Call for Extending the Asian American and API Coalition to International Students
I am Yin Wang, a graduate student of Literature. The past few weeks have had transformative impacts on me. Like everyone here, I was saddened at first hearing the racist events broke out in our university. Within only a few days, I found many among my friends and colleagues a deep, intimately shared rage and pain, which erupted not just for the events, but for the inertial bureaucratic machine and a large number of apathetic onlookers. I have never felt more connected with them, and people in the rallies that sharply dissect institutional injustices on race. For this meeting, I wish to make the call that the current coalition we are now making should extend to international students.
First of all, our shared feelings thus far have proved we are all involved in the struggle against white supremacy, which has dominated US history long enough. Experience with racism is known to be unavoidable to people of color and underrepresented minorities. It is as unavoidable as to first-generation immigrants and foreign residents, when they are at vulnerable positions, when they are not sheltered by privileges of class and skin color. This is a struggle against discriminations that non-white peoples in this country have endured for centuries.
International students need your support, now and always. In any society, marginalized groups are not only underrepresented at all times, but disrepresented and misrepresented at moments of crises. This has happened several times to African Americans and Chicanos, to Japanese Americans after World War II, and to Muslims after 911. No one can foretell who will be the next target when another crisis comes, but we know the “foreigners” are prone to be singled out in those times. Indeed, I wish to underscore the point that most foreign students live multiple senses of the word “alien.” They are removed from their immediate family, community, language and culture. Their right to stay is dependent on their commitment to work and study, but they are easily forgotten, oftentimes left out by most resources and organized activism. If the past few weeks have taught us that no one is alone in being turned to “aliens” at certain unexpected points, we also learn no one can afford to be alone in fighting such fights.
Racism today is operated not simply through skin color, but frequently through nationality. Stereotypes of nations are imposed upon people, usually by branding them as culpable individuals and attacking them on personal levels. Foreign students are not alone in being treated as permanent outsiders, and yet, once they are assaulted, it is most likely that such incidents will never become an issue. We should work together now to prevent such things happening, because they are wrong, and because they practically concern everyone who shares the danger of being excluded from the racialized US national body.
The coalition will be much stronger when it is extended to international students. It is the time to recognize the political presence of foreign students, who constitute more than 5% of the undergraduates, and more than 20% of the graduates. Adding them to the coalition will add the weight on pressuring the administration. For one thing, a racist image of UCSD will harm the university’s future recruitment of students and faculty, nationally and internationally. Since now out-of-state students and scholars are seen as a promising source of revenue and labor, we believe the high will truly hear us. For another, racist violence will continue to happen if the university does nothing at present. We have to stand united to tell the university that we do not allow it to happen to anybody, and the united powerful presence of us will effectively push the administration to do its work to save itself from complicated legal and even transnational implications.
This statement was first presented by myself at the Meeting for Asian Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders of UCSD in Support of BSU, March 8, 2010. For thoughts and discussions before penning the earlier version, my heartfelt thanks go to fellow graduate students Chien-ting Lin and Ling Han. For advices and comments graciously given in the process of revision, I am most indebted to Yu-Fang Cho, Shih-szu Hsu, and Su Yun Kim. I am grateful for the inspiration and encouragement from teachers at Department of Literature, UCSD, and warmest support from friends in California and Taiwan. All responsibility for this statement is mine. -Y.W.