UPDATED: Princeton voices: Speaking out on anti-Asian American racism and violence in aftermath of the Atlanta shootings

Thursday, Mar 18, 2021
by Jamie Saxon, Office of Communications

The roots of injustice, racism and violence directed against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in the United States took hold long before the horrific March 16 killings in Atlanta — and long before the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. Speaking to the moment, several Princeton faculty members and alumni have shared their expertise, historical research, and personal perspectives on racism against Asians and Asian Americans through appearances in online events and across news platforms and social media, as well in the virtual classroom.

Editor's note: This story has been continually updated with additional statements, story links and social media posts since it was first published on March 18.

In addition, Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber wrote a March 17 post expressing solidarity with the AAPI community at the University and around the world. Statements from other campus leaders include:

Nolan McCarty, interim dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (read here) Andrea Goldsmith, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (read here) Pablo Debenedetti, dean for research (read here) Maggie Dillon, executive director, Sharon Lyu Volckhausen, chair of the Board of Trustees, and Elizabeth Rodriguez Chandler, vice chair of the Board of Trustees, on behalf of Princeton in Asia (read here) Anna Shields, the Gordon S. Wu ’58 Professor of Chinese Studies and chair of Department of East Asian Studies, and Stephen Teiser, the D. T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and director of the Program in East Asian Studies, on behalf of the department and program, respectively (read here).

Below, you can read, watch and listen to some of the Princeton faculty and alumni contributions to this vital national dialogue.

Panel discussions and online conversations

“A conversation with Georgia State Senator Dr. Michelle Au.” Au is a first-generation Asian American and the Georgia State Senator for District 48. This March 18 event was sponsored by Princeton’s Asian American Students Association. “Race in the COVID Era: What America’s History of Racism and Xenophobia Means for Today.” This June 8 event was the inaugural event of a series on equity, inclusion and COVID-19 and features Beth Lew-Williams, associate professor of history; Keith Wailoo, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs; and Helen Zia, a 1973 graduate, activist and author. Watch here. “A conversation with Charles Yu.” This Feb. 11 event, sponsored by Princeton’s Asian American Students Association, featured author and 2020 National Book Award winner Charles Yu, and Paul Nadal, assistant professor of English and American studies. Watch here. “A conversation with Ronny Chieng.” This Jan. 31 event, sponsored by Princeton’s Asian American Students Association, featured comedian Ronny Chieng; Monica Youn, professor of creative writing; and Ben Chang, University spokesperson and deputy vice president of communications, and explored comedy and the Asian American experience. Watch here. Princeton Humanities Council Fall 2019 Colloquium. Anne Cheng, professor of English, “The Critical Exhaustion of WOC.”

News stories and op-eds

Anne Cheng, professor of English, opinion piece in The New York Times, “What this wave of anti-Asian violence reveals about America”; on CBS News, “Reports of Anti-Asian hate crimes rose nearly 150% in major U.S. cities last year”; on NPR's 1A, "The Rise In Anti-Asian Attacks During The COVID-19 Pandemic"; and in the Atlantic, "Let Us Be Clear About How Racist Misogyny Works." Cheng also appeared in the Zoom webinar “Contextualizing violence against Asians and Asian Americans within the history of U.S. relational racism," hosted by the University of Michigan’s department of Women’s and Gender Studies; read the Michigan Daily story. Alicia Lai, a 2018 graduate and J.D. candidate at University of Pennsylvania Law School, opinion piece in Scientific American, "Prosecuting Asian-American scientists for espionage is a shortsighted strategy," which quotes Yibin Kang, the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton. Kevin Kruse, professor of history, opinion piece for MSNBC: “The Atlanta shootings, Vincent Chin and America's history of anti-Asian racism.” Beth Lew-Williams, associate professor of history, on WNYC's "The Takeaway," “The deep history of anti-Asian violence in the U.S.” Asha Rangappa, a 1996 graduate, appear on Don Lemon's show on CNN, discussing intersectionality, race-based and gender-based violence. Nicholas Wu, a 2018 graduate, in USA Today: “'We will not let you take our voice from us': Rep. Meng responds to Republicans at hearing on anti-Asian discrimination”; “Congress will hold hearing on anti-Asian violence for the first time in more than 30 years and just days after Atlanta shootings” (also, his Twitter thread on the hearing); “Biden, Harris to meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta following spa attacks”; and “Will Atlanta shootings spur action on anti-Asian hate crime laws?” Helen Zia, a 1973 graduate, activist and author of "Asian American Dreams," on PBS News Hour: “Asian Americans face a wave of discrimination during the pandemic.”

Social media

Kinohi Nishikawa, associate professor of English and African American studies, shared on Twitter on March 17 that he asked students in his “Black and Asian in America” course to listen to the May 4, 2020, YouTube dialogue “Sisters and Siblings in the Struggle: COVID-19 + Black + Asian-American Feminists Solidarities,” which “is still relevant today.” Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies, March 16 Twitter thread on why she always teaches Asian American history as part of her course on race in legal history. “…you cannot teach serious history of U.S. law as an instrument of racial injustice without the history of Asian Americans…” Beth Lew-Williams’ book “The Chinese Must Go” (Harvard University Press) recommended on Twitter on March 17, by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, for its exploration of “how anti-Asian (anti-Chinese, specifically) racism constructed American ideas about citizens, aliens and belonging.” Lew-Williams also teaches the course “Chinese Exclusion and Anti-Chinese Violence” at the National Humanities Center (NHC), which was highlighted on Twitter on March 18 by Andy Mink, VP of education at NHC. Sam Wang, professor of neuroscience, March 18 Twitter thread on statistics comparing incidents of Asian American violence in relation to other races/ethnicities. Curators at Princeton University Art Museum paired excerpts from President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s statement with works in the museum’s collections by Asian-American artists for a series of social media posts on Instagram and Facebook.

Events focused on the Asian American experience

March 25. “Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact — A Conversation with Phil Chan.” Professors Anne Cheng, professor of English, and Paul Nadal, assistant professor of English and American Studies, in conversation with Phil Chan, an arts educator, advocate and co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, an online platform committed to eliminating stereotypes of Asians in the performing arts. This event, presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance in the context of Tina Fehlandt's spring dance course, "Ballet as an Evolving Form," is free and open to all Princeton students, faculty and staff. Register here. April 5. Screening of "Minari" and conversation with filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and a Golden Globe, "Minari" is a delicately wrought drama that follows a Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in search of their own American Dream. Tracing the material and emotional challenges of this new life in the rugged Ozarks for this young family, "Minari" shows the resilience of family and what it means to forge a home when you are seen as strangers from a different land. Watch the conversation between filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung and Anne Cheng, professor of English, here. This event was sponsored by the Department of English, the Program in American Studies and the Office of the Dean of the College. Read Cheng's "Minari" review in The Atlantic here. April 9 and 10. The Lewis Center for the Arts' Program in Theater presents a filmed production of Lloyd Suh’s play “The Chinese Lady,” a dark, poetic, yet whimsical portrait of America through the eyes of a young Chinese woman, based on the life of Afong Moy, alleged to be the first Chinese woman in America and her life as a subject of display and curiosity. The stream is free and open to the public, and there are two talks in connection with the show: the first featuring by Suh, Anne Cheng and Beth Lew-Williams, and a second with the students who led this project. Learn more here.

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