Letter from the Chair

March 18, 2021 

I am writing to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the rise in hate crimes and negative bias incidents against Asian Americans. I write not only as department chair, but as a researcher who has spent her career studying immigrant and minority youth, and as an Asian American woman. Two days ago, a white male suspect murdered 8 people in the Atlanta area, 6 of whom were Asian American women. He targeted “Asian” spas. This was a heinous hate crime against Asian American women. Yesterday, in San Francisco, a 75-year old Asian American woman was attacked without provocation by a 39-year old white man. She fought back after he attacked her and an 83-year old Asian American man. My Chinese American mother lives in San Francisco, and for the first time in her time in the US, she is scared to leave her house for fear of random attacks by strangers.  

These are just the latest incidents resulting from the years of hatred and vitriol against Asian Americans, beginning with the Page Act of 1875, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Asiatic Barred Zone Act of 1917, and of course the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. The violence against Asian Americans has continued throughout our history in the images of Asian Americans as diseased and immoral. Asian American women have been portrayed as sexual objects in the mainstream and porn film industry, as well as by dating sites and sexual tourism. Asian Americans additionally are projected as both invisible – we are not considered white nor are we often counted as minorities – except when used as “model minorities” so as to attack other minorities. However, we are also viewed as forever foreign and never fully American. Every Asian American has been asked where they are from and how they learned to speak English so well. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the encouragement of some politicians and other pundits, Asian Americans also carry the burden of the embodiment of the novel coronavirus.  

I wish to express my full support of all of minority students, but especially our Asian American students and colleagues during this difficult time.   

With Much Love, 

Grace Kao 

Chair and IBM Professor of Sociology 

Professor of Ethnicity, Race, and Migration (by Courtesy) 

Faculty Director, Education Studies 

Director, Center for Empirical Research on Stratification and Inequality (CERSI)