We wrote this statement to address the discrimination towards the AAPI communities throughout history and to this day. Our main message is that this awareness should not be a mere trend and making certain that students feel heard. There needs to be consistent conversations instead of reactive responses or emotions. As opposed to simply signing a piece of paper, the Alice M. Baldwin Scholars wish to be purposeful and assist the Duke Asian students, and Asian communities nationwide, in improving our reality. Standing as one community, Baldwins are committed to examining our personal beliefs and actions. We pledge that outrage is our start, instead of our end, in fighting for AAPI and other marginalized communities. Once the emotions settle, the next step must be action -- find ways to advocate within our community or even take time to self-reflect. Discrimination will not stop when the outrage ceases. We MUST channel it into activism.
In Georgia on March 16, 2021, Robert Long murdered eight people. Their names were Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Delaina Ashley Yuan, Paul Andre Michels, Xiajie Tan, and Daoyou Feng. Only Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz escaped with his life. We honor the lives of these individuals and too many others who have lost their lives at the hands of anti-Asian racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.
THE ORIGIN OF OUR ADVOCACY
From this unjust homicide, a conversation began within the Baldwin community. A leader from an Asian student organization sought support from Baldwin for their petition, but we were restricted from signing on as an organization. Therefore the committees began as a way to support our AAPI communities and continue this work in a meaningful way. Unfortunately, not many people could rise to this action, so our efforts felt almost futile. We continued to meet and discuss action items in spite of such limitations. We asked for time in our General Body Meeting (GBM) to have people reflect on our action items. We requested one last time for more Baldwins to join us. Forms began to fill out, people were suggesting their own action items, and we witnessed a sense of motivation. Remaining silent when discrimination burdens any communities would have violated our Baldwin standards. Our organization is committed to influencing Duke’s culture, and we cannot influence anyone without speaking up.
Although more Baldwins joined, consistency often fled our committee, and it grew more difficult to act on our own words. The transition to summer led to less people showing up to meetings especially due to jobs or research that were prioritized. It was a realistic outcome, but we need to change this reality. If we aim to avoid a trend, we must persistently push for conversations about AAPI hate.
There needs to be an ongoing dedication to fighting discrimination, transforming the reality which burdens us. With the lack of support systems for the AAPI communities, we must take every action to support each other. We do not want to confine people in collective identities. By actively thinking of the AAPI Community as Communities, there is an active recognition for the AAPI diaspora. We want to actively reject Western constructs of race and origin that limits the diversity of the AAPI Communities to the stereotype construed by white supremacy. We all deserve the right to be seen as an individual, and this only begins with action. By falling apart this summer, our committee gave up on our responsibilities to AAPI-identifying individuals. It is incredibly vital to continue having conversations, continue reflecting, and critiquing our own organization or else we forget about the people we want to support.
Why the Baldwin Scholars? Why a committee? Why now? The Baldwin Scholars program has a colorful history of social activism, and we pushed to truly develop our character. This means taking the responsibility of pushing for progress and spreading compassion. The rise in Anti-AAPI hatred is within our responsibilities if we are truly committed to improving our character. For this purpose, we incorporate cultural awareness with:
our occasional fall retreats,
But these annual events are not enough. Learning more about underrepresented groups has become a mandatory skill for Baldwin Scholars. During the 2021 Baldwin Freshman course, we shared personal experiences as women from diverse backgrounds when reading and discussing material about underrepresented groups. Change is possible and happening right now. It only requires commitment.
As a women-led organization, we must take the place of listener or supporter during these conversations. We must listen to women and nonbinary AAPI feminists when they speak up about fetishization or the expectation to be passive. It is never too late to show support since the hate does not stop even when it is no longer making headlines. This distinguishes activism from trends.
NEXT STEPS FOR US AND FOR YOU
When considering the future of our committee, we do not want to wait to reflect on hate crimes -- we are seeking civic engagement. Providing services for civic engagement, people experiencing hate, and possible training encompasses our committee’s action items. Our social media campaign actively collects mental health resources, inspiration, and valuable knowledge for the AAPI committee on Instagram @baldwinscholars. We ask you to take a moment and reflect on the following questions:
What can we do for women?
How can we provide support for victims?
How can we educate each other?
These are conversations our AAPI Advocacy Committee continues to have, but these are conversations you must have as well. If you forgot about the terrors that haunt members of the AAPI communities, this is your reminder. As Duke students and members of a global society, we must push ourselves to be better and grow together. Here are Action Items that are vital to promoting such progress at Duke:
From the Baldwin Scholars program to the broader Duke community, students need events such as anti-racist workshops to learn more about underrepresented groups. Within Baldwin, we already have anti-racist trainings for every cohort, and it helps us develop a common ground of understanding as a community.
There must be consistent conversations instead of delaying actions until another hate crime headlines the news.
For the Duke administration, we ask for some action or investigation in response when over one hundred students, faculty, or parents are signing a petition. This is not a pressured agreement but a plea for recognition, respect, and validation.
We wish that courses are offered to educate on the AAPI Communities that provide students with the historical and current climates in politics or at Duke, similar to the structure of University 101.
For Baldwin Scholars, consider your participation not only in this year-long commitment but also in activism against social injustice. For Baldwin Scholar Advisors or Alumni, please support our voices and purpose however you can – publicizing this or even reaching out to students.
Do everything you can to make students or peers feel heard.