By Monica Chan (VI)

Over the course of the last three months, there have been a string of violent attacks and murders against members of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community across the country, bringing about deep pain and grief to their families and the AAPI community at large. These crimes are by no means a new topic as hate crimes against Asian-Americans have been on the rise ever since the beginning of the pandemic; however, the successive violent murders and attacks in recent months have caught national attention due to their shocking severity. 

On March 16, eight people were murdered in a mass shooting across multiple Asian-owned massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia: six of the eight victims were Asian-American. More is being revealed about the victims and their individual stories, and the United States flags were ordered at half-staff until March 22 to honor the victims: Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, and Paul Andre Michels. While this is by far the most lethal event in the string of anti-Asian crimes that have occurred over the last year, it certainly is not the first. The attacks against Vicha Ratanapakdee, who was killed while walking outside in San Francisco; Ee Lee, who was sexually assaulted and then murdered in Milwaukee; and Noel Quintana, who was slashed across the face with a knife in the New York City subway, are just a few of many. 

These attacks and the lack of backlash against them have left many Asian-Americans feeling angered and cheated by a judicial system that does not seem to defend them. Police departments across the country have announced multiple times that many of these attacks will not be investigated as hate crimes. Because of this, AAPI leaders have been organizing multiple rallies and vigils in New York City, Oakland, Atlanta, and other cities. At Pingry, there have been multiple forums for Asian and non-Asian students to discuss and process these events, including a forum planned for Asian parents and caregivers to speak with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director Mr. Gilbert Olvera and Head of School Mr. Matt Levinson. The Asian Student Union has been working very closely with Mr. Olvera and Assistant Director of DEI Ms. Alexa Lopez to ensure that the Asian community at Pingry feels heard and included. Jeremy Lin (VI), a co-founder of the Asian Student Union, said, “Whether it is making a heartfelt speech on stage in front of the entire school to holding meetings for our community to come together and discuss these issues, we are trying to spark that same flame and passion in our underclassmen. In Asian cultures, the concept of going against authority and causing trouble is frowned upon; however, our actions as ASU leaders represent the risks we are willing to take. I hope this inspires students to take risks, go outside of their comfort zones to fight for what they truly believe in.” At the second school-wide meeting addressing the recent rise in violent hate crimes, there were over 300 students and faculty in attendance. 

 It is moving to see how many people we have supporting us, whether they are Asian/Asian-Americans themselves or allies. Lin adds that he hopes “to come back and see the same interest in social justice throughout Pingry’s student community after we have graduated.”