In light of the alarming increase in anti-Asian violence and sentiment, there is great concern at UNC about the safety and well-being of our Asian faculty, staff and students. As members of our Carolina community, we grieve for their losses, share in their successes and strive to become better partners and allies.
In hopes of building a better sense of understanding of the difficulties and lived experiences of our Asian friends and colleagues, several have generously shared their stories. In their own words, our faculty, staff and students tell us of their connection to heritage and culture, navigating a sense of belonging (or not), and their concerns for the future. (Note: all stories are presented as written by the author in English)
Heidi Kim, PhD
Associate Professor, English & Comparative Literature; Adjunct Associate Professor, American Studies; Director, Asian American Center
I’m proud to be part of a large, diverse APA community. We’ve had to come together around bad times recently, but I want to share and celebrate our individual stories and triumphs as well. My family is from Korea; my father’s family is from the north and escaped to South Korea before all movement was closed off, and my mother’s family also suffered greatly in the war and the prewar period. Our resilience and our outlook on life is definitely marked by those experiences, even mine. My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, and my brother and I were born here. Like a lot of immigrants of their generation, my parents didn’t teach us Korean, and we didn’t have the opportunity to visit Korea very much. But we certainly grew up with blended culture, and now I’m trying to pass that on to my daughter—in some ways, she’s even getting more exposure than I did since there is better availability and diversity now. For example, she loves the picture book Where’s Halmoni? and we have a dual-language book and CD of Korean songs. Nothing like that existed when I was a child. I’m delighted that she can have this kind of early exposure and I’m privileged to have the education and resources to find all kinds of books and materials for her. That access is what I want for all of my students and our whole community.
Discovering an Asian American identity happened for me at the age of 12, thanks to my brother. He was in college and took a course with Franklin Odo, a founding figure of Asian American studies. By proxy, I was introduced to pan-Asian American history and literature, and happily, Franklin later became a wonderful mentor of mine as well. I remember reading enormous tomes of history by scholars like Ronald Takaki and (as you might expect for a future English professor) every available Asian American literature anthology and a ton of novels. A lot of those novels made it into my dissertation and my scholarly books, decades later! My brother also co-led a student strike for ethnic studies, which was a huge event in my family and sowed the seeds of my understanding of how ethnic studies and centers get going at universities.
I was born and raised in New Jersey, which does not have a large historical population of AAPIs, and while there was a small critical mass of new Asian Americans in my town, there was next to nothing in the curriculum. I think that my informal education via my brother contributed a lot to my sense of self and my self-confidence, which is why K-12 and higher education are so important. I had a diverse group of friends that included Asian Americans of various ethnicities both in high school and in college, but there was only one course on Asian American studies, which I didn’t get to take as I was rapidly shifting away from my initial physics major. But in graduate school, I found a warm second home in the Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern University, which shaped my academic career. This was only an undergraduate minor at the time, but the faculty there were incredibly welcoming, and I still talk to and work with many of them regularly. Everything I learned from watching them build that program has helped me to found the Asian American Center this year. I’m so proud of the way that our campus has rallied around the Center. AAPIs are a growing and important part of Carolina, and everything I do is with the goal of creating a strong Center that can help educate and engage the entire community.
Anna An-Tseng Wu, FAIA
Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services
What drives individuals to prey on our vulnerable parents, sisters and daughters? It’s impossible for Asian Americans to not see the faces of our families when they read about these assaults. Anti-Asian rhetoric and violence against Asian Americans are not new. This time, though, we are fighting back. What has changed? Are we finally shedding the face mask that hides our frustration at others calling us foreign in our homeland? Are we realizing that ‘model minority status’ does not convey acceptance? Or are we announcing that bullying and fear-mongering will not snuff our resilience or strip away our rights as Americans?
In 2019, I had the honor of serving on the Provost committee at the UNC-CH Asian American Center. Then and now, I marvel at the energy and determination of our Asian American students and alumni who articulated the importance and drove the creation of this center. Our student leaders united around the goal of establishing a center dedicated to education, organization, and advocacy for Asian Americans.
Carolina students demonstrated that our diverse community can come together as a melting pot of Asian Americans to find a united voice. I did not have this resource as a college student in the 1970s. This gives me hope in a time of personal despair.
Sara R. Holley, Class of 2021
Advertising and Publication Relations major/Entrepreneurship minor
When I was 7, I told my mom that I wanted to be a “full-fledged” Korean. I’d flip through the pages of her Korean-English dictionary and try to find the Korean equivalent to words that I thought sounded pretty, like 미소/miso (smile) or 진주/jinju (pearl). Traversing the aisles of our local Korean convenience store was one of my favorite pastimes. And when I got my first 한복/hanbok (traditional dress) at age 9, I was nothing short of elated.
My childhood wish to be a full-fledged Korean stemmed from the fact that my cultural heritage is markedly ambiguous. My mom was born in Busan, a beachside city in the southernmost part of the Korean peninsula. Her mother, my 할머니/halmeoni (grandmother), is half-Korean and half-Cherokee Native American. My dad was born in El Paso, Texas, to a Vietnamese mother and white father. As military brats, both my parents moved around a lot. But when my dad was 5, his dad passed away, so he settled in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he’d meet my mom just over 10 years later. They’re high school and college sweethearts — and proud Tar Heel alumni!
You can imagine how complicated it was to try to explain all this to the kids at school. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend some of the most diverse public schools in the city of Charlotte and the state of North Carolina, so I never really felt the urge to hide or suppress who I was. But I never quite felt like I belonged to a certain group. I didn’t have a home base.
In high school, I was once called a “mutt Asian.” There wasn’t malicious intent behind the comment, but it did make me question whether I even had the right to call myself Korean or Vietnamese. At this point, both my parents had spent most of their lives in the United States. But I definitely didn’t feel white, and I knew very little about my Native American roots. I’m sure that others with a multiethnic background can relate: I was stuck in limbo.
When I came to UNC, life at a predominantly white institution came as a culture shock. As I navigated my time on campus, though, I found a growing community of students who identify as AAPI. They represented a number of ethnicities, but they all rallied behind the AAPI experience. I had finally found my home base! And since my junior year, I have been a part of the Asian American Center Campaign. Striving to make UNC feel more like home for future students has been one of the greatest honors of my undergraduate career.
I’ll never be a full-fledged Korean like I wanted as a kid, but that’s OK. I am multiracial. I am the daughter of an immigrant family. I am Asian American. And I take unapologetic pride in that.
Samantha Luu, MPH
Associate Director, UNC Peer Support Core, Department of Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health
When I was asked to write this reflection on my Asian identity and culture, I thought, “well, just Asian doesn’t quite cover it.” I would say that I am an Asian-American woman of Chinese ethnicity by way of Vietnam who lives in the South. All of those identities inextricably intersect with my racial identity; isolating the “Asian” part is nearly impossible. And there’s a lot to love within that identity and within the vast array of cultural hallmarks of Asian and Asian-American peoples (if we were to isolate) — resilient histories, healing practices, foods, geographies, languages, arts, sports, sciences, religions, trades, diasporic groups. However, I’m not always made to feel that way…here in America…as an American. Thus, “Asian” was a fraught and lonely thing to be.
From microaggressions to assault to media stereotypes to overtly racist legislation, Asians in America have been impacted by all levels of racism — systemic, interpersonal, and internalized. And worse, we have been denied our own histories and gaslit to minimize our experiences of discrimination while being perceived as a perpetual threat to our nation. All of this only serves to uphold white supremacy and undercut racial solidarity in the most insidious of ways (and not just racial histories and solidarity, also those of class, gender, sexual identity, and others too).
I’ll admit—I was part of the problem for a long time. I internalized a lot of racism toward self and group, thus perpetuating my own community’s oppression. I wanted no more than necessary association with any of the cultural hallmarks I mentioned because they made me different and to be different made me a target. As I grew passionate about health and education equity, I didn’t question the absence of the Asian community in research or interventions because I was taught and told that Asian disparities didn’t exist or that they merited less attention than others. My experiences, as well as those of my peers and my family, of anti-Asian discrimination, were thus void and the root for my initial passion stifled. Unfortunately, I am sure I’m not alone in any of these experiences.
It will be a lifelong effort, but I am unlearning some of the harmful systemic and personal narratives about my racialized self and community. In this effort, I’m also not alone.
And in that, I am heartened by the fact that I’m not really alone as an Asian person in the world or in America. I belong to a group that is vast in its diversity, number, and experiences. I am heartened by the adamant rejection of racism by Asian/Asian-American youth and elders. I am heartened that folks actually joined the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Grad Student group that we formed here at Carolina and that UNC-Chapel Hill, a PWI in the South and my two-time alma mater, now has an official Asian-American Center. I am heartened that, though it took a horrific mass shooting and murder of Asian women, people are actually recognizing the Asian and Asian-American experiences rather than simultaneously othering and capitalizing on them—our rage and grief are being heard. I am heartened that the identities that I pushed away for so long are really my catalyst for affecting positive change in our society and I embrace them.
And in that, perhaps I have serendipitously found myself in astounding company. Grace Lee Boggs was an Asian-American activist, organizer, and philosopher integral to the organization of Black workers in Detroit. Though she did not advocate on behalf of Asian people for most of her life, she opened her autobiography, Living for Change, with these lines: “Had I not been born female and Chinese American, I would not have realized from early on that fundamental changes were necessary in our society.”
I have always wanted to contribute to those necessary fundamental changes in society and, invaluably, I’m re-learning how and why my identity is inextricably linked to the root and fate of those changes. How and why my identity as an Asian-American woman of Chinese ethnicity by way of Vietnam who lives in the South is a catalyst and connector rather than a target and wedge. In that, I know I’m not alone.
Suzanne Harris, PharmD
Assistant Professor, School of Pharmacy, Director, Well-being and Resilience
Growing up as a first-generation Filipino American in a small rural town in Texas, I certainly have unique experiences that have shaped my perspective on my heritage and how I view the importance of diversity and inclusion in all aspects of my life. My parents moved to the US from the Philippines in the mid-1960s, a time when many doctors from foreign countries were coming to the US to train and practice medicine. Their goal was to build a family and live the “American dream,” having themselves come from small provinces in the Philippines. My parents shared stories of Filipino town festivals and how getting a good education was a luxury, not a standard, and they came from a long lineage of farmers, engineers, and teachers. In the first 10 years of my parents moving to the US, they had four children, lost their parents, and all the while learning to live in a new country, balancing the stressors of their medical residency and early careers, with no immediate family for support. Hearing these stories made me so proud to realize how resilient my parents were and why even to this day, they are still my role models!
Raising my siblings and me in their new country that they loved, I know they struggled with balancing how to instill in us pride for our Filipino culture, while also striving to acclimate us to the American life, because in their eyes, the more we fit in, the easier our lives would be. So, I often found that I felt like I lived in two worlds. My life at home–filled with joyful, loud Filipino parties with amazing food, cultural dances, and everyone was my “auntie” or “uncle” despite no relation, and stories of my parents’ meager upbringing in a country where elder siblings commonly put their younger siblings through college. This was much different than my life in the ‘other’ world—where I had few friends who looked like me and I wanted to be just like them, where I strived to blend in, make good grades, and show my worth because that is what my parents felt was needed for me to exceed as Filipino in America.
In hindsight, I realize my parents’ desire to assimilate us is why my parents never taught us their native language, and it saddens me that they felt this way. I poignantly recall times people made derogatory remarks to my parents “to go back to where you came from” if they were speaking their native language to each other in public. It was as if that made them any less American, despite the fact they were US citizens and had dedicated their entire professional career taking care of patients in their communities. These are the memories that make recent violent events towards Asian people triggering for me. My parents raised us to have an open mind and embrace differences, respect others’ cultures—because they wanted us to treat others how we want to be treated, and even though my parents never said it, maybe better than how they were treated.
For these reasons, for them and for myself, I try to keep that same perspective, especially when dealing with these difficult times. I’m grateful for my friends and colleagues who have reached out to me, offering words of support. And in return, I have made an effort to do the same for my friends, peers, and students from Asian communities, as they may be hurting even if they aren’t saying so. I remind myself that one person’s horrific act does not define a whole population of people. And for my own well-being, I’ll keep sharing and listening, and try to believe the best in people and stay hopeful that the world can be better. That’s what my parents would do, and how I believe they were resilient all these years. I’m now raising two young girls of biracial descent, trying my best to ensure they grow up knowing both their parent’s heritages, being proud of their backgrounds, having kind hearts, and hearing stories from their Lolo and Lola (aka “grandpa” and ‘’grandma” in Tagalog). They deserve to grow up in a country where they don’t have to be fearful of being different. We can be better for them— so their generation can grow up where people come from a place of being curious and open to learning from others who don’t always share their experiences or look like them.
Support Services Supervisor, Adams School of Dentistry
I would like to highlight about cultures between [the] USA and Asia. It was a lot of different and difficult for some of the people who came over here. as for me. Our culture is [to] respect to most of them older peoples. Compared to American culture, the Burmese are considerably more and less direct in communication. Limitation of self-expression can reinforce collective values and identities and preserve harmony within the group, but also may lead to misinformation and poor communication. when I get over here. I do not know how to communicate with American peoples. Because of the culture that, between USA and Asia. in our country, if you don’t know someone else you should not say Hi to them because they might think something else. for example, if you say hi to a man or woman. Men was thinking about to you why’s he or she is saying Hi to me? I don’t even know to him and woman though different than a man. it is beginning issues to each other. so that’s why we did not say Hi to each other. because we don’t want to get conflict. If you have any friends who’s known to other people and then greeting to you with other people, that will be fine. no problem at all. especially social issues most of the Asia people are respect to older peoples and their children. what is their mind, older people have experience better than younger people. all youth groups should listen to their parents or siblings. for example, in the united states peoples are dating each other it looks like not a big deal. in most Asian countries it’s a big deal some time it’s going to be violent and kill each other. especially for women who are virgins. it’s very important to her life and her family. because if she has chosen the wrong one, she can’t change it anymore the rest of the time. whoever it’s very important to anyone before they married to each other needed to check the background other side of the people’s situations good or bad. if he or she has to re-married again people are not supporting them. and then if they have any children !! the children are not in good shape, people might do social punishment. According to our cultures, in the role. If peoples have decided to marry someone, that must be first married first dating. We have a new democratic government last 5 years. They did change a lot of new roles for our peoples, they were so happy with the new democratic government. Unfortunately, in February 1, 2021. The military coup has detaining the democratic government and are killing our generation Z again.
The most important things is peoples to people, respect to each other, be nice to each other and working together if we have seem your co-worker or someone else that, working not right? just suggest to them or if the peoples do not accepts it your suggest, Don’t get engaged at the moment and tried to figure it out another proper way. that way we are going to get peace with each other and to make them happiness life.
Kathy Nguyen, Class of 2023
Neuroscience and Psychology double major
A mother glances at her child sitting alone in the corner booth of a restaurant decorated with dragons and pandas. She can’t allow her eyes to linger, g as a family has signaled her to refill their drinks.
The man’s angry Korean voice echoes in the small business, located on a street that has seen better days. He scolds his son for knocking over freshly dried cleaned clothes.
The smell of nail polish lingers on her clothes as she boards the late-night bus. The young lady looks at the poster plastered overhead. She recalls the frustrated customer who tried to communicate with her and takes note of the class’s registration info. The note will later end up forgotten under a pile of bills.
From the mid-19th to 20th century, Asian people, ranging from East to Central Asia, came to America in hopes of achieving prosperity. Some escaped war-torn countries; others left stagnant homelands that lack economic opportunities. Within this migrating population, American society felt the need to highlight those who successfully assimilated to obtain the American Dream. Thus began the model minority rhetoric that has blindsided the generic public.
The model minority is based on Asian Americans being a role model to other minority groups. This concept undermines the racism faced by the community, erasing stories of the Asians that did not prosper under a system of meritocracy and oppression. I do not want to delve into the problematic connotations that follow the model minority rhetoric. Instead, I wish to highlight the hidden pains of Asian Americans, using my perspective as a Vietnamese American.
Early immigration of the Chinese occurred during the Gold Rush. These people were primarily men who hoped to make enough money for their impoverished families back home. Their stories marked the first signs of targeted racism towards the Asian community on American soil. White Americans forced the Chinese workforce out of mining, agriculture, and manufacturing jobs. The reasons stemmed from the same fears that we see played out in the media today: Stolen opportunities. Us versus them. Barbarians.
The inferior view of the Asian population has long existed since America’s early establishment as an independent country. It is only after increased immigration that these views came to an ugly boil. When hate and fear gripped the white American population, they resorted to the method they know best: violence. The San Francisco riot of 1877 and other similar attacks saw white Americans end the lives of people who had helped build the very infrastructures (e.g., railroads) we still use today.
Along with trauma, the language and education barriers further inhibited the Chinese immigrants from advancing toward a better socioeconomic status. This story did not end with the Chinese. When I drive around cities with a high population of Asians, familiar sights like Vietnamese-owned nail salons and Chinese-owned restaurants will greet me. These businesses result from a deep xenophobic sentiment from an America that restricts Asian Americans to pink collared jobs, such as cleaning and cooking. There were no opportunities in blue and white collared jobs for immigrants who lacked a college degree and English fluency.
Growing up as a first-generation Vietnamese American, I always associated the importance of education as a Confucian influence, but I did not have the full picture. The permanent nail polish stains on my mother’s clothes served to remind her of a life that fell short of the American Dream. Similarly, the grease burns on Chinese parents’ arms sear the feelings of uncertainty and fear when they re-established life in a distant land.
Asian parents’ emphasis on schooling is a hope that embracing a racially biased meritocracy system will keep their children safe. However, the hate crimes seen in the past year prove there is no guarantee, not even if one is the embodiment of the model minority concept.
I sat in a lobby waiting for my car’s oil change to finish when I noticed two women stand up and promptly move to the other side of the room. I glanced over and watched one nudge the other as she barely whispered “Coronavirus.” I didn’t break my stare as I watched them contort their bodies and belongings further against the wall. The risk calculus computed: it’s not worth it. You’re alone. There are two of them, one of you. Maybe they are armed? What’s the point of speaking up? So, my body absorbed it. I sat fuming in the liminal space of being invisible and hyper-visible at once. This space isn’t unique to me. This interaction happened at the beginning of the pandemic, and I knew it was going to get worse. It didn’t stop. Most recently, I returned my lease to the dealership and before sitting down was asked “Are you an immigrant?” I told him that I was born and raised in California. He followed up, “Are you sure?”
It’s difficult to be and practice invisibility – you eventually fade and disappear.
I am a Filipina American. I grew up in a household brimming with music, family parties, and elders who’d always impart these important words to their pamangkins, “Studies first. No boyfriends.” I moved from California to Arizona to North Carolina. It’s different here, to say the least. I was at Wegmans when I heard a family speaking in Tagalog. Yes, I did walk towards them to nod and say hello. What I really wanted to do was exclaim “Are you Filipino? I am too!” This type of exchange was fairly common in California. This reaction is twofold, yeah? For one thing, it signals a sense of belonging — we are extensions of another. On the other hand, this acknowledgment is tinged with sorrow: we see each other and recognize how rare it is to see another Filipino/a/x. There aren’t many of us out here in North Carolina. This “I am too” interaction is a fleeting bond, forged in both invisibility and visibility. AAPI is a large umbrella term, and it’s common for brown Asians like Filipino/a/xs to be underrepresented. It’s invisibility all the way down.
I have been crocheting so much lately. I crochet because I want to hold my anger and loneliness. I want to examine it. I want to feel its weight. Crocheting keeps my fingers from scrolling through social media, yet in my mind’s eye, I keep revisiting images of Asian elders being pushed onto the asphalt, punched in their faces, and stabbed into their soft bodies. I hear the wails and pleads from an elder Filipino whose face was slashed from ear to ear. His accent wrapped his cries in ways that remind me of home. I crocheted a lot when I watched Angelo Quinto’s life being extinguished from his body. I think about George Floyd and how he was murdered.
We are dying. White supremacy is killing us.
It hasn’t been a week. It’s so close and it’s difficult to process the death of eight people. Of the eight, six Asian women were murdered by a white domestic terrorist. I grab my yarn to turn my grief inside out. I want to displace the tension between my shoulders and between my teeth into the yarn. I cannot triple-crochet my way out of this heaviness, but in a time of traumatic gaslighting, a shawl allows me to point and say, “This is my proof.” Western society privileges the tangible, visual, and data-driven. The data say that I am not well.
I’ve been asked what the AAPI community is going to do about the uptick in anti-Asian violence. No, I want to know what is going to be done about white supremacy. Stop Asian Hate? No. Stop racism. Stop white supremacy. AAPI communities have historically worked in solidarity with racially marginalized communities. The stories of solidarity are there. We have been showing up for each other despite the divisiveness that the media continues to amplify and wedge between our communities, pushing narratives that align with white supremacist notions that justice is finite. Justice is not finite. Humanity is not finite. We are strongest together, and that’s how we’ll continue moving forward.
Giselle Pagunuran, Class of 2021
B.A. Journalism and Media, double major in Communication Studies
The first time I became conscious of the idea that I could be seen as an “other” was in fourth grade. We were learning about American history – the Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the World Wars. This might sound self-centered, but honestly, I felt strange about not seeing anyone like me in the history books. I’m a Filipino-American woman. Both of my parents are immigrants from the Philippines. I was born in New Jersey, but I grew up in North Carolina.
Now, I know that Asian Americans and Filipino Americans have played a large part in U.S. history, but as a fourth-grader, I felt strangely othered. In one instance, I remembered learning about the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. – my teacher showed us a picture of water fountains, one labeled “white” and one labeled “colored.” I wondered which water fountain I would have had to drink out of. Although I was born and raised in the U.S., I felt fundamentally un-American.
Through middle school and high school, I wanted so desperately to be able to claim an identity, to belong to a group. As a Filipino American, I didn’t feel Asian enough to be Asian, or white enough to be American. I saw stereotypes as the key to being seen as valid in my Asian American identity. I made jokes about being good at math, having a tiger mom, eating rice all the time. I played into the exoticization of my ethnicity. I internalized those stereotypes and deluded myself into holding them as the truth of who I was. I was more than comfortable with the fabricated Asian identity imposed on me. I embraced it. I exploited it.
In college, I was told I was lucky to be Asian since some guys are into Asian girls. My gut reaction to this was negative, but in the back of my mind, I wondered if maybe they were right. Could it be a good thing to be fetishized? To be desired at the cost of my humanity?
Growing up, I yearned for a box I could easily fit into. I wanted to be easy for other people to understand. I wanted to be easy for me to understand. I wanted to be simple. But the reality of identity isn’t simple. The intersections of my identity – race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality, class – have not allowed me to readily define myself in my own mind or to other people. However, denying that complexity is dishonest. And the rise in racial violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic showed me that the inauthenticity of leaning into a stereotype is not only disingenuous, but it’s dangerous. Inauthenticity breeds dehumanization, the direct precursor to violence.
Since entering university and broadening my social horizons, I’ve experienced the true extent of the diversity that exists among Asian Americans. There is no one way to be Asian American. It can be daunting to exist in between Asian and American and to consider all the baggage that false binary can hold, but I’ve found it can also be freeing. I’m allowed to make sense of who I am apart from a singular label.
At this point in my life, at the ripe old age of 21, I still hold on to the experiences of my past, but I’ve reached some level of clarity. I’ve realized that the best way to respect myself and my heritage is by being radically honest. Being honest about who I am and who I’m not. About what I know and what I don’t. While some experiences are clear-cut, others are ambiguous and fluid. But wherever I am, I want to honor the truth of who I am in that moment.
Graduate Student, Biochemistry and Biophysics
The attacks in Atlanta on March 16th were not a random, isolated hate crime against Asians. Before the attacks in Atlanta, Asians were blamed for the spread of the COVID19. They were harassed and assaulted on pedestrian walkways, supermarkets and other public spaces.
A myriad of catalysts can be attributed to these anti-Asian crimes, which have disproportionately affected Asian women (68% of the 3800 incidents in 2020). From national leaders and countless social media posts that carry strong anti-Asian messages for the sake of political favor to people chanting “China virus” or “Wuhan virus” over and over again and spreading baseless rumors for the origin of COVID19— the list goes on. Unfortunately, none of these events raised much discussion nor action, until March 16th, when this brewing volcano of anti-Asian sentiment erupted, taking eight lives in a single night. Suddenly, my social media was booming with Asian hate crime discussions. Even celebrities suddenly started posting anti-Asian crime awareness like it’s a new thing.
When this type of discriminatory rhetoric is employed, whether in soft racial remarks or sinophobic news titles, I urge you as graduate students to start recognizing their implications and reflect on how they can marginalize people of different ethnicities who are otherwise very similar to you. As part of the Asian community, I am deeply affected by this event. I was horrified, sad, angry…but not surprised. I and many of my fellow Asians have experienced and continue to witness these anti-Asian sentiments creep into our personal and professional lives. The culmination of anti-Asian propaganda foreshadowed these tragedies.
It’s easy to condemn a hate crime, but much harder to find a preventative solution. We must reflect on the reasons why these events occurred, and address the deeper roots nested in sinophobia, misogyny, and propaganda. As we move forward, be thoughtful, empathetic, and do not contribute to the hatred. Think!
PhD student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature
As a child of immigrants, and as someone who learned English as a second language, I’ve always been fascinated by the transmission of language, of expression. I’ve often wondered about the limits, and creative possibilities, of language and expression. This led me to my early interest in literature. Some of the questions I’ve been asking are: How have authors historically tried to express themselves? How have they experimented with different literary modes? And how have readers responded to these different forms of expression?
These questions have translated into my work, and now serve as the key questions I reflect on each day. I draw from British literature of the 18th and 19th centuries, to study the history of experimentation with literary form and genre. Ranging anywhere from the Gothic to the Bildungsroman, I engage with fiction that is seen as being representative of a particular genre. For my dissertation, I’d like to explore whether existing genre conventions stilt creativity – and experimentation with form – or if these conventions provide a new lexicon for writers to further experiment with.
It took me quite a bit of time to settle into Carolina. For the first year and a half or so, most of my energy was spent trying to figure out my schedule, priorities and overall place here on campus. Everything felt so rushed, and I never felt that I had the time to really soak things in and think about where I am. This general sense of feeling unsettled, paired with my introverted tendencies, initially made building community quite difficult.
While experiencing these challenges with getting settled in, I would consistently receive invitations to attend different events from IME [Initiative for Minority Excellence], BOS [Brotherhood of Success], Grad Student F1RSTS and so many other entities on campus. I truly appreciated the fact that these groups were continuing to host, and invite me to, these events despite the fact that I wasn’t able to attend everything. I have come to the realization that I can’t commit to everything, and I can’t attend everything. However, I now know that there are a lot of people who understand the idiosyncrasies of graduate schedules and are happy to come together when possible. I would say that I’m definitely still adjusting to Carolina, but it’s nice knowing that I can adjust at my pace.
- NCAAT (NC Asian Americans Together) Statement on anti-Asian hate
- Suggestions/Resources from NCAAT:
- Donate to efforts that are directly assisting victims of anti-Asian crimes, like Red Canary Song.
- Donate and support community-led efforts and organizations in Georgia like Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
- Allies and comrades can learn more about the systems that breed this violence, the interconnection of different forms of oppression, and solutions that address the root cause rather than perpetuating violence. Have conversations with the people around them about these topics. This Resources Doc for Anti-Asian Violence by APALA offers some reading to start with.
- Ihollaback offers free bystander intervention training. We highly recommend folks take some form of intervention, self-defense, or de-escalation training to ensure your safety during any altercations. If you witness anti-Asian aggression or acts of aggression against any other marginalized community members, find ways of interrupting it. This applies to both interpersonal violence (verbal and physical, online and in-person), and state violence in the form of policy.