AACC director discusses ways to support Asian community
April 19, 2021
The University of Illinois is home to students of all backgrounds.
About 40% of the total student population are students that represent the Asian American and Asian international community according to the Asian American Cultural Center.
To provide these students with a space to gather, the Asian American Cultural Center celebrates their shared cultures that reflect Asian American experiences at the University.
David W. Chih, director of the cultural center, spoke to The Daily Illini via email about how students can help recognize and combat anti-Asian racism.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Daily Illini: What could the University do to bring awareness to the Asian American community on campus?
David Chih: We hope everyone will validate what has happened to Asian Americans recently and throughout the past 150 years of history. Naming what has been happening this past year to Asian Americans as racist is powerful because race in this country is so often categorized as a Black-White issue. Denying the existence of anti-Asian and anti-Asian American racism further marginalizes Asian Americans and their concerns. We hope more people will learn about the history and experiences of Asian Americans. Asian Americans are often left out of the narrative of U.S. history and of race relation which contributes to our invisibility.
DI: How can students help combat racism?
DC: Develop greater racial empathy in part through learning more about Asian American history and current issues. Support people when they tell you about their experiences with racism. Speak out when they see injustice. Through our bystander intervention training, participants will learn how to raise awareness of what Asian Americans have faced in history, from microaggressions to violence to systemic racism. Further, participants will learn how to intervene safely the next time they witness anti-Asian harassment.
DI: When faced with a situation of racism, how should one react?
DC: Please report all bias-motivated incidents that occur within our University community to the Bias Assessment and Response Team, bart.illinois.edu. To learn more about anti-Asian hate and to report incidents that occur anywhere, visit stopaapihate.org.
DI: What additional information would you like students to takeaway from this story?
DC: People have become emboldened by racist rhetoric and the use of “China virus” or “Kung flu” to refer to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people believe this has fueled anti-Asian prejudice and bias this past year. However, anti-Asian xenophobia and scapegoating certainly is not new. We can easily trace systemic racism historically from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, to the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, to the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin by laid-off autoworkers, and nearly 20 years ago to the post-9/11 hate crimes against Middle Eastern and South Asian Americans.