“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” –Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, 2014
Dear Carolina Community,
This month, we celebrate Women’s History Month, which honors the contributions of women like Malala Yousafzai throughout history. As we recognize the legacy and diversity of women who have fought for access to education and healthcare, equity and equal pay in the workplace, and other fundamental human rights, we also acknowledge the barriers that often prevent women from attaining equality or equity.
Not unlike the barriers women face, there has been widespread stigmatization of groups of people based on race, religion, ethnicity, and more. The fatal attack on Vicha Ratanapakdee, a defenseless elderly Asian-American man in San Francisco, is an example of bigotry and stigma. Xenophobia and increased anti-Asian rhetoric in the U.S. have heightened hostility against Asian-American people have escalated due to misinformation and misplaced anger towards Asians in the wake of COVID-19. This Anti-Asian bias has its roots in America’s early history, beginning with “Yellow Peril” rhetoric that sought to impede Chinese and Japanese immigration from the late 1870s through the early 1920s. A century later, we still see the impact of this rhetoric in the scapegoating and attacks against Asian Americans across the country today. At UNC, we are fortunate to have the Asian American Center, cultivating a critical understanding of Asian American peoples, cultures, and histories. Through education, organizing, and advocacy, the AAC engages and empowers Asian American students, faculty, staff, and the greater Carolina community.
Additionally, the month of March is filled with celebrations that reflect our diverse backgrounds, copious holidays, and traditions celebrated by the Carolina community. Whether it is the Hindu and Sikh observation of Holi, signifying the triumph of good over evil, or the Jewish holiday of Passover or Pesach, the eight-day festival commemorating the Israelites’ emancipation from slavery and deliverance of freedom. Whether it is the Persian observation of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, promoting peace and solidarity, or Christian observance of Palm Sunday, memorializing Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem—we must continue to acknowledge, respect, and embrace our differences as we build a community of belonging and acceptance.
Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, PhD
Special Advisor to the Provost and Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion/
Interim Chief Diversity Officer