On Friday, Feb. 19, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox sent a campuswide email in which he condemned the recent violent and racist attacks against Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders specifically in the Bay Area and across the country.
In January, a 19-year-old man violently shoved 84-year-old Thai man Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco. Ratanapakdee died two days later from his injuries. One week later, three Asian senior citizens in Oakland, California were assaulted by one man.
In the statement, Wilcox stated “We unequivocally condemn the recent violent and racist attacks in the Bay Area and nationally against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.”
He acknowledged that since the onset of the pandemic, violent attacks and hate incidents toward Asians and Pacific Islanders have increased. He noted that violent attacks and hate incidents have even occurred on UCR’s campus. “While these particular attacks may have made state and national headlines and have been stoked by anti-Chinese rhetoric during the pandemic crisis, they are emblematic of longstanding discrimination toward the Asian and Pacific Islander community since the building of the US transcontinental railroad and global imperial wars before that. And all are unacceptable,” wrote Wilcox.
He noted that this conduct has no place at UCR, does not reflect its values and will not be tolerated.
“We pledge our full solidarity with the Asian/American and Pacific Islander community on campus and beyond and support the efforts by student organizations; our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office; and faculty and staff to address violence and discrimination against Asian/Americans and Pacific Islanders,” stated Wilcox.
Acknowledging the hardships of this past year, Wilcox wrote, “It has been such an overwhelming year and we recognize many members of our community are tired of the seemingly unending challenges and obstacles being faced. Please know that you have the support of colleagues and friends on campus as we strive to foster a community that reflects the very best of UCR’s ideals.”
For some students at UCR, the attacks have made them concerned for their families and friends. In an interview with The Highlander, Mimi Nguyen a third-year business administration student with a concentration in marketing stated that after the pandemic struck, the U.S. began to encounter two types of viruses: the spread of COVID-19 and the spread of xenophobia. She noted how the mistreatment and prejudice towards Asians in the U.S. has skyrocketed and more attacks on Asians, particularly the elderly, have worsened. She attributes these attacks to prejudice against the Asian community and putting the racist rhetoric that labeled the virus the “Chinese virus” or the “Kung Flu.”
As someone who identifies as Asian, Nguyen stated that she is fearful for her relatives, friends and especially for the elderly. “These recent hate crimes have targeted predominantly Asian American seniors who have no means of defense or protection against these attacks. I am anxious and worried that my own grandparents cannot walk to the store or run their errands without being the next victim or target of these hate crimes,” stated Nguyen. She stated that the recent attacks were especially disheartening during the approach of the Lunar New Year – an annual holiday that symbolizes a new year of prosperity and hope for the Asian community.
“Historically, Asian Americans have been taught to feed into the model minority. This myth has suppressed and invalidated our stories and kept us quiet in the face of many injustices,” stated Nguyen. She finds that the model minority narrative perpetuates the notion that Asian Americans can achieve the American dream if they are jovial. The model minority justifies how Asian Americans have the ability to overcome bigotry because of hard work and intellectual superiority, stated Nguyen. The term was coined to justify that despite marginalization, ethnic minorities like Asian Americans can achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the average. Nguyen stated that racial attacks against Asian Americans are often ignored or underreported because it is minimized by the model minority myth.
In order to further support the Asian community, Nguyen stated that people need to start conversations and raise awareness. “We must amplify these stories by sharing and talking about them on mainstream media. To show solidarity is to not be silent … With the accessibility of the internet and power of social media, our generation has the advantage of being exposed to a plethora of resources, petitions, and knowledge that we can obtain to understand the history and current events of the AAPI community,” stated Nguyen.
Abigail Nguyen, a second-year undeclared CNAS major stated in an interview with The Highlander that after the pandemic struck more Asian Americans and Asians in America were generalized and attacked for simply just living their lives and going to work or school. She noted that a lot of what people have seen or heard on the news about some of these physical violence incidents against Asians have been downplayed. “A lot of them are not even reported or heard about as well. Honestly hearing about all of this makes me scared to even just leave my house to get groceries or run errands because there’s a high chance of something like that happening to me or my family,” stated Abigail Nguyen. She stated that America has a deeply rooted problem with racism against Asians that is “highly ignored and most Asians in America are scared to report it or to even acknowledge it.”
In response to Chancellor Wilcox’s statement, Abigail Nguyen stated that while Wilcox condemned the recent racial attacks against Asians in the U.S., “his email quickly dismisses cases that have happened on UCR’s campus and hides the severity of the racism that has been longstanding within the U.S.”
Wilcox urges students to visit help.ucr.edu for additional resources and guidance on how to report incidents of discrimination within the UCR community.