Letter to the Editor: Open Letter to Asian and Asian American Students at Tulane University

We write to the Asian and Asian American student body to tell you that as Asian American faculty, we see you. That it has taken the murders of Asian women in the recent mass shooting in Atlanta to bring media and institutional attention to anti-Asian racism has been distressing. To respect the wishes of the families of some of the victims, we have opted to omit their names. We want to express our love and support for our students who are terrified for themselves and their loved ones. We also want to acknowledge the difficulties of expressing the pain that you may be feeling and the frustrations that come with the ignorance of anti-Asian racism. We have heard your stories of how difficult it is to navigate Tulane. We understand the ambivalence that comes with the presumed proximity to whiteness some of us may hold, a proximity that does not fully extend protections from white supremacy. We see that there is a struggle on campus to find a critical language to address our experiences — this, on top of an exhausting pandemic, can feel debilitating. We encourage you to take the time you need to care for yourselves.   

It goes without saying that Asian and Asian American communities are diverse. The horrific shootings in Atlanta nonetheless speak to all of us because they are part of a broader pattern. In the near term, we face an uptick of anti-Asian racism, as politicians and media have sought irresponsibly to scapegoat China for the COVID-19 pandemic. But this recent cycle of anti-Asian violence is hardly new. As manifestations of the white supremacy which has not only left its mark on the hateful beliefs of individuals, but has guided this country’s laws, institutions and foreign policy, anti-Asian hate is a part of the broad legacies of racial capitalism, imperialism and gendered violence that have shaped America today. The Georgia killings, directed at massage workers of Asian descent, who face stigmatization and criminalization for their association with sex work, reminds us that anti-Asian racism works in tandem with misogyny and economic exploitation. It is important to educate ourselves about these legacies, which will not only allow us to diagnose the multiple and intersecting forms of oppression that define the world in which we live, but also to place ourselves in powerful and diverse histories of solidarity and resistance. For students and allies wishing to educate themselves further, we suggest as a starting point, reading the works of Colleen Lye, Lisa Lowe, David Palumbo-Liu, Evelyn Nakano Glenn, and Yến Lê Espiritu.

We recognize that learning about anti-Asian racism cannot be done alone and thus we are calling on Tulane University to create and support the structures necessary to make such an education a valued experience on campus. In his recent “Plan for Now” announcement, President Fitts has called for us toexamine our systems and structures as well as our behaviors and biases to consider and understand their potential impact on our BIPOC and marginalized communities.” We hope that our students and colleagues will join us in calling for more faculty who work in Asian and Asian American studies. Such expertise is necessary in order to bring more critical awareness on campus to the histories of Asian racialization and how they work within systems of anti-blackness, settler colonialism and white supremacy. We see Asian and Asian American studies as a necessary complement to the critical and organizing work that is already being done by colleagues and students in Abolish TUPD, Africana Studies, Asian Studies, the Asian American Student Union, the Black Student Union, the Center for Academic Equity, the Center for Public Service, the Cuban and Caribbean Institute, Generating Excellence Now and Tomorrow in Education (GENTE), The Carolyn Barber Pierre Center for Intercultural Life, the Stone Center, Les Griots Violets, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, Students Organizing Against Racism (SOAR), Solidarity Tulane, the Tulane Student Action Group and beyond. We look forward to collaborating together in the project of dismantling white supremacy. 

With love and care,

Hongwei Thorn Chen, Assistant Professor of Communication and Asian Studies

Cheryl Narumi Naruse, Assistant Professor of English and Mellon Assistant Professor in the Humanities

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