Shortly after three Atlanta-area shootings that killed six Asian women last week, my parents questioned whether I should return to the United States to attend GW.
They pointed to statistics indicating that more than 500 hate crimes against Asian Americans have already been recorded in the country this year, and the shootings in Atlanta were one of the many. My dad told me I won’t always have my parents to keep me safe, and I need friends who will ensure my safety. My mom suggested I purchase a gun for self-defense, and I should head to my cousin in Canada if hate crimes rise in the District.
My parents may be worrying too much, but they are being reasonable. As an Asian student, my life is on the line if I come back to a country where anti-Asian violence is on the rise, only to take classes. I can’t help but worry that other Asian students or I might face racial violence if we come back to campus.
When I thought about returning to GW this fall, I turned to student leaders to gauge whether they are just as concerned as I am. Many of the candidates running for Student Association president, executive vice president and senator seats have drummed up some ideas for approaching issues of diversity and inclusion, but I was disappointed to learn that no one really had ideas to address anti-Asian hate on campus. When I asked senatorial candidates directly about the issue, many avoided my question altogether and merely emphasized their commitment to “listen” to the GW community. One candidate even said he is “never going to truly understand our things as a White guy.” It is concerning that even our campus leaders are not being proactive about Asian hate when we know it is prevalent across the United States.
My decision to return is also dependent on how seriously officials take the deadly shootings in Atlanta. Following the tragedy, University President Thomas LeBlanc released a statement condemning the violence. But his words were just that: a statement. I wish I saw a more concerted push from administrators to reach out to Asian students when anti-Asian hate is clearly growing in the United States. Asian students need to know that they are being supported the minute they return to campus come fall, if it is safe to do so.
It is the most fundamental value any people should always mutually understand, tolerate and care for each other, regardless of their skin color, religious beliefs and cultural differences. We must learn solidarity as a GW community to ensure we can fight any form of hate on campus and beyond. While many people are suffering and dying from racial violence every day, it is imperative, and I am confident, that our student, faculty and administrative leaders work to prevent hate and promote rights for minorities rather than just denounce a violent event after it happens. Even if this effort only reaches a certain level of defeating the spread of hate on campus, it is still worthwhile to do it.
Henry Deng, a freshman, is an opinions writer.