March 22, 2021

Statement on Anti-Asian Racism

Statement from Arts Dean Richard Sigurdson

On behalf of the Faculty of Arts, and in conjunction with our Equity and Diversity Committee, I wish to express unequivocal support for Asian, Asian-Canadian and Asian-American students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families and friends in our community.

Yesterday, March 21, was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Today, University of Calgary President Dr. Ed McCauley posted a reflection on the work we need to do as a society and as an institution to unlearn racism and promote racial justice. We in the Faculty of Arts share the goal to not just oppose racism, but to work actively to be anti-racist.

It has also been just a few days since eight people were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were Asian women. As horrific as these murders were, they are not isolated acts of violence. Asian women, men and non-binary people have been suffering increased acts of hate and violence across North America since the beginning of COVID-19. This horrific incident also highlights hatred against women and increased violence against women over the course of the pandemic.

Anti-Asian racism is not limited to the USA. Canada has seen a disturbingly high number of anti-Asian hate crimes. Historically, anti-Asian racism in Canada has been profound. Yet it is all too often downplayed, silenced or rendered invisible. In light of these injustices, this statement comes late; but we in the Faculty of Arts reject and condemn racism, xenophobia and nativism, and stand with those who have been harmed by all forms of anti-Asian hate.

We acknowledge that making a statement is not enough. We need to actively counter intersectional racisms in all our teaching and learning, scholarship and creative activity, and community engagement and partnerships. As a Faculty, we commit to take action by promoting a safe and welcoming space for all members of our university community and by making changes to disrupt and erase systemic discrimination.

In this regard, I want to stress how important our academic disciplines and interdisciplinary programs are to the work of becoming anti-racist. I was struck by this in the case of creative writing just recently – a week before the Atlanta killings, in fact – when we hosted acclaimed comic writer and graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as our CDWP Distinguished Visiting Writer. As the author of such books as American Born Chinese, Yang has contributed immensely to the exploration of anti-Asian hate and the power of literature to counter racism and to build pride and identity among minority children and youth. He was inspirational.

We call on all members of the Faculty of Arts to become better cognizant of bias, to eliminate discrimination and to help us become a more anti-racist, non-discriminatory and inclusive academic community.