Created with Sketch.

March 18, 2021

MSM responds to the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the US

“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.”

Dr. James Gandre
President of Manhattan School of Music

Dear MSM Community,

Last week in his first prime-time, Presidential 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 past year, the President said: “It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it must stop.”

These remarks came in the context of recent statistics from Stop AAPI Hate – an organization that was created last year to fight discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic – indicating a huge spike in hate incidents reported against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in this country over the course of the past year. Among these were incidents of “name-calling, shunning, and assault,” according to a report in today’s New York Times. Last Sunday, in a high-profile incident that received national attention, a San Antonio ramen shop was vandalized with hateful slurs in retaliation for a national news appearance by its owner who was advocating for continuing Texas’s mask mandate.  And tragically, just this week in Georgia, eight people, six of whom were Asian, were shot and killed at three Atlanta-area spas (one suspect is in custody). Although the motivation for these unspeakable shootings is as yet unclear, coming at the end of a year that saw nearly 3,800 reported anti-Asian hate incidents in this country, it is understandable that it has fueled an atmosphere of fear and outrage.

We are still in the midst of a pandemic that continues to occupy the minds and grip the emotions of most Americans, despite the very hopeful roll-out of vaccines in recent weeks, and it is an unfortunate reality that within this crisis, America is reeling from yet another wave of 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 and, as we’ve so often seen, death. 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 that last spring and summer sparked nationwide #BlackLivesMatter protests, it is the sad truth that racial hatred is an endemic problem here in the United States. 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.

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, created to help our Community lean into challenges around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). And, of course, please feel free to email me as well. Also, last spring, 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.

In the wake of the horrific shootings in Atlanta, Vice President Harris sent this message to the Asian American community (also noting that the motivation for the shooting was still being investigated):

“We stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people. But knowing the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian American brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.”

On that solemn but welcome call to action from our first female and our first Black and South Asian Vice President, I wish you all a safe, hopeful, and happy spring.

Sincerely,

Jim Gandre
President of Manhattan School of Music

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic that continues to occupy the minds and grip the emotions of most Americans, despite the very hopeful roll-out of vaccines in recent weeks, and it is an unfortunate reality that within this crisis, America is reeling from yet another wave of racism.”

President of Manhattan School of Music