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Choosing not to be Silenced: Stop Asian Hate

A protest in San Francisco, CA to end the violence against Asian-Americans. Photo provided by Jason Leung.

I like to think I’ve done a lot for the Freedom community, that I’ve left it better than I found it. I’ve been active in FELT, been a part of an award-winning music department, assisted with PBIS initiatives and helped bring home Freedom’s first indoor track and field program’s regional title. But what has Freedom done to support me?

On March 19, 2021, Interim Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler sent out a statement surrounding the shootings in Atlanta that occurred last week. In that message, he denounced hatred against the Asian American community and urged staff to join him “in engaging in courageous, even difficult, conversation to build a network of support for students, families and staff.” But as with other issues in the past, his words feel empty and meaningless. After all, what can be accomplished if action is not taken to back those words?

Today, at the end of government class during the current events discussion, Freedom High School social science department chair, Ben Gibson addressed the recent shootings rising hate crimes against the Asian American communities. He talked about how in US history, this community is never mentioned, save for the Chinese Exclusion Act and maybe Japanese internment camps during WWII.

“You are a part of the story,” Gibson said, a statement that deeply impacted me and brought me to visible tears. History has always been my favorite subject, and only learning about Asians in American when they were excluded and ostracized has always made me feel weird and unseen. His statement gave me hope and reassurance, something that I really needed after the past couple of sleepless nights as a result of the emotional toll such news stories can have. I applaud him for using class time to address an issue that is so close to me and 729 other Asian-American students at Freedom High School. But it shouldn’t only be up to a handful of teachers to support us. 

According to data from the 2018 Climate Survey conducted by the county, 33% of students at Freedom report that they have been teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity. I am part of that statistic. In fact, nearly every student I have spoken to of East Asian descent has had the shared experience of their eyes being mocked. I have even had teachers passively drop comments about my math skills which should be a compliment, but has never been to me.

Such comments perpetuate the model minority myth that is so commonplace, many don’t even realize the detriments of it. The myth touts Asians as the “model minority” capable of achieving high levels of success academically and in the workplace. As a result, Asian Americans in less affluent areas often do not receive the funding and support they need. Asian American students are also less likely to seek help with their schoolwork as a result of the prevalence of this. I have always struggled with math. Statements like “you’re Asian so you should be good at math” push harmful stereotypes and put people in a box. We are of course just as multifaceted and diverse in interests as any other group. 

These aren’t recent experiences, even though the media acts as though attacks like this occur out of nowhere. This is a direct effect of the sinophobic rhetoric that many people in power spouted about COVID-19. We warned of the dangers of naming a virus after an entire ethnicity (“China Virus”), but no one listened, calling us snowflakes, or telling us it’s completely fine to name the virus after where the first outbreak occurred. The tragic shootings in Atlanta, like so many other stories, should be a wake-up call for America. 

Despite it being Wellness Week, I am stressed, scared and above all, tired. Tired of people enjoying our foods and not the people who make it. Tired of microaggressions against Asian Americans being so normalized that there is a whole trend mocking our eye shape. Tired of hearing “ching chong” or being asked, “do you eat dog?” Tired of seeing our elders being attacked in broad daylight. 

Stopping racism is easier said than done, but nothing will get done if no one tries. There was a group of parents who were so adamant about sending their children back to school that the LCPS School Board eventually agreed to their pleas. If the same parents were to raise their voices about the stigma and racist stereotypes that float freely in the schools, the change could be achieved quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and barely anyone has spoken about the issues that Asian American children face every single day. Raising the bar shouldn’t just mean “let my kid go to school”; raising the bar is to raise standards, to raise expectations and to be better than before. 

I acknowledge that these conversations are never easy, but they must be had in order to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all students to succeed. I urge you to check in on your Asian friends, reflect on your internal biases and conceptions, and challenge yourself to be actively anti-racist. To my fellow Asian American students, you are seen, you are important, and you are cherished. Keep your head up and stay strong.

Stop Asian hate. 

Written by Karen Xu & Mika Dang

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