19 March 2021
The members of the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University formally condemn anti-Asian racism and violence. The mass shootings in Georgia have brought national attention to the ways in which Asian American working class women are vulnerable to attacks. While we may never understand the basis of these attacks, they have taken place in a context we can identify, analyze, and resist. Front and center in this tragedy is the normalization of bigotry against Asian Americans, and it is essential in a civil society to protect against efforts to deny basic human rights, dignity, and equality.
The relevant context here stretches back to Chinese exclusion, Japanese internment, to the more recent history of xenophobia and the rise of Islamaphobia directed at Muslim and South Asian communities after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- and thousands of reported incidents of violence motivated by anti-Asian vitriol associated with the Trump Administration labeling the Covid-19 virus as the “China virus.” Countering this history of exclusion and discrimination means recognizing Asian communities in the United States have multiple histories and that there are divergent stories to be told about the Asian American experience. It also requires us to publicly state that people of Asian descent are Americans, and international students from Asia are full members of our University community and enrich our learning every day.
In the global context, American imperialism has normalized violence against Asians.The construction of orientalist knowledge that accompanied imperial expansion sexualized and dehumanized Asian women in particular as submissive and sexually available. The history of colonialism shapes the way race, religion, and gender operate today. Resisting racism is also about resisting imperialism.
In this moment of tremendous sadness, we remember that the work of the university is not separate from the world we inhabit. The marginalization of Asian Studies, the insufficient number of Asian American course offerings, and the lack of widespread multiracial solidarity on campus are signs that the Lehigh community can do more to educate our students about these issues. We must construct more nuanced and accurate narratives about Asia and Asian Americans.
Anyone interested in understanding how to identify and confront hate, in learning more about what we can all do to stop hate directed at Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders, or in taking action to stop Islamophobia, can also learn more at STOP AAIP HATE. Anyone who might like to learn more about the complex politics and vulnerabilities of sex workers in the U.S., can find resources and support at VAST in the Lehigh Valley, the Sex Workers Project, G.L.I.T.S, or another community-driven organization centering human rights in sex work. If members of our community know anyone who is targeted by perpetrators of hate, please seek assistance through the interfaith service of the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley (MALV) or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).
The members of the Department of Political Science