Dear EAS Colleagues and Students,
I join in the messages of the Dean and Provost’s Office in condemning the rise of hatred and violence against Asians, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. The recent spate of anti-Asian violence has no place in our communities and must be denounced forcefully if we are to move forward with a sense of confidence and hope in our futures. As recent events/presentations by our EAS colleagues and friends have indicated, while these events may be recent in their ferocity, they are sadly not new to an American experience built on anti-Asian sentiment that has sometimes manifested itself even in public policy. The challenge for the United States to rise to its ideals has never been more acute, the specter of its racist past rarely more evident. As an American, I feel we are at a critical juncture in the United States. We are facing two paths: a retreat to status quo racism that infected the past, or a progressive shift toward genuinely addressing and moving beyond the racist and biased aspects of our history, to seeing in the “other” but a version of ourselves. There is, sad to say, much work to be done.
In the interim, I can offer only words of solace and support to my Asian and Asian-American colleagues, students, and friends. I remember as an undergraduate student many decades ago, learning of the Japanese internment camps during WWII and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It disturbed me deeply, and has continued to resonate throughout my life. Recent events have made me realize this anti-Asian sentiment has only lain dormant, waiting for a spark to reignite it. I join in solidarity with those who will help to stamp it out. I am neither optimistic nor naïve enough to think hate can be eliminated, but I do believe it can be driven back and consigned to a place where it is not allowed to show itself. I am committed to this end.
While I mourn for the victims of Tuesday’s murders in Georgia and condemn the violence and unacceptable rise of hate against Asian American Pacific Islander communities, my main concern is for you, here at the University of Arizona, who are subjected to ongoing abuse and discrimination in our own community. As indicated in the Dean’s message, various resources exist for support, education and advocacy, including Stop AAPI Hate and the Asian American Advocacy Fund. On campus, the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs staff has prepared a mental health wellness page, and the University provides an opportunity to report threatening behavior and/or bias on this page. Please avail yourself of these, as needed.
It has been a dreadful year for us all, and just as we begin to see a little light at the end of the tunnel, we are threatened yet again with the specter of hatred. I am reminded that departments like ours, while committed to the academic enterprise, are also engaged in a larger social mission to improve understanding across cultures, to replace fear with knowledge, to provide sustenance to our human community and to celebrate our common aspirations toward the accomplishments of individuals and to celebrate our mutual successes. It is now more important than ever that we reaffirm our goals and sense of shared purpose.
Please feel free to reach out if you wish.
Albert Welter, PhD
Professor and Head, Department of East Asian Studies