It is with sadness that I write, in my capacity as President of the University of British Columbia, to mourn the deaths of eight people murdered in an act of senseless violence in Atlanta, Georgia:
- Soon Chung Park, age 74
- Suncha Kim, age 69
- Yong Ae Yue, age 63
- Paul Andre Michels, age 54
- Hyun Jung Grant, age 51
- Xiaojie Tan, age 49
- Daoyou Feng, age 44
- Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33
We know that six of the women murdered were Asian. These women were mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties—and their kin and friends all grieve their loss. In singling out Asian women, this atrocity must be recognized as an act of racialized misogyny. As an Asian man, the tragedy affected me deeply.
We must recognize, as well, that although this incident occurred in the United States, it could have taken place in Canada.
Systemic exclusions of Chinese immigrants began over 150 years ago and continued through the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. The more recent wave of anti-Asian rhetoric and violence amplified by COVID-19 is the latest chapter in a long and tortured history. And in these different moments of our history, we also know that Asian women have and continue to disproportionately experience anti-Asian racism and violence.
To my Asian community members—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—I stand by you. I share in your grief and want you to know that I see you and share in your pain. If you feel anxious, or that you need to talk to someone, we can help. You can find a list of resources here.
As valued members of the university community, I am listening to you. I am grateful to the many of you who attended our community listening sessions and generously shared with me your thoughts about how we might better challenge racism at UBC.
I heard you when you told me that statements are not enough. I agree. You explained that you have been profoundly affected by the rise in hostilities and violence directed at the different Asian communities.
It is my hope that the recently established Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Taskforce will provide recommendations on how best to address racism at UBC. It is only by working together across racial lines that we can stand in solidarity to succeed in our struggle against all forms of racism, including anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racisms.
UBC will host a two-day virtual event in early June 2021 to bring together a diverse range of perspectives and experiences relating to anti-Asian racism in Canada. Speakers will be invited across sectors and across Canada to have frank conversations about anti-Asian racism, and discussions will be facilitated to lead to the articulation of bold and concrete recommendations for action.
To the many organizations and people that already work to challenge ongoing forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination at UBC, including the Asian Canadian and Asian Migration (ACAM) Studies program and the Asian Canadian Community Engagement Initiative (ACCE), I thank you. There are many scholars who work tirelessly at our institution to combat forms of anti-Asian discrimination daily through their research and teaching. Staff across our institution engage in anti-racism work as they deliver resources and services in support of UBC’s strategic commitments. Students, in and out of the classroom, lead and advocate for social change that inspires hope. Together, we all have a part to play in undoing these pernicious forms of racial violence and injustice.
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960.
Today, and every day, as we move forward, we resolve to affirm and commit ourselves to challenging all forms of racism and discrimination. We must continue to work together to create constellations of care at UBC to build a stronger and more just world.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor
Header photo credit: Paul H. Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing