This is the year of activism. After gaining traction in the #MeToo era, social media advocacy exploded with support for the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd last year. Now more than ever, information and educational resources are easily accessible. People are taking accountability for their actions and actively striving to promote social justice, both on and off the screen.
Despite these achievements, there has been a rise in prejudice against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last year, hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen by 149%. The group Stop AAPI Hate has documented nearly 3,800 hateful incidents since the start of the pandemic. These numbers do not even begin to reflect the amount of unreported hate crimes that have occurred across the country during this time. Prejudice against the AAPI community grew in the past year as public leaders like former president Donald Trump used the terms “China virus” and “Kung flu” to describe the pandemic, causing many to blame the Asian community for the spread of the virus.
Despite these statistics, it wasn’t until the recent Atlanta shootings that #stopasianhate became central to the social advocacy scene. Six of Robert Lang’s eight victims were Asian American women. The murderer stated that his actions were the result of a sex addiction and that he felt sexually tempted by the women. This justification sheds light on society’s longtime fetishization of Asian women.
Immediately following the shooting, Kent State issued a statement of support for the university’s AAPI students, staff and community members. The university has taken action to provide resources for students as well, including hosting an Asian American Experience Town Hall as a part of their University Town Hall series. The various colleges across campus also issued public statements in solidarity with the community.
On April 7, students, community members and faculty gathered for the Stand Together Against Hate rally organized by the Kent State University Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander Faculty and Staff Alliance. The rally program included a lineup of speakers including city council members, community and campus leaders and students. University President Todd Diacon also spoke to show his support. In addition to speakers, there was a performance by the Kent State University Chorale. The rally concluded as the group marched to the Rock and repainted it, led by student John Kraus.
Kent State student Stephanie Gunawan, who attended the rally, said she always tries to use her voice and her social media presence as a platform to share important issues.
“Whether it’s sustainability or hate crimes against my own race, if I care deeply about an issue, I will do what it takes and speak out against it,” she said.
Stephanie further explained that she does her best to fact-check and educate herself on the details of an issue before forming an opinion or drafting a statement in order to ensure that she doesn’t spread misinformation. She believes heavily in the importance of guiding people to the right resources so they can learn more on their own.
“If I had to say anything about activism on campus,” Gunawan said, “I would definitely encourage more people to get involved and stop being afraid of what others might think… we make time for the things we care about.”
Kent State student Nick Lee has channeled his experience as a Japanese American into his art. Lee’s senior thesis, entitled Reveal, explores the presentation of Japanese Americans, a group that is typically underrepresented in Western art. He draws from his own family members’ experiences in order to visually tell their stories. His portraits celebrated the commonality in culture of the Japanese Amerian community while also addressing the discrimination and loss of identity that the community has faced. Lee hopes that his paintings will be a form of education for non-Asian groups and help start conversations about race in America.
The A Magazine team stands by the AAPI community and is committed to uplifting AAPI voices in the fight against racism. We call on our readers to join us and be advocates for change.
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Hi, I’m Maria McGinnis, a senior journalism student from Stow, Ohio. I’m also the editor-in-chief of A Magazine. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.