From President Frank H. Wu:
Discrimination and hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans and other groups viewed as “different” are not new, though we have certainly seen a distressing rise in such incidents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked by a journalist if such attacks were hate crimes or something else, I responded, “How many Asian Americans have to be killed before others recognize there is a problem?” I have worked on these issues since before I was working: My own life—similar to the lives of so many others—has been defined by the struggle to be included, to claim, and then make real the great ideals of our diverse democracy, which brought my immigrant parents across an ocean to these shores. My background is similar to that of many Queens College students, their parents, and grandparents. Through our shared struggles we find strength and a commitment to activism on these issues. We must stand up and speak out.
What we have seen is not random. If it were just one or two cases, perhaps observers would be skeptical. We have witnessed, however, in compelling viral videos and credible news reports, ordinary folks going about their business being spit upon; elderly pedestrians shoved to the sidewalk with such force as to break bones; passengers waiting for the subway being shoved onto the tracks in front of oncoming trains; stabbings; shootings; and every other type of crime imaginable. The racial slurs that are bandied about are what I remember well from the common cruelty of childhood bullying, the epithets shouted on the playground as adults said to shrug it off. Those sentiments may well be protected speech, but they must be defeated with more persuasive rhetoric or they will continue to lead to fatal violence.
Blame for the COVID-19 pandemic has mistakenly by some been brought against the Asian American community as a replacement for the true culprit: the virus itself. This is a double form of discrimination. All Asian Americans are blamed—based on appearance—for a virus that originated in China, while even someone of Chinese ancestry should not be blamed for the spread of the coronavirus. The guilt by association that is befalling Asian Americans is irrational as well as destructive. The consequence is that Asian Americans, people no different than their neighbors and co-workers, are afraid to venture out of their homes. In the meantime, as President Biden recently noted, many of our dedicated health care workers on the front lines here in the United States are of Asian descent.
For Asian Americans, all of this “eating bitterness” is old—but awareness of the phenomenon is new. I am grateful for the allies who have emerged: Black, white, Latinx, Jewish, Arab. The #BLM movement is setting an example for people of all backgrounds, as the historic struggle for Black equality has long inspired. Anti-Semitism, which is persistently virulent, has flared up as well. Nobody who has witnessed these assaults and episodes that show starkly how people are not accorded respect, much less equal treatment, can feel proud that our society has not progressed beyond this point. We at Queens College express our deepest sympathy and strongest support, as well as our resolution to continue striving for justice.
Any member of the Queens College community who encounters issues of this nature on campus should contact the Office of Public Safety at 718-997-5912.
Thank you for your attention to my message and for your support of the values that bind together our community.
Stay safe and well.