Town hall message: Stand up. Speak up. Stop hate.
The University of Texas at Arlington’s Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted a virtual town hall on Monday, March 29, addressing anti-Asian hate and violence and bringing awareness to the increase in hate crimes toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the United States.
“The UTA community needs to be informed of what has been taking place for the past year as well as hold a space for our Asian students and staff to be heard in a place of non-judgmental emotion,” said Melanie Johnson, UTA’s director of Multicultural Affairs. “It’s important to provide a space of understanding and come together as a community to talk about where we go from here and to determine what resources need to be implemented on campus so students don’t feel alone during these times.”
The campus-wide Stop AAPI HATE town hall aimed to provide a space for students, faculty and staff to express their thoughts, feelings and reflections on recent acts of violence, including the mass murder in Atlanta that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. Organizers thought the town hall could offer a path forward for civil engagement, advocacy and community activism.
In opening remarks at the town hall, Interim President Teik C. Lim reflected on his own experiences facing discrimination growing up in his birth country.
“Racism is an important issue in this country, on our campus, and for many of us individually,” Lim said. “I share your dismay. The hate and discrimination represented in these despicable acts have no home at UTA.”
The discussion addressed Asian American history, political and public discourse that contributed to violence against Asian Americans, and how bystanders can respond when they witness hateful speech or actions. The message was clear: Stand up, speak up and stop hate.
Li-Ya Mar, adjunct assistant professor of Chinese, moved to the United States from Taiwan a decade ago and is working toward her U.S. citizenship. She said she is proud of UTA’s diversity, pointing out that many Mavericks are immigrants or first-generation college students.
Mar led a breakout session in which she quoted Japanese American activist Yuri Kochiyama, who said, “Consciousness is power. Consciousness is education and knowledge.” To that sentiment, others in her breakout session added, “Consciousness is action.”
“To be seen and to be heard is so powerful,” Mar said. “While the truth is that UT Arlington is very culturally diverse, it’s still important for that representation to include Asian voices at the table. I hope the town hall helps people understand what we are facing and how it’s not too dissimilar from what Black Americans are facing or what Latinx Americans are facing.”
Dylan Ngo, a junior majoring in kinesiology, serves as the vice president for UTA’s Vietnamese Student Association and also worked as a moderator during the town hall.
“The recent hate crimes made me livid,” Ngo said. “I hope participants come out of this with a better understanding of the situation our country is in and that it is not okay to sit idly by. The first step people need to take to be an ally is to take the time to talk to their neighbors about their experiences. Once you begin to understand someone else's hardships, then it is easier to comprehend their anger and frustration.”
Ngo thinks there is a reason why UT Arlington is one of the top-ranked universities for diversity.
“I think UTA as a university does a lot in terms of making all of its students feel welcomed,” said Ngo. “Everyone wants the ability to be heard and create change, so I think this is a great way to communicate and learn.”