How to Counter Anti-Asian Racism in the University:

7 Suggestions

Hae Yeon Choo

1) When you see people mix up the names of Asian/Asian Canadian colleagues, calling them by a wrong name without realizing it, bring this to their attention so that it’s not repeated in the future. Don’t ask your colleagues for a “nick name” when it’s unfamiliar to you, or ask what their “real name” is, if you are given a name that seems familiar to you.

2) When you see the names of your Asian/Asian Canadian colleagues misspelled in an email or a document, let the writer/sender know, so that it is corrected if possible, or at least not repeated. It is one thing that Asian names are mispronounced (although it will be nice if people make a bit more effort, but no one expects perfection and the bar is very low for many), but it is another that a name clearly in English alphabet (not in a different language) is written incorrectly. If this is a challenge, just copy and paste how the person signs off.

3) When you see people complimenting your Asian/Asian Canadian colleague’s English fluency and/or their “lack of accent,” let them know it is not their place to assess and judge, and perhaps ask them to reflect whether they will do the same to a French or German scholar.

4) After a tragedy like the mass shooting targeting Asian women happens, if you are holding an event on the day or shortly thereafter, acknowledge that people are hurting: a moment of silence, a brief statement, anything. Please don’t act like nothing of significance happened, and things will be just as usual.

5) If you hear your colleagues talking dismissively about “Chinese students” as a monolithic group, which often trends in a racist construction of all Asian/Asian Canadian students, point that out. To address the real issues that international students from China and other countries are facing, please ask the university for more support and resources, instead of disparaging the students.

6) At the department and the university level, disaggregate the category of “Asian” when you analyze faculty and graduate student composition. The category of “Asian” doesn’t do justice to the heterogeneities of Asian/Asian Canadian communities, in terms of social class and migrant pathways. Once you disaggregate and see the representation of Southeast Asians and South Asians, for example, you are likely to find significant underrepresentation, if you compare the number to any relevant measures—racial and ethnic composition of your undergraduate student body, city, the province, or the country, etc. Please don’t let this underrepresentation go unnoticed, because these numbers are usually combined with East Asians. And address it as part of equity and diversity efforts, whether it is designated funding, cluster hire, admission scholarship, etc.

7) At the university level, offer a space for the intellectual community centering on Asian/Asian Canadian lives, with respect to both research and teaching. Are our students learning any knowledge about Asian Canadian history and lives? Are there spaces for students to go deeper, especially for Asian Canadian students? If there are academic units—whether they are called Asian Canadian studies, Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies, or Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies, etc.—is the university supporting this important intellectual space with appropriate resources and faculty line, and recognizing their value?

Dr. Hae Yeon Choo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga. We thank her for giving us permission to share these tips about how to counter anti-Asian racism in the University. The full version can be found here.