On March 1, during the first all-School meeting following students’ return to campus from mid-winter break, Head of School Craig Bradley enthusiastically welcomed Bearcats back to campus. He then spoke earnestly of a serious issue: increasing hostility across the U.S. toward Asians and Asian-Americans. He set his remarks in connection with the importance of ensuring that Hotchkiss remains a safe and supportive community for all of its members.
“We often use the acronym DEI to refer to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Acronyms are fine; however, the full meaning of the words can get lost in the shorthand. As we head into this spring together, I would like to reflect on inclusion at Hotchkiss. More specifically, I would like to reflect on inclusion at Hotchkiss in the context of an increasingly hostile environment in the United States for Asian and Asian-Americans and to emphasize our values as a pluralistic learning community where all are welcomed,” he said.
After recognizing the increasing association between COVID-19 and China, Bradley traced the history of race-based scapegoating during episodes of epidemic disease. Among examples he cited were rampant anti-Semitism as the plague ravaged Europe in the 14th century; the nicknaming of Syphilis as “the French disease” after it may or may not have been introduced to Naples by French troops in the 15th century; a cholera outbreak in the US in the 1830s that was blamed on Irish immigrants; the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19, which had little to do with Spain; and the dubbing of HIV/AIDS as “the gay plague” in the 1980s.
“When a major public health crisis occurs, in addition to the suffering caused by the disease, it also causes an increase in xenophobia and scapegoating,” Bradley explained.
Once naming conventions such as these enter common parlance, they can be difficult to change. In 2015, the World Health Organization published best-practice recommendations for the naming of infectious diseases. The WHO discouraged scientists and public officials from naming diseases in ways that reference specific people, places, animals, or occupations lest the naming incite undue fear.* The association of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with China, and therefore with Chinese people, is the most recent example of such an unfounded association. It is having egregious consequences in the form of violence.
“I have been concerned about Asian and Asian American members of this community feeling unsafe in light of this time of heightened violence and bias against Asians and Asian Americans in this country,” he said. He went on to conclude his remarks by articulating the School’s absolute commitment to aligning its actions with its values.
“Hotchkiss is blessed with many Asian and Asian American community members, including alumni and parents. This morning, as we welcome all of our students back -- some students to campus for the very first time -- I want to reiterate our values as a learning community: We believe that a healthy and inclusive learning community nourishes students physically, emotionally, and intellectually; fosters joy in learning and living with others; and ensures that all feel safe, seen, and supported.”
(Watch a replay of Mr. Bradley's remarks below.)
On March 5, Triple A, the Pan Asian affinity group, hosted a session open to the School community during which attendees examined anti-Asian racism and its intensification during the global pandemic. Topics discussed by students in attendance included the role of media in diminishing the recognition of anti-Asian racism, challenges driven by the “model minority” and “perpetual foreigner” stereotypes, societal desensitization to racism and violence, and the criticality of dismantling systemic racism for the benefit of all people of color.
On March 17, following the shooting deaths in Atlanta of six Asian women and two other victims, the School will host an open forum for students, faculty and staff. The session is intended to provide space to process, share, and support those in the Pan Asian community in the wake of tragic and ongoing violence.