Dear Oberlin College Community:
In the collection, “The Origin of Others,” the late novelist and scholar Toni Morrison writes about the perpetual “othering” of Black people and people of color in the interest of upholding white supremacy. In the previous campus communication from the Presidential Initiative, we expressed outrage over the example of anti-Black, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and queerphobic insurgency in the nation’s capital on January 6.
Today, we sharpen our focus on anti-Asian racism, which has resurged in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result of violent public racism condoned by our national leadership in recent years. Ms. Morrison’s words are always timely; in this instance she speaks astutely of the ways in which many are made to feel like outsiders or “others,” to uphold inequality and racism.
We know that our Asian, Asian-American, and Paciific Islander communities are extremely diverse, both in and outside of Oberlin. Racism and violence against Asians in this country and abroad goes against our sense of human decency and values. At Oberlin, we have students, staff, and faculty who have experienced racist taunts, abuse, and discrimination. Many have family members across the country and world who are struggling against the same. Advocacy organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate have reported at least 2,880 incidents of violent attacks in 2020, with rising numbers in 2021.
It is imperative to stand against racism and other forms of hate targeting Black people, Asians, Asian Americans, Latin@s and Latinxs, Jews and many other groups, while acknowledging the complexities of the relationships between them. Many in our communities hold multiple identities with which they navigate the messiness of American racial dynamics. Ultimately, anti-racism is a shared goal that demands collaboration and solidarity, not division and alienation.
The Presidential Initiative seeks to remove the barriers that prevent all students, faculty and staff from feeling supported, while cultivating a racial climate with a strengthened commitment to education, social justice and equity. In partnership with colleagues in Comparative American Studies, the Conservatory, the Multicultural Resource Center, Student Affairs, faculty and students, we are actively examining all of the ways that those at Oberlin can strengthen resources in support of Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander students. We support hiring, recruitment, and retention strategies that ensure success for all members of our community.
Meredith M. Gadsby
Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity