A statement from SPH students and leaders
March 17, 2021
The UW School of Public Health reaffirms our commitment to strive to be anti-racist, and we stand with our students, faculty, staff and the community of the Asian diaspora in disavowing the hostile xenophobic environment created by racist attacks against the Asian community.
A few weeks ago, in Seattle, a Japanese language teacher, who is also a member of the UW community, was assaulted in the International District. This week, two predominantly Asian American churches in North Seattle were vandalized with anti-Asian hate messages. And just yesterday, a shooter murdered eight individuals, most of whom were identified as Asian, at Atlanta-area Asian-owned spas. While we don’t know the precise motives of the attackers, there is no doubt that these were horrific incidents and that they will have an impact on the Asian community. Like UW President Ana Mari Cauce, we hold all the survivors and victims of anti-Asian violence in our thoughts as we condemn this wave of racist and xenophobic attacks.
In the past year, 3,795 hate incidents against Asian Americans have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a community-led reporting site. Hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 150% across major U.S. cities between 2019 and 2020. Without mitigation, we expect to see that number rise in the weeks and months ahead. Many of these were violent attacks against life and human dignity, and many more incidents have gone unreported. Despite international condemnation and public outcry, the use of pejorative nomenclature for COVID-19 by some of our national leaders has fueled xenophobia. This rhetoric endangers the lives of more than 20 million Americans.
Sadly, the current xenophobia surrounding COVID-19 is just the newest case study in America’s history of depicting and treating Asian people as the “Yellow Peril,” as unsafe, unequal and unwelcome. The history of anti-Asian sentiment predates 1880, when Chinese Americans were excluded from immigration on the basis of race and labeled as ‘perilous.’ This sentiment persisted with the mass incarceration of innocent U.S. citizens of Japanese descent during World War II, and it continued with the September 11 attacks, after which South Asian Americans of diverse ethnicities suffered violence and discrimination alongside Middle Eastern Americans. These are only a few notable examples.
This past year, none of us has escaped the personal loss of this pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 500,000 individuals in the U.S. Many health care professionals of the community of Asian diaspora risked their lives serving on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19 as physicians, nurses and public health professionals. Many Asian American nurses were lost to the disease, especially Filipino nurses, who represent nearly a third of all nurses who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., despite making up only 4% of the nursing workforce nationwide. In addition, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who are often grouped with Asian Americans, have the highest COVID-19 case and mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in Washington state.
To the community of the Asian diaspora, we see you, we hear you and we long for a quick end to this period of COVID-19-related racism. It has hurt families, communities and businesses, and we understand the pain. In addition to your fear of contracting COVID-19, many of you fear leaving your homes due to the verbal and physical attacks against Asians. We also recognize that interpersonal racism is not the only way racism impacts Asian Americans. Even if COVID-19-related hate crimes subside, the Asian American community still faces the violence of our immigration system (over 15,000 South East Asian Americans are currently facing deportation), law enforcement (including the deaths of Tommy Le, a 20 year old from King County, and Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old Filipino Navy veteran from California), poverty, gentrification, invisibility and other intersecting forms of oppression. As public health professionals and students, it is incumbent on us to speak out and take action to root out racist systems, policies and legislations.
As a community, we ask everyone to join our effort to strive to be an anti-racist institution and take the following actions:
- Increase awareness of and education on Asian American issues, anti-Asian racism and Asian American histories of oppression and resistance
- Support and elevate the work of Asian American community-based and grassroots organizations, and support community-based solutions to violence and discrimination that emphasizes cross-racial solidarity and do not fall back on carceral solutions or anti-Blackness
- Please reach out to Victoria Gardner (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to learn more about relevant community organizations and resources.
- Support small businesses and enterprises that are disproportionately and negatively impacted by COVID-19
- Actively combat anti-Asian racism by standing up and voicing support for Asian students, staff and faculty in the classroom, departments and schools, when witnessing racist attacks (if you see something, say something)
- Attend a Hollaback Bystander Intervention training
- Attend a Hollaback training on how to respond to anti-Asian American harassment when it happens to you
- Read and share these multi-lingual resources from the Asian American Federation
- Report anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents:
- Hold elected officials accountable for their words and inaction; let them know that continued use of harmful rhetoric will not be tolerated. You can find your Washington State Legislature district here.
In solidarity and support,
Carolyn Fan, PhD student, Health Services
Akira Townes, MPH student, COPHP
Smriti Joneja, MPH student, COPHP
Unmesha Roy Paladhi, PhD student, Epidemiology
Linda Ko, associate professor, Health Services
Jennifer Balkus, assistant professor, Epidemiology
Victoria Gardner, assistant dean for equity, diversity and inclusion
Lurdes Inoue, chair, Department of Biostatistics
Michael Yost, chair, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences
Stephen Hawes, chair, Department of Epidemiology
Judith Wasserheit, chair, Department of Global Health
Jeffrey Harris, chair, Department of Health Services
Hilary Godwin, dean, UW School of Public Health