March 22, 2021

Response to Recent Anti-Asian Violence: “Hope is a discipline.”

Like many of you, I have read and followed the news of the last week with dismay: eight people killed in Atlanta, seven of whom were women, and six of Asian descent. We recognize the names of those whose lives were cruelly cut short: Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), Paul Andre Michels (54), Daoyou Feng (44) Xiaojie Tan (49), Soon C Park (74), Hyun J Grant (51), Suncha Kim (69), and Yong A Yue (63).

Although horrific, these murders are not isolated incidents of Anti-Asian violence and misogyny, but are part of larger disturbing patterns of violence, especially during the pandemic. Anti-Asian discrimination and violence did not begin with COVID-19, but has accelerated with it. In the United States, Asians and Asian Americans have reported over 3,800 incidents of verbal and physical assault in the last year. A significant majority of these have targeted those who identify as women. Here in Canada, over 960 incidents of anti-Asian racism have been reported since March 2020, including racial slurs, harassment and physical attacks.

To be clear, these acts of violence, though distinct, are not separate from anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism that we continue to confront. They stem from the same fallacies of white supremacy and rely on the same practices and policies of settler colonialism experienced both here in North America and around the world. Such acts are bolstered by legacies of sexism, anti-immigration, ableism and oppression based on genders, sexualities, and religious identities and practices; the belief that for any number of reasons, some lives are more valuable or worthy than others.

Students across AMPD know this. Over the past year, students in our School have banded together to advocate for more inclusive and representative programs and to demand concrete, visible changes to make AMPD live up to its stated promise of equity. Their coalitions have connected different identities, histories and disciplines. They know that our real work is done not in reaction to specific events, but must be proactive and ongoing to hold space for the diverse perspectives and viewpoints across the School, and to create a sense of belonging. These conversations have not been easy, but they are necessary and will continue, even after the current students have successfully graduated from York. I am grateful for their dedication and diligence, and to the faculty and staff who have supported and responded to students during this challenging time.

Amid all of the struggles and conflicts of this time, we must not lose hope in the possibilities for change. In her book, Race after Technology, scholar Ruha Benjamin quotes the organizer and educator, Mariame Kaba, who offers the important idea that, “Hope is a discipline.” Benjamin explains Kaba’s concept of “grounded hope” as “a philosophy of living that must be practiced every day and that is different from optimism and does not protect one from feeling sadness, frustration, or anger” (Benjamin 2019, p. 202). This is our challenge today: to live and practice hope for change without ignoring or dismissing the pain experienced every day by too many in our immediate communities and beyond.

Hope is a discipline quote by Mariame Kaba

This year has been hard. If you or someone you know is struggling, I urge you to seek support. In AMPD, the Office of Advising and Integrated Student Services (OAISS) is for more than just academics; it is a student service that can direct you to the best resources for you. You may also  find other supports at Student Counselling, Health & Well-being.

Additionally, the following services are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Multilingual Distress Lines
To talk to someone in a language other than English. Open Monday to Friday, 10 am – 10 pm. Offered through Spectra Community Support Services.

  • Mandarin & Cantonese: 416-920-0497
  • Hindi, Urdu & Punjabi: 905-459-7777 ext. 2
  • Spanish: 905-459-7777 ext. 3
  • Portuguese: 905-459-7777 ext. 4

Faculty and staff members can seek supports through Human Resources and Employee Well-being.

To survive and thrive in such times, to continue the practice of grounded hope, requires that we support each other across our differences. Thank you all for your continued efforts throughout AMPD and beyond.

Sarah Bay-Cheng

Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng
Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng