Combatting anti-Asian violence and racism in the US and at SMFA
Dear SMFA Community members,
I write in the wake of the murders committed yesterday in the Atlanta area, which took the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian or Asian-American women. The perpetrator appears to have been a 21-year-old white man.
Like you, I am appalled, angry, and shaken by the news of this latest incident of anti-Asian violence. Unfortunately, however, none of us should be surprised: since the COVID pandemic reached the US a year ago, close to 4,000 racist hate crimes targeting Asian people—particularly, vulnerable senior citizens—have been reported in the United States and, indeed, in each of the 50 states. We deplore this racist violence and all forms of racist hate. But deploring it is not enough.
Yesterday evening, while—unbeknownst to us—innocent people were being murdered in Atlanta, some 50 SMFA faculty and staff members were listening to a consciousness-raising presentation by Heather Varnet, a remarkable colleague who works in the Tufts International Center to assist SMFA’s international students as they navigate the myriad challenges of studying abroad. We also heard from two SMFA international students about the roadblocks they’ve had to navigate. The presentation was paradigm-shifting for me and, it was clear, for many others in attendance. (I urge you to view the presentation, which will give you a sense of the challenges international students face on a daily basis.) All of us who were there left the meeting determined to take on the work of ensuring that we meet the needs of every one of our students by proactively learning about the systematic hurdles and challenges that they face.
What happened yesterday in Atlanta—and the renewed fear and suffering of our community members of Asian descent—makes clear the urgency of our proactively caring for our Asian students and colleagues. Indeed, we need to learn how to call out all racist practices and behaviors at our school and to support our international students of all races. We cannot expect our students—or any member of our community—to do what they came to do at SMFA when they have to be constantly on guard against injury.
If any students are in need of additional support, please know these offices are available to you:
Dean, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Dean of Academic Affairs for Arts and Sciences
Professor of Philosophy