On March 16, in Atlanta, Ga. there was a series of attacks that killed eight people, with six women of Asian descent being amongst those killed. Though there has been an immense response to the racially-targeted attack on a countrywide level, the campus has come together as well.
Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Fairfield University hosted the #StopAsianHate: A Space for Support & Awareness event on March 19 at 12:00 p.m. with various members of Fairfield United, the Asian Studies Department, and Campus Ministry to create a space where students and faculty could openly speak about the recent hate crime that took place in Atlanta, Ga.
The Fairfield University Student Association also released a statement on March 19 condemning all acts of hate and racism. They stated that they were “angered and upset by the acts of anti- Asian violence that have been committed globally.”
Additionally, they stated that they stand in solidarity with the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community.”
Pejay Lucky, Director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Asha Perry ‘18, Program Coordinator, Office of Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs moderated the event on behalf of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
The event opened with prayer from Katie Byrnes, the Campus Minister for Social Justice and Community Engagement.
Byrnes began by saying that “the killing of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, focusd our attention on the increased violence and discrimination that historically marginalized groups suffer across our nation.”
Her prayer concluded with, “an attack against one is an attack against all.”
The conversation then opened up to various staff members, students, clubs and participants who attended the event.
Sophomore Carmen Phan, the treasurer of Barkada then moved to speak. Barkada aims to “unify students interested in Filipino culture through monthly social interactions.”
She opened by saying that the recent acts of hate were deserving of “condemnation.”
Phan continued to state that, “As a country we have so much to do, especially regarding the hate directed towards Asians.”
She ended her first statement by stating, “As an Asian American organization, Barkada will do its best to bring us closer to that light and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, we must live together as brothers and sisters, or we will perish together as fools”.
The next to speak was Assistant Professor of History and Co-chair of the MLK Committee Sunil Purushotham.
“We are all horrified and dismayed at the violence in Atlanta,” Purushotham said. “We can’t deny that there’s been an alarming trend of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans, especially in the last year.”
Purushotham spoke on the history of race pertaining to the Asian community speaking upon how Asian Americans have “no shared history, no solidarity.” The history of race he describes instead is “a triangulation of white/black/indian”
This triangulation of race as Purushotham further explains is “embedded in global patterns of trade and this history is what gives them their potency and relevance.”
However, this “wave of anti-Asian violence has the sort of potential to forge a sort of real sense of meaning out of this category of Asian American.”
Purushotham closed by stating, “This should serve as a wakeup call to build bridges between communities.”
Professor Jiwei Xiao, an associate professor of modern languages and literature, went on to say, “Racism is the virus that has lived with us and will live with us for a long time”.
Xiao wrote an article published by the New York Review on April 6, 2020 and read an excerpt from it.
“Blinding facial recognition of racism that renders any Chinese looking Asians in the US vulnerable to harassment, shaming even violent hate crimes,” She read, continuing with, “We have no effective testing kit for this pestilence.”
“We will never entirely eliminate viruses,” She said, “We will have to learn to live with them and get them under control, I think this is also true with the virus of racism.”
Xiao also spoke about her experience in college in 1989.
“I was never a social activist, but today for many many reasons I am socially active,” she said. “My students thank me for being someone they can turn to.”
Sophomore Duy Vu commented on behalf of the Asian Student Association.
“Although the Asian hate crimes have only been brought to attention recently there are a lot of hate crimes that have happened over the past year,” Vu said. “The numbers are really scary — 3800 hate crimes have happened in the past year alone.”
Junior Tushi Patel stated during the event that “it shows how desensitized all of us are feeling with all the violence but also wasn’t really surprising with how prevalent all the violence recently has been lately. ”
Senior Luckario Alcide who is in charge of the Humanitarian Action Club also spoke during the event.
“[The Humanitarian Action Club discusses] a lot of the issues that contribute to racism towards minorities,” Alcide said. “We specifically talked about the shooting in Atlanta, and we as a group decided to point out just how broken the institution is.”
Alcide also commented on Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jay Baker’s statement after the shooting. Baker’s statement received a lot of backlash after he said the suspect was just having a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” Baker said.
Alcide stated that, “Seeing someone with a high position like that say something like that just broke [him].”
Associate Vice Provost for Scholarly, Creative and Community Engagement and Professor of Politics Jocelyn Boryczka stated that she was, “Struck by the need for us to look backwards to understand and remember our history as a nation to learn more about the histories of Asian peoples and other people in our community including ourselves and our own histories and identities.”
Further, Boryczka stated, “We must also recognize the brokenness that occurs in that space, but then to be able, in an intersection a way to move forward.”
Phan added that “We need to change the rhetoric around everything, that sort of thing perpetuates racism.”
“Look out for [minorities],” she said. “It is important to not be a bystander, but to use your voice.”
Lucky concluded the event.
“I want everyone to think about our mission and about radical hospitality,” he said. “For whatever space we find ourselves in, we should be welcome. Whatever atmosphere we’re in we can still embrace the diversity of all people.”
After the event, Lucky told The Mirror that he thought it went very well and was excited that many community members felt safe and supportive enough to share their own personal stories.
Vu also spoke to The Mirror on behalf of the ASA and stated concern over the rising number of hate crimes targeting minority groups, and especially Asian people over the last year.
“These recent incidents have shown us that we still have a long way to go to achieve racial equality, and it would need a collective effort of all of us, regardless of our ethnicity, to eliminate racial discrimination,” Vu said.
President of Barkada, Eula Valdez ‘22, referenced the pandemic in her response.
“We have been going through the pandemic together for over a year, and one would think the experience would bring us all closer with one another – maybe make us more empathetic, more understanding, and more accepting of our differences as people,” she said.” Unfortunately, that’s not what we saw last Tuesday night [March 16].”
Valdez says “the only way we go forward is through unity.”
On behalf of the Diversity Recruitment Team, Helen Vasquez ‘24, an intern with the Office of Undergraduate Admission responded stating that, “The ongoing hate is unacceptable, and no community should have to face the loss that the AAPI community has been subjected to.”
She continued by stating that, “In line with our value of Cura Personalis, we need to more proactively educate our Fairfield community on the unique and beautiful cultures of the members of our community, country, and the world, so that we can prevent the tragedies our country is currently facing.”
Students are encouraged to visit the Stop AAPI Hate website to become more educated, are in need of support, and/or want to work to help those impacted by the attacks.