UHM Department of Ethnic Studies Statement on Anti-Asian Violence and Atlanta Shootings

March 22, 2021

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) Department of Ethnic Studies condemns the Atlanta murders of 8 people—6 of whom were Asian women—and the many other acts of violence, harassment, bigotry, and prejudice directed at Asians and Asian Americans. We stand in solidarity and aloha with the families and friends of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong Yue.

Our department recognizes the mass shooting in Atlanta as one flare up in the continual attacks that Asian and Asian American communities have borne because of distinctive ethnic, class, religious factors and perceptions about sexuality molded by the United States’ war in the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. This atrocity in Atlanta brings up the pain and horror of the Oak Creek massacre in Wisconsin in 2012, which was also an outburst amid the continuous hum of anti-Asian violence. In the coming weeks, the Department of Ethnic Studies will join colleagues on campus to organize teach-ins, cosponsor talks, and find other regenerative activities to hold space and build community with all who are committed to social justice.

We are committed also to correcting some of the misperceptions of the Atlanta murders and anti-Asian violence more generally. First, the targeting of Asians and Asian Americans is not simply a case of “mistaken identity”—“they were not even Chinese.” Anti-Asian violence endures not only in the form of hate crimes and discriminatory legislation but also in everyday encounters with institutions, neighbors, coworkers and customers. It’s pernicious because it is invisible and whenever it becomes visible, it becomes fixed on certain Asian bodies preventing a broader analysis of the violence.

Second, corporate media discussions about how this particular crime can be prosecuted under gender-based violence even if the prosecutorial process is unable to establish anti-Asian animus ignores the fact that the six Asian American women who were killed had experienced that violence and indeed their entire lives at the intersections of their race, gender, sexuality and class.

Third, calling for anti-hate legislation that depends on the very institutions that brutalize and abandon Asians and Asian Americans—namely the police, courts and the prison system—is inadequate if not useless. Labeling something a hate crime and leaving the criminal injustice system to deal with the perpetrator will not end anti-Asian violence because it is simply not capable of dealing with the root causes of that violence embedded in every US institution.

Poised as we are at the University of Hawai‘i, we call for restorative forms of justice grounded in Native Hawaiian and Oceanic cultures that can offer truly pono (just) ways of returning ea (life, breath, and sovereignty) to all who are dedicated to healthy lands, waters, and communities that move forward in justice.

For links to other statements that have been issued, see the Association for Asian American Studies Statement.