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A Message from Dean Johnson on Anti-Asian Racism and Violence

March 19, 2021

Dear members of the SLU LAW community,

Even before the mass shooting that occurred on Tuesday in the Atlanta area in which eight people were murdered, six of whom were Asian American women, the increase in hostility toward and racism against the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community in the United States was clear, horrifying, and deeply troubling. The mass shooting on Tuesday was yet another painful, especially tragic, indication of continuing racism and violence against the AAPI community – racism and violence that have disproportionately involved violence against women. It causes me and so many of us deep sadness and anger. But, of course, it effects particular pain and harm to members of the AAPI community, including our colleagues, students, and classmates – pain and harm that I can only imagine.

This anti-Asian sentiment in America is not new. It is a manifestation of white supremacy and a continuation of a troubled and deeply harmful legacy that includes the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, frequent casual use of racial slurs and imagery, a quickness to rationalize or explain away racist behavior, ongoing hateful rhetoric, sexual violence, and racial fetishization. It must end, but it will do so only if we collectively demand that it end.

To the members of this community who are Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islanders, please know that you are welcome here. You belong here. I stand with, and I support you. If you need support or would like to talk to someone, or you just want to voice your concerns or your pain, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the members of our Student Services office on the 10th floor, who are eager to be helpful and supportive. Or please reach out to me directly. I will gladly meet with you, listen to you, and hear you.

While it was important to me to speak out against this violence, I realize that this statement is not going to change anything on its own. We need structural change. We need a meaningful commitment to racial justice and equity. We need deeper and more intentional commitment to anti-racism. We need education. And we need to understand and address the root causes of racialized violence. That will not happen overnight. But each of us can play a role in the struggle toward a more just, more equitable, more anti-racist community. So, I make this statement in solidarity with my AAPI friends, colleagues, and students. But I also commit to continue the hard work necessary to achieve a world where Asian American women are not targeted, shot, and killed because of who and what we continue to be as a society. I hope you will join or continue in that struggle.

William Johnson