By Annie Serkes
On March 16, a man went on a rampage at three different spas in Atlanta, killing eight people, six of them being of Asian descent. Although we may not know the true motive from the shooter, it is a tragic incident and a major wake up call to our nation. In response to this act of violence, President Sterritt took action in an email statement of solidarity to the community. This statement showed support for the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and highlighted that the campus community stands by its mission.
“These most recent acts of violence and indeed all instances of racism fly in the face of our mission of celebrating diversity and advancing a peaceful society. I ask that we all continue to engage in conversation, seek truth, reach out with empathy to those who are hurting, and take care of one another.”
Stop AAPI Hate is a nonprofit social organization that tracks incidents of xenophobia and discrimination against those in the AAPI community. The organization reported that nearly 3,800 hate incidents against these communities occurred over the past year. With the recent increase in hate crimes against the community, many people living in the United States who identify as AAPI are living in fear.
Saint Michael’s College is actively trying to stop xenophobia, and in response to the recent violence against the AAPI community, the College community has also introduced initiatives to take action.
“Liberal arts education is intended to prepare students for global and socially conscious citizenship – education in itself should disrupt xenophobia,” said Kristin McAndrew, vice president for enrollment and marketing.
“More specifically, there are a number of things happening right now. Faculty are sharing resources for class discussions, the Anti-Racism Coalition has begun a Weekly Witness for Peace and Racial Justice, and there is a table in Alliot where students can show support of our AAPI community,” said McAndrew.
Another initiative that provides help to students who have experienced any issues of bias, racism, or discrimination is the SMC Bias Response Team– made up of faculty, staff and administrators. Students at St. Michael’s are encouraged to report these types of issues, so appropriate measures can be taken.
“We meet together every two weeks about approaches, if there are incidents, we meet weekly,” said Margaret Bass, special assistant to the President for diversity and inclusion and chair of the SMC Racial Justice Task Force. “We solve the harm that has been done and solve the problem in a more constructive and less punitive way.”
“I know many Asians are feeling unsafe around the country, but I don’t feel like this in Vermont,” said Ethan Li, ’22 who is currently an international student from Wuhan, China. “It is a safe place, especially here at school. “I think St. Michael’s is very caring of their students, and in the recent shooting situation the president’s email outreach really added some comfort for our community at school.”
The Diversity Coalition is a resource on campus that hosts activities and events that help educate students about an array of issues such as race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and more. They are also engaging to raise more awareness around Asian discrimination, and educate people in the community.
“We are planning to host a vigil with lanterns at night, this will honor and show respect to the victims of the Atlanta shooting,” said Momoka Okamura, secretary of Diversity Coalition.
“We are also trying to brainstorm events for the future, to help educate and bring awareness to racism on campus and our everyday lives.”
These initiatives can help raise awareness on campus and help those who are feeling targeted. Along with these resources, professors and faculty play a major role in keeping students educated about racism, and on the violence against the AAPI community. They can also provide comfort and understanding to those who feel uneasy about this.
As for Li, he said he has felt support at the College. “I’ve been at St. Mike’s for three years, and I’ve really come to see how great the student community acts and treats others,” he said.. They are so welcoming and kind to everyone. It’s amazing that they stand by St. Mike’s core values of diversity and kindness. I don’t think there is a better community than that.” Li said.