AAPT response to the killings of Asian American women in Atlanta and the continued violence against Asian Americans and Asians in the US
The American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) condemns the rise in discrimination and violent acts directed toward Asian communities, culminating in the recent murders in Atlanta. We categorically oppose prejudice and reject behavior that excludes, marginalizes, or harms others. In 2020, AAPT and other professional organizations endorsed congressional resolutions condemning anti-Asian discrimination related to COVID-19.1 We unreservedly reaffirm our commitment to the principles of justice, inclusion, and equity. We have a shared responsibility to promote a positive environment that is welcoming of all peoples. As an organization that is committed to education, our core values reject racism, misogyny, and violence.
Racism is not a new phenomenon for Asian Americans, ranging from government-level actions such as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and Japanese American internment during World War II, to microaggressions experienced on a daily basis. Due to world events and the current political landscape, there has been a rise in hatred directed at Asian Americans and Asians in the US.2 In response, our community of educators must ask: how can we go about promoting a positive, welcoming environment that considers the needs, history, and struggles of Asian Americans and Asians in the US? A first step is to recognize that this community is not monolithic. It is made up of dozens of diverse cultures. In this century, while the targeting of East and Southeast Asians has grown over the past year, South Asians have experienced elevated levels of prejudice since 9/11. Understanding that there have been widely-varying paths to immigration, the histories of different Asian ethnicities have led to wide disparities in the present day. It is vital to disaggregate Asian data to make sure that resources are properly channeled to communities that need them. AAPT commits to providing resources to educators about the need for the disaggregation of data,3 better understanding the differences within the Asian American community from those data, and promoting disaggregation as a best practice in physics education research.
The widely-held model minority myth purports that Asians are good at STEM, due to a strong work ethic and cultural norms that value education. While this framework has both historically and currently been weaponized against other People of Color, it is also harmful to Asian and Asian American students.4 Teachers may be less likely to recognize these struggles, and programmatic efforts may not include Asians who would benefit. We call upon the physics and physics education communities to challenge the stereotypes of the model minority myth.
There also needs to be reflection upon the intersection of ethnicity and gender, along with immigration status, socioeconomic status, and facility with the English language. Asian women have been hyper-sexualized in American culture. They are seen by many as exotic, submissive, and have been sexually fetishized.5 Given the many issues already faced by all women in physics, this is an additional burden.6,7 AAPT commits to using an intersectional approach when addressing the concerns of underserved and/or oppressed populations.
We recognize that similar to other issues of diversity, that anti-Asian American racism is complex and an intersectional lens is paramount. As individuals and as a professional society, we commit to learning and working with experts on these matters such as scholars doing Critical Race Theory in Asian American studies.
For those compelled to do something now, it may be useful to read reports from the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE, http://care.gseis.ucla.edu/care-reports/).
As in the past, AAPT commits to speaking up and out against these issues and taking concrete actions that eradicate oppression and support marginalized people. We encourage our membership to consider how they can take similar actions in their personal and professional spheres.
Jan Mader, AAPT President
Toni Sauncy, AAPT President Elect
Duane Merrell, AAPT Vice President
Chandralekha Singh, AAPT Past President (2020-21)
Mel S. Sabella, AAPT Past President (2019-20)
Alexis V. Knaub, Chair of AAPT Committee on Diversity in Physics
Idaykis Rodriguez, Vice Chair of AAPT Committee on Diversity
David Marasco, Past Chair of AAPT Committee on Diversity in Physics (2019-20)
Arlene Modeste Knowles, Past Chair, AAPT Committee on Diversity in Physics (2020-21)
Beth A.Cunningham, AAPT Executive Officer
Robert Hilborn, AAPT Associate Executive Officer
2 Hate crimes against Asian Americans in the largest 16 U.S. cities spiked by nearly 150 percent in 2020. (CSU Santa Barbara, Center for the study of Hate & Extremism.)
3 For example, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED573772.pdf
4 McGee, E. O., Thakore, B. K., & LaBlance, S. S. (2016, April 14). The Burden of Being “Model”: Racialized Experiences of Asian STEM College Students. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dhe0000022
5 Museus SD, Truong KA. Racism and Sexism in Cyberspace: Engaging Stereotypes of Asian American Women and Men to Facilitate Student Learning and Development. About Campus. 2013;18(4):14-21. doi:10.1002/abc.21126
6 Mukkamala, S., & Suyemoto, K. L. (2018). Racialized sexism/sexualized racism: A multimethod study of intersectional experiences of discrimination for Asian American women. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 9(1), 32–46. https://doi.org/10.1037/aap0000104
7 Castro, AR, Collins, CS. Asian American women in STEM in the lab with “White Men Named John”. Science Education. 2020; 105: 33– 61. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21598