March 28, 2021

By Farhad Golriz, Staff Writer and Misha Berman, Staff Writer

In response to the increasing rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities over the past year, the College of Alameda held an online Zoom event on Thursday, March 25, to discuss how to better support these communities through these difficult moments. 

Those in attendance shared their personal thoughts on the matter and processed their emotions stemming from the recent attacks. They also discussed how these acts tie into the larger history of xenophobia and racism. The event provided solutions on how to move forward from years of anti-Asian rhetoric and served as a safe space for members of the Peralta community to express their anxieties and their hopes surrounding this issue. 

One of the event coordinators Kyle Lee shared his thoughts on the current matters in which he stated “I also think it’s really important that you said, the xenophobia and the bigotry that’s been around kind of forever, but [is] more apparent now. And how it’s so important to stand in solidarity with one another, especially because there’s so many common themes.” 

Adriana Brogre from San Joaquin Delta College also shared. “I am grateful to, to have this time here today with you all to think and to reflect. Like everyone has already mentioned, I am trying to hold space and to listen, to find ways to amplify the voices of our students and faculty.” 

Natalie Rodriquez who is the interim director of students activities & student life also expressed her view on the recent racial hate crimes against Asian Americans in which she said “It’s devastating as an Oakland native, as an educator. Although I may not be Asian American/API myself, this is my community. These are the people in my community. These are my students. These are people I have love for. And so it is very heartbreaking and it’s also very infuriating. And so it’s a lot of learning how to place those feelings. But remembering that this is not about my feelings. This is about how I can show up for the community.”

On Saturday March 27, a coalition of the African American Male Education Network and Development (A2MEND), Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE) and California Community College Organización de Latinx Empowerment Guidance and Advocacy for Success (COLEGAS) presented a panel discussion titled “Silence is Violence: Unpacking and Addressing Anti-AAPI Violence” for a statewide audience.  

The stated goal of the Zoom discussion was to stand in solidarity against racism and to “take all necessary action to stop it.” During this event, they discussed recent hate crimes, the systematic oppression of racial prejudice as a whole and proposed potential solutions for solving anti-Asian and Pacific Islander violence. 

Berkeley City College President Dr. Angélica Garcia was a member of the panel that also included, Abraham Ali (president of APAHE), Dr. Cynthia Olivo (vice president of student services at Pasadena College), Dr. Erin Vines (vice president of student services at Antelope Valley College), Dr. Rowena Tomaneng (president of San Jose City College and vice president of APAHE) and Dr. Dyrell Foster (president of Las Positas College). Panelists shared their personal experiences of racism and answered questions from those in attendance. White supremacy was a common point of discussion, with the assertion being made that racism in American culture is deeply rooted in the country’s long history of white supremacist attitudes.

 Ali shared his personal story about how he struggled being in a mixed race family in Hawaii. He addressed this difficulty stating, “growing up in Hawaii was not as comfortable early on in my childhood; we struggled financially and emotionally.” 

Foster explained his challenges of being half Black and as a child being told by his family not to hang out with his Black friends. Each panelist shared the ways in which white supremacy has personally affected them, despite any class privileges they may have in their own lives. “We have to show that we’re capable of loving and supporting and uplifting one another through our stories,” said Foster. “It’s really our responsibility to show how we show up, and not be divided by white supremacy. And that we dismantle the structures that have kept us down.

“Every day we are attacked, dehumanized. Every day we are silenced. Every day we are passed over. And every day we are killed. We have to be purposeful about loving and supporting one another.” 

Each panelist offered their vision for the future and described the steps of action that could lead to it. Garcia stressed the need to not look at demographic statistics as just numbers, but as representations of unique individuals within a diverse community. Teachers especially need to look at students as people, and not just data. Panelists emphasized that it is important to always raise awareness about racial insensitivities and use this as an opportunity to educate people by letting them know what they are saying is wrong.  

“Unity is our superpower. We are mighty together,” said Vines, echoing an earlier statement made by Garcia. 

“I’m not just saying people of color, but I’m saying people who have love, and people who have empathy, people that believe in equality. We are powerful together.”

The organizers of Saturday’s event, who collectively call themselves The Coalition, shared their recent Statement from The Coalition Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and reminded those present to attend the 2021 APAHE Virtual Summit on April 15.