Guest Speakers, Belmont Faculty Hold Anti-Asian Racism Roundtable

In an effort to create a united support system for the Asian-American community on-campus, Belmont University hosted an Anti-Asian racism roundtable last week, reflecting on the rise of racism and hate crimes again Asian people in America and discussing how the University can create conversation that leads to action for the AAPI community. 

The University invited an all-female Asian race panel of three guest speakers from different colleges and one Belmont faculty member to share their thoughts in a conversation moderated by Dr. Beth Ritter Conn, professor in the College of Theology and Christian Ministry. The guest speakers included UCLA Professor Dr. Janette Ok, Columbia Theological Professor Dr. Christine Hong, Pacific School of Religion Feminist Studies in Religion Professor Dr. Sharon Jacob and Belmont Business Professor Dr. Amy Crook. 

Dr. Ritter Conn started the event by asking the panelists to share their initial reactions and feelings toward the recent Atlanta spa shootings that killed 8 people, 6 of whom were Asian women. Dr. Jacob shared that the feelings of frustration from the Asian-American community towards these hate crimes were present before the Atlanta shootings, but the tragedy sparked further rage around the country. 

The panelists encouraged viewers to advocate for increased diverse faculty at their respective institutions to speak into the students and universities as a whole. “When an institution fails to hire a diverse faculty, the select few diverse faculty members are left to carry the weight,” said Dr. Ok. 

The panelists also touched on the pain and frustration felt by toward media that simultaneously makes Asians hyper-visible and portrays them as perpetual foreigners. Dr. Hong shared, “The media erases us. Many people are not paying attention even though the intersectionality community is screaming at the top of their lungs.” 

Discussing the “model minority,” Dr. Ok shared how difficult it has become for Asian Americans to speak up within their community because it ruins the stereotype of being peaceful. So the Asian community isn’t advocating alone, she urged the Belmont community at large to “be the ally and the friend that has the guts to speak up against AAPI hate.”

From the Christian perspective, each panelist discussed the hurt and damage that toxic theologies of reconciliation have on minority communities. “Real reconciliation always happens on the terms of those who are in a position of most vulnerability,” added Dr. Hong.

Three of the women on the panel shared their approach to constructively supporting the Asian community from a Christian standpoint. “If we think that all our brothers and sisters bear the image of Christ, then we have to be enraged by the hate against them and care for one another,” shared Dr. Ok. “As Christians, valuing brothers and sisters of Christ also means to value the brothers and sisters of other colors.”

Dr. Jacob emphasized the importance of an intersectional perspective, sharing that “when you take race and put it into a black and white dichotomy, people disappear and bodies disappear.” Dr. Crook shared her experience with the lack of intersectional support as she emphasized that no matter what race or how many, all people of minority communities in some capacity need to be uplifted. 

The night closed with guest speakers and Belmont faculty encouraging students, faculty and staff to support Asian organizations on campus such as Asian American Association, Korean Music Business Society, Japanese Culture Club and Chinese Cultural Association. Links were also placed in the chat for all participants to donate to the families of the Atlanta shooting victims and to Asian American Advancing Justice

With the knowledge and wisdom imparted from Asian women, Belmont’s campus community hopes to continue becoming better allies of all minority communities and visibly stands in solidarity with AAPI students, faculty and staff both on and off-campus.