Condemning anti-AAPI hate

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We, the Steering Committee of United Faculty and Academic Staff, were horrified by Robert Aaron Long’s string of shootings in the Atlanta area on March 16th, 2021. This attack, in which six of the eight victims were Asian women, has been notably situated during a period of intensified hostility toward Asians throughout the pandemic. 

 

These shootings were hate crimes, crimes of sexual violence, crimes against laborers. They were not unique events; Asians in the United States continue to face harassment and outright attacks on the street in escalating numbers since the beginning of the pandemic. Some people, including elected leaders, use harmful nicknames for the virus that place the blame for its spread on Asians. This fits into a long historical pattern of American racism that falsely associates Asian people with disease and with their labor being “cheap”, especially Asian sex workers, and often as a prelude to violence. 

 

For women in particular, being a worker often means being subjected to harassment in the workplace. This is amplified in workplaces such as massage parlors, a sector of work that is dominated by immigrant and Asian women and that largely remains out of the public eye. Historically, labor movements have often failed to offer marginalized workers, including sex workers, the same essential support provided to those performing less stigmatized forms of labor. Our duty as workers’ rights activists is to counter this historical failure and offer especially robust support to our comrades made vulnerable by many intersecting prejudices, including sexism, racism, xenophobia, and the stigmatization of sex work. We support the efforts that Red Canary Song is making to bring political advocacy and access to labor rights to Asian massage parlor workers. 

 

Racist and sexist hatred underlies these shootings, just as it is ingrained into the hierarchy of this country’s institutions, including academia. Among UW-Madison’s employees, AAPI people comprise 14% of faculty and 28% of graduate assistants. Many of these graduate students are international (75% of international students are AAPI). UW-Madison extracts both cheap labor and higher tuition rates from these students, and university policies, such as the one requiring international graduate workers to pay additional fees on top of the already unjust segregated fees, require Asian and other international students to pay for their own surveillance. 

 

We support the statements issued by the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition, the Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, Freedom, Inc, and Red Canary Song, and we stand with their commitments to protecting members of the campus and greater community from racist- and sexist-motivated crimes that devalue laborers, including sex workers. 

 

Signed,

The UFAS Steering Committee