Commons addresses anti-Asian hate crimes in all-school email

Fallon Dern

President Rick Commons sent an all-school email regarding school openings, COVID-19 protocol and the rise in anti-Asian sentiment March 19. The email, titled “Plans for School after Spring Break,” was prefaced with a message about the domestic terror attack that occurred in Atlanta, Ga, which then transitioned to information regarding the road to reopening school.

“Before I outline our plans for school after spring break,” Commons said. “I must acknowledge with sadness and anger the recent news of tragedy and violence against Asians and Asian Americans. The senseless killings in Atlanta earlier this week and other instances of racism and hate have caused fear and confusion in our own school community, which benefits so deeply from our robust Asian population and the glorious Asian cultures that are woven into the fabric of Harvard-Westlake.”

Several Asian American students said they were disheartened to see such a brief acknowledgement of a growing problem and an attack that took the lives of six Asian American women. Asian Students in Action (ASiA) Co-leaders Mia Shelton ’21, Chelsea Cho ’21, Iris Huang ’21 and Kimberly Wang ’21 said while the message was meaningful, its placement and brevity was surprising.

“As per many discussions and communications from our 75+ members in ASiA, a strong, concerted effort to show support for our community was not only desired, but necessary in a time of communal grief.” Wang said. “Unfortunately, we have yet to receive this.”

Cho said she agrees with Wang that there needs to be deeper knowledge about racism in order to prevent it. With the rise of anti-Asian hatred, Cho said she believes acknowledgment is a good first step.

“There’s a distinct lack of awareness of how continuous the attacks on Asian people have been in this country, especially in 2021,” Cho said. “Without recognition or acknowledgment of this hatred from not only the school, but the media as a whole, a tragedy such as the Atlanta shooting was inevitable. Asian Americans have been shouting into a void to ask for people to care for months, and it is no different in our community.”