Cincinnati Campus

The University of Cincinnati.

A few weeks ago, the United Asian Advocates received a special hello from a couple of Zoom intruders whose verbal attacks shed a harsh light on an underlying issue in our campus’ culture. Of course, the anonymous pair joined their event’s Zoom call and quickly began yelling racist hate speech until they were removed.

According to members of the group, their words were not only anti-Asian, but anti-Semitic and anti-Black as well. The hateful intrusion deeply troubled the victims of the attack, and frankly, considering that this is part of a larger chain of events, it should also deeply trouble the entire UC community.

In a similar verbal attack last fall, an adjunct professor called the COVID-19 virus “the Chinese virus,” a racist term that insinuates that all East Asian people are to blame for the onset of the pandemic.

This instance is far from the only pandemic-related racism to occur since its onset. According to CBS, over 2,000 racist attacks were reported within the first three months, including “physical attacks, verbal assaults, workplace discrimination and online harassment.” That’s only what was reported. Speaking from experience, Asians often downplay discrimination and outright racism to better fit in among a dominantly white culture in the U.S. We’re a model minority, remember? 

The last year has been a whirlwind identity crisis for the Asian community in the U.S., and in recent months, it’s hit way too close to home. Not only are we invisibly torn down, but suddenly, that racism is out in the open, direct and pointed.

At this point, we have to call into question what these outright attacks tell us about race relations in this country, definitely not excluding our local community from the conversation. Extreme racism against Asians on both a national and local level has outed our divisive culture for what it is. A group previously deemed an exception to such atrocities, the “model minority,” has now been subject to any and all race-related trauma imaginable.

These direct attacks, however, should not be the only pieces of the puzzle called into question. They should signal an almost invisible problem Asians have faced for decades.

UC itself upholds a racist status quo – three years of debate about removing a racist man’s name from a building on campus has led nowhere, a problem the institution holds sole responsibility for. While on a cultural level, students at UC are often segregated by race socially – when’s the last time you saw Asian international students hanging out with all white sorority sisters? Largely black neighborhoods surround UC, but the campus bubble is mostly, well, white, and the siloed neighborhoods simply don’t mix. I could go on.

Although so often left undiscussed, this cultural and geographical separation only breeds further racism, a symptom of downright ignorance. Of course, someone would call the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” if their exposure to Asian people stops at right-wing media coverage of the pandemic. 

Both of the most recent public attacks tell us something, and it’s not that there are a select few people here on campus with a racism problem. No. We have a larger cultural problem, an unspoken and invisible issue caused by a lack of diversity among social circles, institutionally-backed white supremacy, and a fear of people of color we don’t know and understand. The issue runs deep.