|Dear Stevenson Community:
The fact that anti-Asian hate crimes, which are sadly nothing new in the United States, have increased over 150% in the past year must concern us all. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been nearly 3800 such crimes reported across the United States, and surely many more shameful incidents have gone unreported. This week’s shooting in Atlanta, in which six out of the eight victims who died were of Asian descent and four of these were Korean immigrant women, is especially horrific and distressing, as are remarks made subsequently by law enforcement officers and media pundits that seem to sympathize with the perpetrator, and downplay the race and gender-based nature of these brutal murders in ways that contribute to the invisibility of the Asian American Pacific Islander community and women.
In the best traditions of our School, I encourage you to pay attention and to take meaningful action. Please join me, my colleagues across all three divisions, your peers and their families, and our alumni in rising to speak out against this type of hate, as well as hate in all its forms. I encourage you to learn more about what is happening now and what has happened in the past, and then reach out to your friends who identify as Asian American Pacific Islander to acknowledge these events, to see how they are doing, and to express your solidarity and support.
Since its founding in 1952, Stevenson has sought to knit together the future of our world one friendship at a time. For this goal to be a truly worthy one, these friendships must cross such boundaries of identity as nationality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. For this goal to matter beyond the borders of our campuses, we must choose to be forever alert to hate and injustice, and cultivate the courage, skill, and presence of mind to not turn away from hateful things that people say and do because we are fearful or embarrassed--or because their words and deeds are not directed specifically at us.
Even what some might mistake for inconsequential moments—a conspiratorial smirk behind someone’s back; a question which, though asked without either malice or empathy, is nonetheless insensitive; someone casually employing a stereotype that, by diminishing someone else’s unique identity and self-esteem, lands with the violent force of a closed fist—each one of these examples represents monumental opportunities for us to bravely stand up for what is right, for ourselves as well as for others. To fail to take action when such opportunities appear is to imperil others’ wellbeing, as well as our School’s core values, and may haunt us for the rest of our lives. And if a peer rises up to correct what they perceive to be your error, greet their courage with the respect it deserves, and give some serious thought to your actions, regardless of your intent.
It is devastatingly sad that humanity still struggles in this way. And yet, our School community can strive to provide the gift of a good example to the world in this regard. Stevenson is a place where we can work together to learn how to make a difference. It is in this hopeful spirit I invite us to not succumb to exasperation and exhaustion, but rather to meet darkness with light, hate with love, ignorance with education, and insensitivity with fierce patience and unrelenting courage. And, as always, we must remember to turn to one another for support and encouragement when we feel scared, angry, or worn down.
Dr. Kevin Hicks ’85, P ’29