The shootings that took place in Atlanta this week were another horrific, painful reminder of the threat that Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities face. This was not an isolated event.
In the past year, racist attacks on Asian Americans have surged in California and across the nation. Recently in California, a series of violent attacks have been perpetrated against AAPI elders, some leading to death. Members of the AAPI community are afraid to go for walks or let their children play outside. Nearly half of the almost 3,800 acts of anti-AAPI incidents reported in the last year occurred in California, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate.
Such attacks have been fueled by the bigotry and racist rhetoric that flowed from the highest levels of leadership in our country last year, which aimed to channel the fears and anxieties of the pandemic to further divide us. Unfortunately, they are also emblematic of the long history of exclusion, racism, and xenophobia with which this country continues to struggle regarding Asian Americans—beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. It is a pattern all too familiar to Latinx people, African Americans, Arab Americans, and Native/Indigenous Americans.
But we will not be divided. We will not let hatred win.
What can we do?
We must speak out and work against racism when we see it, now and every day. We must work in solidarity and as allies with all communities of color. We must stand with each other and for each other. Our futures are linked.
In the long term, we must dismantle racism by rooting it out in our systems, our practices, our leadership, our laws.
The work we do at College Futures Foundation with so many committed partners around California is, at its heart, about dismantling racism so that our systems of education and economic opportunity truly serve all of our diverse students—especially students of color, first-generation students, and those from low-income families. Our students and their families cannot learn, work, and guard their mental and physical health if our systems and society are designed to block and exclude them. They especially cannot do so if they are living in fear.
In the words of Grace Lee Boggs, Asian American author and activist, “Every crisis, actual or impending, needs to be viewed as an opportunity to bring about profound changes in our society. […] Visionary organizing begins by creating images and stories of the future that help us imagine and create alternatives to the existing system.”
We cannot lose sight of the long-term work that needs to be done. But today: Speak up. Be the love that is louder than the hate. We must remind each other that we all belong.
President & CEO
College Futures Foundation