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Statement on Violence Against Asian Americans

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FROM: The Fifth Senate of the Vassar Student Association (VSA)

TO: Student, The Faculty, Vassar College

In light of the recent violent attacks in Atlanta against members of the Asian community, and the increase in targeted hate crimes against Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VSA condemns these violent murders and stands in solidarity with the Asian American community. We acknowledge that we have been slow to address and denounce this violence in the past; however, now is no longer the time for silence.

We would also like to reaffirm how damaging the “model minority” stereotype is, and how this deliberately undermines the racism that Asian Americans have and continue to experience today. Acknowledging the roots of anti-Asian violence and sentiment—including the origin of sinophobia, monolithization of Asian people, and fetishization of Asian women—is necessary to combat anti-Asian hatred and white supremacy. This begins with an understanding of the history of legal exclusion, violent hate crimes, and demonization of Asian sex workers during the initial waves of Asian immigration to the US in the 19th century. We must ask ourselves: how do these often forgotten histories produce and reproduce false stereotypes of Asian Americans as the unassimilable, disease-ridden “yellow peril”? How does white sexual imperialism of Asian women and the exotic and degrading portrayal of them in Western media continue to exploit the sexuality of Asian women and control the fate of Asian American sex workers, massage workers, and survivors today? Pretending that racism against Asian Americans ceases to exist perpetuates a falsehood that reinforces white supremacy and causes further violence and harm against Asian lives.

We urge Vassar College to take active steps toward supporting the Asian community. Firstly, we ask that the college reflect upon the way they are interacting with the Asian community. Using terms such as ‘oriental’ to describe dishes, and other microaggressions cause inherent harm and disproportionately affect members of the Asian community.

We also ask that the college reaffirm their support of the Asian Studies and specifically the Asian American Studies academic programs, and allocate resources for academic opportunities specifically for Asian students and faculty. For example, there is only one tenure track line as of next year in the Asian American Studies department. Additionally, we would like to acknowledge all of the hard work that VASAM has been doing to advocate for the Asian American Studies curriculum here at this school, and to shape the program into what it is today.

Now is the time to be amplifying voices within the Asian community here at Vassar. We commit to providing a space for those who wish to address this violence against the Asian community at next week’s Senate Meeting.

Furthermore, we encourage students seeking support to reach out to the following sources:

  • Director Kevin Collins (kcollins@vassar.edu) of the ALANA Center provides resources and support to students of color.
  • Director Nicole Wong (nicwong@vassar.edu) of the Support, Advocacy, and Violence Prevention (SAVP) Office provides survivor-centered support and advocacy to individuals impacted by sexual and interpersonal violence.

Sincerely,

The Fifth Senate of the Vassar Student Association

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