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Now is the time to start thinking about our neighbors

You can’t talk about this country without talking about race.

It is a factor, a filter, a part of everyday life that, for the lives and experiences of American people of color, absolutely cannot be ignored.

On March 16th, a 21-year-old white man murdered eight people, six of them Asian women, in the Atlanta area.

The next day, a captain at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office stated that the man who killed them had a “really bad day”, and that he had no indication that it was a hate crime. It was later reported that the officer who made that statement had previously posted photos on Facebook of a shirt referring to COVID-19 as an “Imported Virus from Chy-na,” a clear reference to the racist statements of former President Trump regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

A piece from the Daily Beast described the shooter as a “Georgia man who professed a passion for guns and God.” An interview from the piece described him as “innocent-seeming,” noting his father’s supposed status as a pastor and being “big into religion.”

This is one face of white supremacy that we see all too often in our society.

Humanizing mass murderers does nothing for us, nor our society. And it’s not a thing that happens for any other group. Only the Dylan Roofs and Kyle Rittenhouses of the world, white murderers, are given feel-good stories and have pictures shown with broad smiles, while non-white criminals, and even innocent Black people murdered by police, have every facet of their personal lives deeply and thoroughly examined. 

Such narratives contribute nothing to finding justice for victims, and they only perpetrate white supremacist narratives.

Meanwhile, Chosun Ilbo, a Korean-language newspaper, found a rather different angle.

Quoting a worker at one of the spas targeted by the murderer, they pointed out the fact that a witness claimed the murderer stated he would “kill all Asians” at the time of the crime.

This seems like an unquestionable hate crime. And it’s not alone. Stop AAPI Hate, a group chronicling incidents of hate against Asian American-Pacific Islanders, reported that almost 3,800 hate incidents had occurred in the time since March 19, 2020 – the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

For many Asian-Americans in this country, this is yet another addition of fear in a daily life that is often vigilant of racist attacks.

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As I wrote about in a previous piece for The Student, I have no patience for so-called “cancel culture.” Recently, a new media source on campus, The Miami Patriot, ran an article condemning “cancel culture,” or rather the non-entity with that label, as well as “identity politics” for their mere existence on Miami’s campus.

I feel empathy for such views, simply because they come from a place knowing nothing about oppression and its dynamics in this country. These students have never been called a “ladyboy,” a derogatory term for (especially Thai) transgender women, when mentioning their ethnic heritage. 

These students have never been asked if dogs taste good, or how often they eat cats at home. 

They were never asked if they belonged in ESL (English as a Second Language) programs when meeting high school teachers for the first time. 

They never live with the experience of being called any of a wide variety of racial slurs and other epithets for simply existing in a space.

From speaking to other Asian people around my age, I’m one of the lucky ones for merely experiencing this. I never experienced death threats or outright physical violence against my person. 

I’m still alive. 

The same can’t be said for those six women.

I write this on a campus that saw racist incidents against international students following our first coronavirus scare last January, and have continued during this school year. I write this as a student at a university which had to counter comments from parents’ groups calling for international students, especially Chinese students, to be barred from returning to campus.

We have to do better, Miamians.

Our school has a reputation and a culture where racism and bigotry are pervasive, and there’s no sign of it stopping on its own. It’s up to us to end this culture.

When you see or hear racist remarks pinning the spread of COVID on Asian students, or hear the n-word in your social circles or from your friends or classmates, do something. Speak out. We live by the Code of Love and Honor. Make this campus a better place with everything you say and do.

Now is the time to start thinking about our neighbors. This university is not White Miami. It’s our Miami, a Miami for everyone.

@VesteyTMS

vesteymj@miamioh.edu

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