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Countering Anti-Asian Hatred and Violence

Presidential Letters

Published March 18, 2021

Dear students, staff, and faculty:

In recent months, we have seen an alarming and abhorrent increase in anti-Asian violence and harassment, including verbal and physical abuse. Earlier this year, a 91-year-old man was shoved to the ground in Oakland, California. A woman of Asian descent in Portland, Maine, was accosted when sitting in her car with her children. On Tuesday, eight people in the Atlanta, Georgia, area were killed, including six women of Asian descent. 

Violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders—a demographic that includes more than 30 different nationalities and ethnic groups—is not new. The New York Times reports that “Officials and advocates have noted a rise in crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, with some blaming the words of former President Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly called the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, the ‘Chinese virus.’” These and other hateful references and acts are insidious and corrosive manifestations of xenophobia that I denounced at the outset of the pandemic and that we must all condemn in the strongest possible terms. 

The college stands against racism and violence and stands steadfastly with our Asian and Asian American community members. We are committed to ensuring that every member of our community is safe, supported and able to focus on the learning and work they are here to do. 

I want to highlight the following resources:

  • The college provides for anonymous reporting of bias incidents on Smith’s campus; this site is for reporting off-campus incidents.
  • The Schacht Center for Health and Wellness invites all students to a virtual drop-in support group responding to anti-Asian violence, to be held 3–4 p.m. on Friday, March 19. Email to register.
  • The Office of Multicultural Affairs will hold a virtual group chat, 1:30–2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 19. 
  • Staff and faculty members are invited to join the next conversation of the staff and faculty affinity group for Asians and Asian Americans on April 14. To sign up for this or one of our other affinity groups, fill out this form.

Tonight’s COVID-19 memorial, led by the Reverend Matilda Cantwell will give us a communal opportunity to mourn losses of the past year, including the lives of recent victims in Georgia. 

One of the most compelling voices in the movement against anti-Asian violence is Jennifer Ho, professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and president of the Association for Asian American Studies. In response to the Atlanta killings she wrote, “To be an Asian woman in America means you can’t just be what you are: a fully enfranchised human being. It means you are a blank screen on which others project their stories, especially, too often, their sexualized fantasies—because U.S. culture has long presented Asian women as sexualized objects for White male enjoyment.”

In the coming weeks, I will be announcing a date in April for a Presidential Colloquium by Professor Ho, addressing the history and contemporary impact of anti-Asian violence. I hope you will attend, both to learn and to extend support and solidarity to the Asian American community. 


Kathleen McCartney