Faculty statements on Asian hate

The Department of Media, Journalism & Film condemns the rise in crimes against Asians and Asian Americans in the United States. We mourn with the grieving families in Atlanta whose loved ones were taken from them in a wanton act of violence on March 16, 2021. We also stand with the Asian and Asian American individuals who have been subjected to a rise in bigoted rhetoric and violent acts over the last year in this country

We also know it is not enough to simply recognize and condemn such crimes; we all, together, must work toward creating a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Earlier this year, MJF committed to working to better understand the experiences and needs of the diverse members of our community. The recent rise in violence against Asian and Asian American communities only reinforces the necessity of this work.

The department also recognizes the ways that media – including news, entertainment, and social media – have participated in the reproduction and perpetuation of stereotypes of individuals of Asian or Asian American background. Stereotypes can work to both homogenize diverse communities and dehumanize individuals. In our work as media producers, teachers, and scholars we are committed to doing more to interrogate and challenge such representations wherever we find them.

Hongmei Li, associate professor & area coordinator of strategic communication gave this statement at the weekend gathering in Cincinnati at the Freedom Center in support of the Asian and Pacific Islander community:

To our Asian and Asian American students, colleagues, and community members, we stand with you.

I come here today as a community member, a media scholar, and a mother of two young children to mourn the eight victims who were senselessly killed at the three Atlanta shootings. Seven of these victims are women and six of them are Asian women. They were mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. Only broken families are left behind.

Words cannot express the pain and fear that the Asian community is experiencing now. The AAPI Stop Hate has documented more than 3800 attacks on Asian Americans since last year. Among them, the most vulnerable--children, women, and the elderly--are more likely to be assaulted. Silence can lead to more death and more violence. As a community, we cannot be silent any more.

I have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years and I am a naturalized U.S. citizen. Over the years, I have met numerous generous Americans who are ready to offer their helping hands whenever needed, such as a young white police officer helping us change broken tires at a parking lot off a freeway in California, ordinary Americans offering me drives during snowy days, my professors going out of their way to offer endless support, an African American mother buying my kid lunch during a chess tournament, my neighbors giving my kids rides to events, air travelers helping get my luggage down from cabins without being asked, and my colleagues providing selfless support in workplaces. But on the other hand, I have also encountered people who are biased, racist, and xenophobic and who blame others for their own problems. I lived in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Atlanta before moving to Cincinnati. I was asked by an Asian-looking stranger to “go back to China” in California. I was yelled at by a female black driver in Philadelphia. I experienced workplace racism and sexism in Atlanta. Just last October, a white male truck driver cursed me at a stop sign when I was driving in downtown Mason, Ohio. Kindness comes in different shapes and forms and from different races and ethnic groups and so do racism and bigotry. It is wrong to just associate racism with whites. As an ideology, it can be adopted by people of different races and ethnic groups.

My younger child was mocked for having “slanted Asian eyes.” My older child was bullied in schools in Atlanta. During the pandemic, I am always fearful that my two school-age children may encounter more racism. When they go out for a bike ride, I constantly check to make sure they are ok. I become highly vigilant of my own environment. I am especially worried that the attacks on the Asian American community could become worse as children go back to school in person and as we go back to work in person. 

Anti-Asian racism is not new. When the Chinese first came to the U.S. in the mid-19th century, Asian workers experienced systemic racism that was later encoded in the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.  Later, the Chinese Exclusion Act was applied to other Asian groups, barring them from entering the United States and from becoming citizens if they were already here. Racists on this land murdered numerous Asians without any consequence. The judicial system did not come to defend us. When the Transcontinental Railroad was constructed in the late 19th century, about 20,000 Chinese workers toiled through back-breaking labor during frigid winters and blazing summers. Hundreds died from explosions, landslides, accidents and disease. But American history books have largely ignored their contribution. From 1942 to 1945, about 117,000 Japanese were sent to internment camps and the majority of them were American citizens. During the cold war era, Asian scientists were prosecuted because they were painted as communists. In 1982, Vincent Chin, an innocent 27-year-old Chinese American was mercilessly beaten to death by two laid-off white auto workers in Detroit who mistook him for Japanese on the night of his bachelor’s party before his wedding. These two murderers were only ordered to pay $3,000 in fine and serve three years' probation with no jail time. Judge Charles Kaufman said, "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail... You don't make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal." A retrial was moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and the jury cleared these two father-and-son murderers of all charges in 1987.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Trump and his followers used racist terms such as the “Chinese virus,” and “Kung flu” to label the public health crisis, despite the fact that WHO forbids the association of any disease with a place or an ethnic group. Asian people who have no connection with China have been attacked for their skin color. It is wrong for any politicians or any people to use such xenophobic and racist language to dehumanize us. Words matter. Words can kill. Racism kills.

After eight people were ruthlessly killed in Atlanta, police officer Sheriff Baker tried to humanize the killer, saying that he simply had “a bad day.” To add insult to injury, it is reported that his motive was to get rid of his “sex addiction.” Such rhetoric follows the long tradition of sexualizing Asian women and associating working-class Asian women with prostitution in this country. However, the mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms stated that these are “legally operating businesses that have not been on” their “radar.” 

Asian Americans are often invisible on the racial map. But our suffering is real. Today, we gather here to condemn anti-Asian racism and call for solidarity. We call for solidarity within the Asian American community. Chinese, Indians, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and all Asian people, please be united and support each other. We call for solidarity between the Asian community, the African American community, the Hispanic community, the Jewish community, the LGBTQ community, the Native American community, the Caucasian community, and any community that supports social justice and equality to work together for social change.  We demand that the police officer Jay Baker be fired immediately. We demand that justice be served for the trial of the Atlanta killings. We demand for systemic judicial and police reforms that root out racism in this country.  We demand that history of Asian Americans be taught to children from K to 12. Only when we work together and treat each other as fellow human beings, can we move forward and create a society that is just, equal and free for all. Thank you.