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LA Town Hall: Response to the Racist/Misogynistic Flyer Sent to UCLA and USC

Political is personal and it affects all of us. “How many people have to get hurt before something gets done? The university won’t move until they see pain, yet pain we hide it so well,” said Uyen Hoang, the director of the Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA. Last Wednesday, USC’s APASA, USC’s SCAPE and UCLA’s APC teamed up to hold a LA Asian Pacific Islander Town Hall meeting in response to the racist incident that occurred earlier in February. The primary aim of the town hall was not to focus on the flyer but rather, to emphasize three things: context, community, and a call-to-action. It was both exceptionally informative yet awfully painful to hear what people of all different backgrounds had to say about college campuses not being post-racial and the administration’s passivity towards discriminatory acts.

Here are a few snippets of the stories told at the Town Hall. A Native Hawaiian spoke of a Caucasian graduate professor who was outwardly racist and assaulted a student of color, yet is still an educator at UCLA. An American-Indian of Navajo descent spoke about how UCLA was his dream school, yet now, he’s not in love with it as he once was… because of discrimination that still exists. He spoke about fraternity parties themed as “Bros and Navajos” and being asked if he gets free tuition because he is an American Indian. He was ecstatic, as were most other students, that we were talking, acknowledging a serious lack of education and also, a lack of action on the administration’s part. Another student explained how a student wearing a headscarf was both verbally and physically harassed.

A lot of people believe America is colorblind and post-racial, but it’s not. Colleges, like USC and UCLA, which boast about fostering diversity, should be ashamed. Anh Nguyen, the President of VSU at UCLA, could not have said it better when she told students, “Remind the university as a whole that they are responsible for the students… It’s a systemic change [needed] in society… it needs to start from the policymakers.” APASA’s Assistant Director, Alison Chang, also mentioned, “On an individual level, it’s hard to fight back to those micro-aggressions. But, that’s why we do it as a community. Only when we stand together can we truly be heard.”

In order to stand together in solidarity, the Town Hall Meeting closed with various people signing a list of demands addressed to UCLA’s administration. The Town Hall was largely focused on sharing pain rather than speaking about how to respond/act as a community, but healing must come first before action. It also had a significantly larger emphasis on UCLA’s campus climate as opposed to USC’s. However, UCLA has also had a longer history regarding administration’s passivity towards addressing discriminatory acts than USC. A lot of students at USC are still unsure of what specifically to ask from administration or if there is a need to address administration. Is it strictly an education issue? We may have a diversity requirement but is it enough? What else can we do?

Questions may still remain unanswered, but the Town Hall made it clear that discriminatory acts still exist and will continue to persist unless we speak up. Even if these acts are not addressed to you, they are directed towards members of your community and it won’t just stop. As Alex Kanegawa, a member of SCAPE, said, “A lot of people assume that we should just let it go… But then, we’re going to be internalizing our own oppressions… And we shouldn’t let it keep happening.”

It was surprising to see how acts of discrimination could fully alter a person’s college experience. College campuses are meant to be safe and inclusive, but what happens when they are not? It’s disappointing and a clear indication that something must change. Pain in life, should stem from a bad breakup or from breaking your bone, not from the harsh words and hurtful actions by other members of your community.

Updates on these issues show that standing up for what you believe in can lead to change. The Chancellor of UCLA has released a letter addressing the UCLA’s list of demands clearly and he understands it is a university issue and explains how UCLA will go about addressing those demands, setting a timeline and a procedure. USC’s Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Dr. Carry, has also spoken out, with no real plan of action. What do we want on campus for USC? What do students want on USC’s campus?

Hahney Yo

APASA Intern

Advancing Justice Conference 2013

USC Students at AJC on Saturday As the IVP of SCAPE and one of APASS CIRCLE's Teaching Assistants, I've been excited for the National Advancing Justice Conference for awhile.  Prior to the conference, I brought my CIRCLE participants to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice LA's office.  We met with Nathanel Lowe, a community organizer, who introduced us to some of the AAAJ staff that are actively working to make a positive impact in the community. Besides the conference, they are currently working on Gurmukh Singh's case. Singh was detained for five months and now after being released, faces deportation and separation from his wife and two daughters.

Last month, 17 USC students attended the conference hosted by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.  USC students from APASA, SCAPE, and APASS came together to attend the only national conference that focuses on civil rights and social justice for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.  We were fortunate enough to have funding from USG to support us and Andy Su, SCAPE's Community Service Chair, to organize all the logistics for us to attend. The conference was from Thursday, November 14th to Saturday, November 16th.  I personally was only able to attend Saturday's portion of the conference, including two plenaries and a workshop, but found it a worthwhile experience nonetheless.

The first plenary was Cross Racial Movement Building: Bridging our Difference for Effective Action, which started off with a panel of four influential leaders, Tuyet Le (Moderator), Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Tammy Bang Luu, and Johnny Ramirez.  There was a great discussion about building coalitions across racial lines.  A thoughtful question that I enjoyed was, "What is a shared vision of justice for our community that takes into account our differences?"

The workshop I went to was Arts in Activism: Arts and Arts Organizing in Social Justice, with Traci Kato-Kiriyama, Alison De La Cruz, and Patrick Huang.  Traci came to campus last year to do a workshop about acts and activism with APASA, so it was nice seeing a familiar face.  My favorite quote of the day came from her saying, "You must be accountable to your dreams." The workshop discussed the intersection and incorporation of the arts and activism.  We participated in helpful breathing exercises and a thoughtful and fun writing, music, and performance activity.  Overall it was not only educational, but inspiring as well.  Traci is a community leader I truly appreciate and look up to.

The last plenary and closing session of the conference was Winning Immigration Reform: What Will It Take and How Will We Do it?  The panel consisted of Congresswoman Judy Chu, Professor Bill Ong Hing, Reverend Deborah Lee, and Gurmukh Singh.  I most looked forward to hearing Congresswoman Judy Chu speak, especially with the work she has done regarding immigration.  I was also moved by Gurmukh Singh and his family.  It saddens me to see him fighting so hard to stay with his family.  There is a petition going around to support him, and you can help by signing it here!  During the panel, there were many tough issues addressed, such as the politics that are stopping comprehensive immigration reform from passing, S.744, and the future of DREAMers, much of which, I did not know about before.

Overall, I was glad I was able to attend the conference.  I left feeling invigorated and inspired as an Asian American leader, not just on campus but in my community as well!

Vivian Tsai