‘This needs to stop’: Campus community speaks out against anti-Asian hate crimes

In a week of grief and mourning, Asian American students and faculty discuss what a ‘fight for a just society’ might look like

Monica Nakashima, Contributing Writer

On March 16, eight people were killed by a 21-year-old man who went on a shooting spree inside three spa parlors in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian women.

A candlelight vigil was held Sunday evening at Linn Park in Birmingham. Black Lives Matter Birmingham, Alabama Asian Cultures Foundation, Vietnamese Student Association at UAB and several UA professors among others attended to commemorate the eight lives lost in the shooting.

The event’s Facebook page described it as “a candlelight Vigil in remembrance of not only the sisters we lost on March 16th but to all the [Asian American and Pacific Islander] women that are facing violence that we must stand up against.”

Di Luo, assistant professor of history, said the killings were the result of a long history of anti-Asian racism and hyper-sexualization of Asian women. As a member of the AAPI community, Luo said she wants to speak up and condemn racism and the hyper-sexualization of Asian women. 

“I saw a lot of young kids attending the event,” Luo said. “I hope they can learn important and valuable lessons and be proactive in a fight for a just society.” 

Golden Zhang, a tenth-grade student who is Chinese American, attended the vigil. Zhang said he was shocked and scared when he first heard about the Atlanta shootings. 

“Why were the targets all Asian businesses?” he said. “Recently violence towards Asians has skyrocketed. It makes me feel unsafe every day. Will I be next because of my color? This needs to stop.”

The University sent a campus-wide email three days after the shooting that condemned anti-Asian hate crimes and listed resources for those affected by the shooting.

“While there is ongoing discussion and debate about the motivations for these heinous acts against humanity,” the UA News email said, “what is not debatable is the dramatic increase in the number of racially motivated bias incidents and hate crimes targeting Asian and Asian-American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI for short, people in our country since the onset of the pandemic.”

A United Nations report found more than 1,800 racist incidents occurred against Asian Americans between the eight-week span of March to May of 2020. The Stop AAPI Hate National Report has received a staggering 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents between March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021.

Will I be next because of my color? This needs to stop.”

— Golden Zhang

The message was written by G. Christine Taylor, VP for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and Teresa Wise, associate provost for international education and global outreach. It included links to anti-Asian hate crime reporting and ally resources.

As such, we stand today in solidarity as allies with our AAPI community members,” the email said. “As we support them, we also stand in opposition to all hate crimes, bias acts against the AAPI community at large and the ideology that fuels them.” 

There are eight Asian student organizations and one Asian faculty affinity group on the UA campus. 

Audrey Harper is the president of the Asian American Student Association, whose mission is to provide a social community and environment for all Asian American students on campus. The organization released an official statement on March 17, two days before the University’s statement. 

“We know that our members may be feeling fear, anger, grief and a multitude of emotions right now,” the statement said. “We would like to make it clear that the University of Alabama’s Asian American Student Association is a safe place for all AAPI community members on this campus and in Tuscaloosa without fear of harassment or violence.” 

While Harper commends the message sent out by Taylor and Wise, she said she believes the University as a whole doesn’t have Asian American students’ best interests in mind. A 2019 demographic survey of the UA population reported about 500 Asian students enrolled at the University, making up about 1% of the student body overall. The most up-to-data demographic data shows that about 500 of the University’s 1,100 international students are from Asia and 13 are from the Oceania regions. 

Harper said Asian students on the University’s campus have faced racial struggles prior to the anti-Asian sentiment created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The UA News email, Harper said, was too little, too late. 

“While it is also about Atlanta, this whole year has honestly been traumatic for the community,” she said.

Harper said the best way for non-Asian allies to support the AAPI community is to support local Asian businesses. The Asian American Student Association is currently creating a complete list of Asian businesses in Tuscaloosa to support. In a previous email, the organization promoted Fuku Ramen, Mr. Chen’s, Swen, Asian Market and Lai Lai. 

She said non-Asian students should listen to Asian voices and donate to Anti-Asian hate causes like Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Korean American Coalition of Metro Atlanta

Editor’s Note: Asian American Student Association President Audrey Harper is a contributing writer at The CW. 

Sophia Xiong contributed to the reporting of this story.