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Dear Colleagues:

The recent murders of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta is horrific. My heart goes out to all who have lost their lives and their friends and family. 

The Law Center community stands against the racism and violence directed at the Asian and Asian-American community and supports our Asian and Asian American faculty, staff, students, alumni, and those whom they love.

This tragedy calls to mind Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s precept that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is important to recognize that this violence, although directed at strangers, reverberates through members of the same racial and ethnic community leaving them frightened and scared that their community is being targeted by hate. It also reverberates through other racial and ethnic communities for whom victimization is unfortunately all too familiar.

I wish that I could say these Anti-Asian acts of violence are isolated and unlikely to continue, but unfortunately there seems to be a pattern of an increasing percentage of hate crimes directed at members of the Asian American community. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate reports that there have been more than 3,795 hate crimes directed at Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) since March 19, 2020. Moreover, a new study has found an almost 150% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, while overall hate crimes have fallen by 7%. The study notes that not all hate crimes are reported, so although this percentage increase may seem shocking, it is most likely worse than it appears. This increase may be attributed to the anti-Asian rhetoric directed toward Asians and Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemicespecially disparagingly referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus.”

Sadly, Anti-Asian discrimination in the U.S. is not new; it has existed for almost 150 years when the U.S. government through legislation effectively barred Asian immigration to the U.S., barred Asian Americans from owning land, and interned those of Japanese descent in camps during World War II. Fortunately, much progress has been made, but unfortunately the salience of racism persists although it may now manifest itself differently. But as noted author Audre Lorde observed: “There is no hierarchy of oppressions.” A comparison of how different groups suffer from racial oppression is unproductive, except when comparing methods for combating similar forms of discrimination.

After George Floyd’s tragic death last summer, the Law Center faculty and staff unanimously passed a resolution that provided: 

"The Law Center recognizes and affirms its obligation to fight intolerance, to support diversity and inclusion, and to embrace those from different backgrounds. We condemn racism and discrimination in all forms, will work to serve as anti-racists committed to eradicating the scourge of racism from our nation and community, and will work to identify and challenge systemic prejudice wherever it exists."

We see it as part of our mission to educate our community on matters related to diversity and inclusion as we work toward a more just society. To that end, in September 2020, Frank H. Wu, president of Queens College, City University of New York was the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker. President Wu discussed his perspective on the Asian-American experience and how it must lead to allyship with the historic struggle for Black equality. His talk was entitled "Asian Americans at a Crossroads During COVID-19: Allyship and the Future of Civil Rights."

The Law Center will continue this important work by hosting a panel on April 9, 2021 from 4:30-6:00 PM to examine and explore the increasing number of hate crimes targeting Asians and Asian Americans. Please join us as a show of unity and to learn practical steps on how to combat this racism and intolerance. Click here to RSVP.

Sincerely,

Leonard M. Baynes
Dean & Professor of Law
University of Houston Law Center

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