Message on Anti-Asian Discrimination

Dear campus community,

From coast to coast, Asian and Asian-American communities are experiencing an alarming number of acts of bias, prejudice and bigotry. From 2019 to 2020 alone, nearly 3,000 acts were reported. Orange County is no exception. Here the Human Rights Commission reports a 10-fold increase in anti-Asian incidents and crimes. These disturbing trends do not include under reported incidents of verbal harassment, spitting and other forms of intimidation and physical violence that can take place anywhere — on the street or sidewalk, in a neighborhood park, a shopping center or mall, or place of work among others. Nor do they fully convey the traumatic harm and fear of being targeted or the anger of having one’s very existence questioned for no other reason than one’s identity.

COVID-19 did not cause anti-Asian discrimination and xenophobia in the United States but it has revealed it. Early in the pandemic, I wrote about how the media use of “Wuhan Coronavirus” was not only unnecessary but also stigmatized an entire region and country and by extension people. Recognizing this, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the nomenclature COVID-19. Even as the response to the pandemic by essential workers and first responders inspired the hopeful sentiment that “we are all in this together,” our former president doubled down on xenophobic rhetoric by using the expression in press conferences and statements. Regardless of nationality or heritage, this endorsement emboldened and primed individuals to engage in anti-Asian discrimination, from avoidance, racist rhetoric to physical violence.

As a campus relentlessly committed to inclusive excellence, there is no place for anti-Asian discrimination here or anywhere. Asian and Asian-Americans constitute an integral part of our campus community-past, present and future. They include our diverse undergraduate and graduate students, staff and faculty, alumni and the many communities that we proudly serve locally, regionally, nationally and globally. Indeed, UCI stands out among member campuses of the prestigious Association of American Universities as a federally designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). Standing with Asian and Asian-Americans is an emphatic demonstration of UCI’s enduring commitment to inclusive excellence.

Just as our remarkable health care professionals and workers respond to COVID-19 with science and compassion, we will continue to Confront Extremism with the light of understanding and empathy. There are many ways to participate in inclusive excellence.

Last year, I closed my campus message on Inclusivity During Difficult Times with a call to action. It remains as relevant today as it was then. It is not enough to expect equity for ourselves but fail to advocate on behalf of others; to support diversity without understanding the diverse communities that make up our community; to practice inclusion without confronting bias and prejudice; and honor free speech without using it for advancing inclusive excellence.

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Sincerely,

Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Pronouns: he/him/his)
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Director, ADVANCE Program
Professor of History