Fighting hate and finding ‘fAAAmily’
On Monday, April 5, UD’s Asian American Association hosted the campus-wide event Hate Is a Virus. Designed to be an open dialogue with opportunities for sharing and reflection, the event welcomed students and faculty members to gather in person or over Zoom to show support for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
More than 250 students, faculty and staff participated. The AAA executive board members said they were thrilled with the turnout.
“I hope that this will be the start of the ongoing conversation about race and diversity for UD and its ongoing goal of becoming anti-racist,” said Marie Block, president of AAA.
Sama Ahmed, culture chair of AAA, said that Hate Is a Virus was “a night for people to hear about the hurt the Asian American community has to face and for people to understand the true meaning of allyship.”
Students and faculty members signed up beforehand to speak, but attendees were encouraged to volunteer and share during the event. While conversations revolved around recent anti-Asian hate crimes and racism, speakers also emphasized how discrimination toward the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is not new.
“One of the most pernicious aspects of racism toward Asian Americans is that it’s so hard to point to an incident or pattern that feels dramatic enough to justify taking up space in the dialogue, activities and institutional transformations of this country,” said Hsuan Tsen, lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts.
As someone who described herself as “not quite Asian enough” to experience blatant racism, Tsen said, “It’s been a lifetime of slights, of subtle pushing out, of silence.”
Ryu-Kyung Kim, lecturer of voice and coordinator of music performance, talked about the need for active learning and education, noting that ignorance is a blank canvas.
“I’m hoping that you don’t lose your light or glow from the hate crimes,” Kim said.
Mei-Lin Williams, sophomore and marketing director of AAA, reflected on what the community means to her. She shared her experiences growing up as an Asian American in a white family. To Williams, AAA is a second family, or “fAAAmily.”
“AAA has really helped me, helped my sense of identity, … made me feel proud to be Asian and proud to be in this amazing community full of amazing people,” Williams said.
Block also shared how she found a sense of belonging in AAA at the University of Dayton. It wasn’t until college that she found herself around people who looked like her and shared similar experiences.
“That is not something that I thought was as important as it is until I was able to experience it,” Block said.
Toward the end of the event, Leslie Picca, professor of sociology, shared five action steps allies can take to help and support the Asian American community. She suggested that white allies educate themselves; speak up and step up by completing anti-racism trainings and courses; listen and believe people when they share their stories; learn from past mistakes; and stay engaged.
“Racial justice is a journey — not a destination.”
“It is easy to attend one or two of these events, pat yourself on the back for being an anti-racist, and then go about your day, but racial justice is a journey — not a destination,” Picca said. “I hope we can be on that journey together.”
The UD community is invited to participate in activities and educational opportunities involved with Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month. The month-long celebration is sponsored by the University of Dayton Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center. Photos courtesy AAA.