University response to Atlanta shootings lacks sincerity

The hate crimes committed in Atlanta should inspire the Wake Forest administration to uplift its Asian American community


Atlanta police officers and detectives arrive at the Aromatherapy Spa and Gold Spa in Atlanta, one of the three spas targeted on shootings of Tuesday, March 16, 2021.

Kiyo Takahashi, Contributing Columnist

Last week an anti-Asian hate crime that left eight dead was committed by a white man. This violent event has come after over a full year of increased attacks against Asians due to the pandemic and as a result of a long history of racism against Asians in America. Last week left me defeated. I am half-Japanese. My father is a Japanese immigrant who has lived in America for 30 years. I have the privilege of being able to pass as a white person, but my father and my two sisters do not. After the attack on Tuesday, and since then, I have sat and replayed one situation after another in my mind where they are targeted and attacked while going about their daily lives just because they look Asian.

I also waited after the attack on a response from the university, a statement of support, a statement that acknowledges the way their Asian community is feeling. On Wednesday evening the University Chaplain and the Dean of Wait Chapel wrote a statement that was emailed to everyone in the Wake Forest community. It was a well-crafted statement and I appreciated that someone at Wake Forest cared about how I was feeling and on some level, understood that the Asian community needed support. The rest of my Wednesday was spent refreshing my email and Instagram waiting for something from the university as a whole – something from President Hatch and the administration. I finally took a breath when I saw a post on Wake Forest’s official Instagram page and then I took a close look at the actual post. It was just a repost of a post from the Divinity School’s Instagram page that re-expressed the chaplain’s and dean’s sorrow and solidarity. The school as a whole still had not made a statement.

Here at Wake Forest, Asian students make up only 11% of the student population with over half of that 11% being international students. Due to the pandemic, most of those international students could not be on campus this year. This made it increasingly more difficult to find a community in this predominantly white institution, where in a normal year it still would not be easy to find this type of space. The university and the administration are aware that this year has made it difficult for students to make connections and it would be impossible for them to ignore that it is more difficult for students of color especially given the political and social climate of the past year. This makes it increasingly more important for the university to make a statement of their own and yet it was not until Thursday that the Office of Communications sent an email to the Wake Forest community that first re-stated the Dean’s and Chaplain’s statement then referenced a commitment from President Hatch. And it was a tweet, actually a retweet of, once again, the Dean’s and Chaplain’s statement. This short statement describes President Hatch’s “support to those who have been affected by this hate.” This statement completely ignored the fact that Wake Forest has Asian students, staff and faculty that have been affected by the hate crime. 

This statement might as well be from a stranger running across the original statement and wanting to show solidarity, not someone who is the head of a university that prides itself on being a forward-thinking community. It also seemed to emphasize that the Wake Forest Administration does not care about the Asian community. 

The only truly original statement was made by a graduate school dean and the chaplain, and no one else did anything except adopt that statement in replacement of their own, which is unacceptable. Racism against Asians has been ignored and dismissed and these instances have only increased due to COVID-19. The hate crime in Atlanta was an opportunity for the school to truly support its students after a year of increased stress and fear, yet nobody wanted to say anything. It is not enough to agree with another statement and it is angering to know that Wake Forest thought that was enough.

This statement and following non-statements came in the middle of my midterms, the most stressful period that I have experienced thus far at Wake Forest. At this point, I found myself questioning why I was even studying and caring about my work. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering why I was dedicating so much time and effort to a place that barely even offered a break to the people that it promised to care for. I have had moments in the past where I was so exhausted or stressed from schoolwork that I have questioned why I was still doing it, but I have never had to question why I was at Wake Forest. I was questioning, and am still questioning, why I work so hard for an institution that clearly does not care enough to support me and my community.