Message from the Chief Diversity Officer: In support of Asian Americans

Thursday, March 18, 2021

I have been reflecting on the words of President Biden when he addressed the nation last week, and in particular when he spoke about the vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans. One phrase in particular has stayed with me — when he said, “they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”

In light of the horrific events that took place in Atlanta on March 16, in which six women of Asian descent were killed, I keep returning to these words. There is no doubt about the rise in hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community — and women in particular — during the COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot allow the Asian American community to bear this burden alone.

App State strongly denounces cultural racism and xenophobic actions. We are committed to creating a culture of equal opportunity for all — one that has an expectation of fairness, justice and equity-minded practice at all levels of the university community.

In my work, I am inspired by the writings and research of Dr. Derald Sue, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University. Dr. Sue warns that acts of violence one might expect from more radical and extreme groups can become normalized, explaining, “through a process of social conditioning, well-intentioned, moral, ethical individuals have unconsciously taken on prejudices that our society perpetuates toward various minority groups.”

Racism and sexism dehumanize all of us. Dr. Sue encourages each of us to ask ourselves: “Do I want to be someone who contributes to a stressful and hostile environment for people around me?” As an institution of higher education, we have a responsibility to actively encourage, support and promote a global and equitable environment where ALL will know that they belong and that they are safe to express their culture, identity, values, ideas, opinions and creativity.

Last summer, I shared with you my experiences during the pandemic — of witnessing people of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds caring for folk they don’t know, yet who they know are deserving of care, and how it is their humanity that drives them to treat all with dignity and respect. These are the lessons we must continue to put into practice as we rally behind those of Asian descent all over the world who have been affected by acts of hate and xenophobia.

/s/ Willie C. Fleming

Dr. Willie Fleming