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Civility Series on Anti-Asian Violence Stresses Importance of History

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Northeastern’s Civility Series connects the NU community in dialogues related to conflict, civility, and respect through two annual events. A previous dialogue earlier this year focused on the very real threat of white supremacy and the attack on the Capitol.  Likewise, the most recent event in the Civility series focused on the recent string of attacks and discrimination against Asian-Americans.

Civility Series Logo

The attacks are “recent” only in that they are the latest events in the United State’s long history of systematic violence against Asian-Americans. It was a theme repeated throughout the event:  Discrimination against Asian-Americans is nothing new.

Serena Parekh, Associate Professor of Philosophy and director of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Program (PPE), at Northeastern moderated the discussion. She was joined by Rachel Moo, Director of the Asian American Center; Sarbpreet Singh, Sikh Spiritual Advisor in the Center for Spiritual Dialogue and Service; Philip Thai, Associate Professor of History; and Margaret Woo, Professor of Law.

Professor Parekh set the stage by underscoring that the shootings in Atlanta demanded intersectional analysis. Gender and race interact in very specific ways to expose Asian-American women to violence. Moo echoed this sentiment and highlighted the consequences of the “Model Minority Myth,”  which obscures the struggles that the larger Asian-American community faces.

Professor Woo raised another important stereotype: the stereotype of the perpetual foreigner. “Whatever happens over there,” Professor Woo noted, “is always affecting how Asian-Americans are being perceived over here.” The previous presidential administration leaned particularly into this stereotype to sow discontent and shift the blame of their own mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. As Philip Thai noted, “the attacks draw on an anti-asian bigotry that has waited below the surface waiting to be activated.”

But all panelists saw ways forward. Singh put suggested important ways forward:

Sarbpreet Singh

“I know the spirit of solidarity exists today, events like this are proof it exists….for every demagogue, every bigot, there are hundreds of people appalled with what’s happening today. We just need to connect with them. We need to tap into this reservoir of goodwill to break the cycle that has been going on for over a century.”

Sarbpreet Singh

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