Asian Student Association continues advocacy work off-campus

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#Hate Is a Virus
Photo courtesy of Robin Chodak '22.

On Sunday, Apr. 19, Asian Student Association Co-President Robin Chodak ‘22 sent an email out to the leaders of many affinity groups on campus asking group members to submit videos of themselves saying the phrase “hate is a virus.” These clips will then be assembled into a larger video in order to raise awareness for the injustices committed against Asian community members in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The idea came about from our wonderful faculty advisor, Dr. Purvi Parikh, wanting to create programming of some sense to bring up the issues of Asian discrimination going on in the world virtually because we were no longer on campus and couldn’t create a more conventional in-person program,” Chodak said. “We felt [a short video] would be a quick, concise way to bring awareness to the issues and to also give some tips from a wonderful organization, Teaching Tolerance, on how to confront these issues. But this is only to begin the conversation because combatting an issue of discrimination such as this doesn’t stop with a video.”

The danger that people of Asian heritage in America face due to COVID-19-based discrimination is all too real ⁠— the Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate Reporting Center, created by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, saw nearly 1,500 reports of harassment from March 19 to April 23 across 45 states.

“Of course, my own opinion doesn’t speak for all people of color, but to me the phrase ‘hate is a virus’ labels the thing that discrimination stems from as exactly what it is, and that is something that spreads incredibly fast and has the potential to hurt a lot of people,” said Chodak. “Something as simple as making ignorant statements, calling ‘COVID-19’ a ‘Chinese virus,’ can lead to so many things, such as influencing and teaching children that certain races are infectious, feeding stereotypes, people trying to intimidate Asians from coming into their businesses or public places and full on assaults.”

“I don’t think people understand how this idea can dangerously fuel the discrimination going on in the world right now,” he continued. “Defenseless elderly Asian people are being knocked unconscious on the streets. I literally watched a video on the internet on a street in Brooklyn, NY that I’ve been around of a man waiting outside an Asian woman’s home to pour an unknown acidic substance on her. I know Asian people who are afraid to leave their homes. It’s terrible.”

The video that the ASA plans to create will mark the continuation of their activism, which persists despite the fact that most Muhlenberg students finished their semesters off-campus. At ‘Berg, the ASA hosts Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival events each year, among others.

“The Asian Student Association, like other affinity groups on campus, tends to have the responsibility of two things,” Chodak said. “One of them is creating a space on campus to make students of marginalized backgrounds, in ASA’s case, [students of] Asian descent, feel as if there is room for their culture on campus by creating programming that highlights aspects of different Asian cultures. The second is bringing to light issues of social justice that target marginalized bodies, especially ones related to discrimination towards Asians, though we are a group that prides ourself on allyship towards other marginalized backgrounds. For me personally, I feel that having a group such as ASA means that there are people that experience the things that I do and that issues that target my race are actually valid and just as important as other issues in the world.”

Even as Muhlenberg students are scattered around the globe, the ASA works to make sure that each of its members are able to carve out that affirming space for themselves, even as incidents of hate continue to proliferate. Chodak’s message to those currently experiencing racism and xenophobia due to the pandemic?

“Please please please, do not believe what the world wants you to. You are NOT a disease. You are valid, you are welcome, and you deserve to be here just as much as any other person. Stay strong and stay safe. Better things to come soon, I promise. Keep Hope Alive.”

Brooke is a senior double majoring in English and Media & Communication. She's passionate about french toast, Kate Bishop, Steven Universe and the ocean coasts of Ireland. On campus, she is a Writing Tutor, Orientation Leader and member of the Girls Next Door, Muhlenberg's all-lady a capella group. She could not be more excited to serve as your Editor-In-Chief this year!

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