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Centering on dynamics of othering affecting people of Asian descent in America, “The Rise of Anti-Asian Hate” shared experiences and observations of bias and ways to unify with like-minded movements to eliminate systemic inequities.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion  •  September 28, 2020

How can we support more of our students who are experiencing/experienced anti-Asian racism especially now?

Lehua Kono: It really starts with recognizing your own biases, where those biases came from, and how to try to change those and your mindset. Educate yourself. There are so many media and resources out there, so you need to take everything with a grain of salt and actually look into different sources to make sure you’re learning what is correct and what is biased. We’re all affected by this virus. Those of us who identify as Asian, we feel we are being attacked. We hear about people being attacked and brutally discriminated. We’re all angry by it. We need to recognize we all experience different kinds of oppression. That’s important to recognize in order to strengthen bonds so we are all able to address issues in our communities and minority groups in general.

How does this compare to the hatred the Muslims faced after 9/11? or Asian Americans after Pearl Harbor?

Kent Ono: I’m actually doing a study with colleagues on coronavirus and the way the media is portraying Asian Americans after the beginning of the pandemic. What we found is there are hundreds of cases of hate crimes that were committed after this occurred — not unlike what happened after 9/11 for South Asian and Middle Eastern people. For example, on February 5, 2020, a video posted to YouTube depicted an Asian woman running through a subway station from being attacked by a man who hit her in the head with his hands, feet, and umbrella. He then called the woman, who was wearing a face mask, a “diseased bitch.” I have so many other examples from our study on this kind of harassment, violence, and bodily harm — but we don’t get a sense of that, because the media doesn’t pull that information together for us to see that this is having not only a national impact, but a global impact on Asian peoples globally.

Has there been an increase in discrimination against Asian American health care providers and patients since COVID?

Harjit Kaur: The simple answer is yes. There are already a lot of communities that don’t seek out health care providers due to trust issues and other factors, but this compounds it more. I hear it a lot in my community, “we don’t want the stigma; there’s already hate against us. We don’t want to go to the doctor.”

How do y’all feel about COVID being called “China Virus” by President Trump?

Brian Shiazawa: This pandemic has been awful for us in terms of economic hits and loss of life. There are real losses every day. There are people desperate to find the blame, so calling it the “China Virus” — like our President has used — is a way of externalizing.

Kent Ono: Things got worse for Asians and Asian Americans after Tump used the terms “WuHan Virus”, “China Virus”, and “Kung Flu,” but he is not the only one. Media has also used words like “Wuhan pneumonia,” “Asian Virus,” and “Chinese coronavirus,” for instance, and there was little to no critique of this.

In what ways has the Black Lives Matter movement contributed to Asian Americans speaking up against increasing anti-Asian sentiment in the United States?

Harjit Kaur: All these issues are connected. We’ve been othered, so we don’t feel we have power. And in that sense, we don’t have power. We are not able to connect with other people of color. We feel we are separate; we’re a different group. Like Dr. Ono mentioned, this is systemic. It is systemic to make us feel separated so we do not come together. When people ask me how can we combat anti-Asian hate, we should work towards anti-Black racism. We should work together, so we can progress together.

Can y’all speak to the breadth of anti-Asian hate different communities are currently experiencing aside from COVID-19 discrimination? 

Theda Peilos: We are often thought of as “other” — never really part of this country. We are the most likely to be told to “go home.” This has happened to me quite a few times. It’s that “otherness” because of the way we look, because of who we are. I’m not sure how we can really reduce the feeling that we are not really part of this country. You are seen as more vulnerable. It has been very concerning.

Kent Ono: The “model minority” myth stereotype is the number one stereotype against Asian Americans in this country. It’s done incredible damage to the Asian American and other communities. It’s been used as a dividing wedge between Asian Americans and our African American, Latinx, Middle Eastern, Indigenous allies. So rather than see the common way: “racial injustice and oppression occurs across all groups,” it tends to promote this image that Asian Americans are somehow different — that Asian Americans are somehow not experiencing racial oppression. It’s at times like this that it becomes really apparent that the subtle racism that Asian Americans experience on a daily basis — on an hourly basis — within the United States comes to the forefront, and we suddenly see dramatic instances of aggression, hatred, and harassment. Also, the model minority appears where it starts to say, “you’re a community that doesn’t suffer; you’re a community that’s not a part of white supremacy; you don’t feel the kinds of pain that other minorities feel.” It makes it really difficult to have collaborative coalitional political movements and responses to support each other when the media constantly perpetuates this false notion of Asian American exceptionalism.

Tricia Sugiyama: As a fourth-generation Asian American who doesn’t speak Japanese, there’s a feeling of “am I Asian enough to speak on this issue?” It becomes a distancing and silencing of your voice. This is one of the things that harms our community; we often feel silenced within our community to talk about things. This also goes to what we can do to support each other. So much is happening that we stay silent about because we’re worried that we’re not enough to speak to that issue. I feel this is something I need to work on, but definitely, we should work on it as a community as well.

Are there communication strategies to correct/educate someone who is unconsciously bias?

Theda Peilos: It is worth having a conversation with everyone, and your voice needs to be heard. If there was ever a time to speak, it’s now. It’s difficult, and being virtual adds another complexity. But it comes down to a personal commitment to continue to speak, to continue to call out what’s happening, and to make sure that everyone in your circle of influence does the same thing. Hopefully, that will spark a greater conversation across the board. At the end of the day, if we continue to be silent, we can’t enact change.

Harjit Kaur: Support one another. Often we feel we shouldn’t talk out things not impacting us or feel we’re not x-y-z enough. If we have conversations with people about feelings and understanding, we can find commonalities and similarities we can build on.

How do we decolonize our minds within our own communities to build bridges so are more intersectional?

Harjit Kaur: I both have been oppressed and the oppressor; and internal reflection has allowed me to connect with people. There’s a lot of humility we have to carry, and these conversations are complicated. We have to remember that fighting for the change of one group is fighting for the change of every group. Staring with your personal stories and histories, and how they play out in the communities you are currently a part of, allows us to decolonize our minds. The way we think about things is taught very broadly through large systems, and we have to be critical about the information we receive. I hope that even those here are critical of what we are saying, because that’s the only way we can grow together.

Kent Ono: Notice, realize, and pay attention to the shared desire and needs of groups, because it need not affect one’s particular group directly to still have compassion and still see how someone else is harmed. It is helpful to talk about shared histories — from the incarceration of Japanese Americans to the reservations system for Indigenous Peoples to the prison industrial complex affecting Black and Brown people in the United States today to the incarceration in Guantanamo Bay of Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples. 

What resources are there for Asian Americans in Utah and the University of Utah? Are there resources for high school students?

Lehua Kono: The Asian American Student Association (AASA) holds high school conferences and high school outreach. They can reach out to us for resources in their communities.

Tricia Sugiyama: There are several support offices within Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Please stop in and have a conversation at our centers. While this conversation is on anti-Asian hate, this impacts a whole of our lives. There isn’t one answer to anything. Please reach out.

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