Created with Sketch.

March 26, 2022

MSM President James Gandre responds to the rise in Asian American hate crimes in the United States

Dear MSM Community Members,

A little more than one year ago, in his first prime-time address to the nation, President Biden put the scourge of anti-Asian racism and hate in this country front and center for millions of Americans and countless millions worldwide. Referring to “vicious hate crimes against Asian Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed, and scapegoated” in growing numbers over the previous year, the President said: “It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop.

Sadly, in the year since, this terrible trend has only gotten worse, with the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reporting that anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. rose by 339% in 2021 compared with 2020.  In New York City, the NYPD’s report was even more appalling, citing an increase of 361%. Reporting from Stop AAPI Hate – a coalition that was created two years ago during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to fight discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – echoes these significant spikes in the numbers of hate incidents. From reports made directly to the organization, verbal harassment continues to make up the biggest share of total incidents reported (at 63%), while, distressingly, physical assault comprises the second largest category (at 16%).

Most disturbing perhaps has been a recent spate of New York-area attacks against members of the AAPI community. On one recent Sunday, a man assaulted seven Asian American women within a two-hour period in Manhattan. Last week, in Yonkers, a woman was viciously beaten as she entered her apartment building (she was reported in stable condition, and her attacker was in custody by the time this was reported in the New York Times). Tragically, there have been other New York attacks in recent months that have resulted in death.

It continues to be an unfortunate reality that along with everything else that is happening around the globe, America continues to be tainted by this wave of targeted racism. As I’ve said before, “isms” and “phobias” of all types – sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, ageism, heterosexism/homophobia, ableism, etc. – not only cultivate an unlevel playing field for both personal and professional success but are horrible agents of great harm. They frequently lead to violence. However here in America and beyond, it is one “ism” – racism – that is perhaps the most pervasive and dangerous form of hatred.

As we continue to process and work in solidarity against the long series of violent crimes against Black Americans, it is the sad, undeniable truth that racial hatred is an endemic problem here in the United States among a sizable group of people. It is my ongoing hope that none of us in the MSM Community will sit idly by in the face of these realities, but that we will continue to choose action and show our solidarity with those under attack. Actions like writing your elected officials, taking time to educate yourself on the history of these racial issues, calling to check on your friends who might be feeling fearful during this time of rising hatreds, and/or speaking out against racism whenever and wherever you see it are important. Even sharing a smile or a kind word can contribute to making a difference, however small.

The MSM Community includes students from nearly all 50 states as well as US territories, and significantly, more than 50 countries. Our domestic and international diversity makes us strong and helps prepare our students to be responsible and engaged global citizens, and to forge a place on the world stage, literally perhaps, but also figuratively. MSM’s Mission articulates it this way, calling upon the institution to prepare our students “to be…effective contributors to the arts and society.”  Let us continue to live this motto to the fullest.

Should you need help with resources or questions during these difficult times, I invite you to email Chief of Staff and Assistant Vice President for Special Initiatives Alexa Smith (asmith@msmnyc.edu), who leads our Cultural Inclusion Initiative, which was created to help our Community courageously and actively lean into challenges around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And, of course, please feel free to email me directly as well. Also, in spring 2020, we created an MSM Community portal called “You Have a Voice at MSM,” which is for use by students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The portal provides a safe place for each of you in our extended MSM family to offer concerns, grievances, information, incident reports, and suggestions to Manhattan School of Music. This information will assist us in our effort to respond efficiently as needed and, more generally, to continue to improve not just communication and education on these issues, but to take practical steps to improve our collective culture here at MSM.

Sincerely,