special dialogue entitled “Fighting Anti-Asian Hate: A Dialogue on Coalition Building and Community Care.” The discussion will feature disability justice advocate Lydia X. Z. Brown; Amer Ahmed, who is a nationally recognized leader in institutional diversity, equity and inclusion efforts; and Gabriel Hall, the College’s assistant director of Campus Diversity Programming and LGBTQ Initiatives. 

The Asian Center for Empowerment offers open hours for students through a hybrid model of in-person and remote connections. These open hours occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 – 6:30 pm. I also want to make you aware that this month is Islam Awareness Month at Mount Holyoke and our Muslim Student Association, along with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, has planned a host of programs. The College will offer additional educational programming and support services to challenge anti-Asian rhetoric as part of this year’s Building On Our Momentum (BOOM!) Community Day on Tuesday, March 23. 

We would also like to share the following resources in order to provide further opportunities for learning and support as we continue to cultivate a community of care and responsiveness:

These organizations accept bias reports and offer support to our Asian community members: 

Please also know that you can report any concerns about anti-Asian bias directly to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion or the Office of Community and Belonging. You can also submit a bias report via the Campus Bias, Insensitivity and Discrimination Incidents form.  

In solidarity, 

Kijua Sanders McMurtry
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer