In virtual roundtable, panelists discuss the need for the U.S. to confront anti-Asian violence

In response to unfolding crisis of increased violence against Asians and Asian Americans across the nation, Sheila Nair, a professor of politics and international affairs, initiated and organized virtual roundtable discussion, “Confronting Anti-Asian Hate and Violence in the U.S.” The panel, held on April 1,  attracted more than 90 attendees, including Asian Americanist scholars from across the country.

Panelists included NAU professor emeritus John Kong C. Leung, NAU graduate student Nha Pha Nguyen, NAU lecturer Binod Paudyal, Arizona State University associate professor Karen J. Leong and UC Santa Cruz associate professor Christine Hong.

Even though people of Asian descent contributed to U.S. history starting in the 18th century and have long fought for civil rights, many Americans know little about Asian American history and experiences. This roundtable explored how dominant stereotypes about Asian Americans being perpetual foreigners or Asian and Asian American women as sexually exotic reflect U.S. foreign relations in Asia and U.S. race relations; described the long history of anti-Asian racism, including U.S. imperialism in Asia; xenophobic immigration policies that excluded Asians from entering the United States; and anti-Asian violence that reflected U.S.-Asian relations, including the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans. Panelists further contextualized the shootings in Atlanta against U.S. militarism in Asia and U.S. foreign policy that sanctions sexual violence against Asian women in districts around U.S. military bases in Asia and depictions of Asian women in pornography and U.S. popular culture. Nair’s opening comments noted how some responses to anti-Asian violence have attempted to promote anti-Black racism within Asian American communities, distracting from the urgency of building multiracial solidarity for social justice.

Panelists acknowledged the work of Nair in organizing the event in a short window of time, noting that antiracist labor is all too often shouldered by women scholars of color. Leong noted this roundtable was one of the first in the state to address this topic: “Professor Nair recognized the urgent need to address the current national climate of anti-Asian racism. Even though this roundtable was not organized specifically for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it addresses the relative lack of knowledge about Asian American and Pacific Islander experiences in Arizona.”

The labor of organizing such events “occasion institutional self-reflection on the deprioritization of scholarship, teaching, and service of largely faculty of color related to racial injustice. Such faculty disproportionately labor, in invisible underrecognized ways, to build infrastructures of crisis response on campus,” Hong said.

Leung, who helped found NAU’s Asian studies minor and long championed Asian American studies and ethnic studies, noted how much work this takes. Nair thanked the panelists for their willingness to serve on the panel at such short notice. She noted that without their collaboration and support this roundtable would not have materialized.

The roundtable was co-sponsored by the departments of Politics and International Affairs and Ethnic Studies. The flier was designed and prepared by Amy Hitt of the School of Communication. Anyone interested in viewing the panel should contact Nair at sheila.nair@nau.edu.

Contributed by Christine Hong, Karen Leong, John Leung and Sheila Nair