Temple: Combat xenophobia through education

A student urges Temple to provide anti-racist information amid nation-wide xenophobia.


Content warning: This story mentions descriptions of assault, which may be triggering for some readers.

Last month, Lennie’s Hoagies, a Roxborough restaurant, served macaroni and cheese topped with “Chinese chili garlic sauce” and called it “COVID Mac,” CBS3 News reported

Racist rhetoric like this has prompted a surge of hate crimes across United States cities.  

Hate crimes against Asian Americans in major U.S. cities spiked by 150 percent since last March, including Philadelphia, which saw a 200 percent increase from 2019, Voa News reported

To prevent hate crimes from occuring on campus, Temple University should advocate on behalf of their Asian students, offer general education courses in Asian history and hold more informational panels about xenophobia. As we enter our second year living with COVID-19, students must debunk these implicit and explicit biases and develop cultural competence. 

At Temple, faculty and students have also been victims of anti-Asian discrimination. In February 2020, Asian American students reported being called racial slurs due to COVID-19, The Temple News reported

Jeffrey Lee, an intellectual heritage professor who is Taiwanese American, was assaulted in Philadelphia earlier this year.  

“I had a physical encounter where I actually ended up calling the police,” Lee said. “I don’t think any ethnic, racial or religious group is exempt, it can really be anyone.” 

Mary Kate Durnan, who is Chinese American and was adopted by white parents, experienced discrimination while shopping with her mother at a thrift store in Bucks County one month ago. 

“This couple got this look on their face of utter disgust, so I avoided them, and then they started following me and going on and on about how the Chinese brought the virus,” said Durnan, a senior computer science major.

The Race and Diversity general education program includes courses like African American theater, Race and Identity in Judaism and Immigration and the American Dream, but none of them are centered on Asian American history, according to the Temple bulletin. 

At least one general education course should concentrate on Asian American history to investigate the forms racism takes in American culture. 

By educating all students in Asian American history, they can become more culturally competent individuals, said Nguyễn Thị Điểu, a history professor and affiliated faculty for the department of Asian studies. 

“Students should be required to study Asian and Asian American history, provided that courses be taught by specialists in these fields, and provided that they do not consider these courses as exotic or quaint,” Nguyễn Thị Điểu said.  

In October 2020, the College of Liberal Arts held a weeklong discussion called “The Rise in Anti-Asian Sentiments: Racism, Xenophobia and COVID-19.” 

Asian Americans in Philadelphia are continuing to be targeted with harassment and prejudice. Temple should continue these discussions this spring to foster inclusive attitudes among students.   

The Clery Act requires the university to publish all hate crimes on and around campus, including the year and location of the incident and the type of offense and discrimination involved, according to Temple’s 2020 annual security and fire safety report

Following incidents of racist comments from students in June 2020, Temple’s University Counsel approved two recommendations to the Student Conduct Code to respond better to hate speech, The Temple News reported.

Discrimination is often not reported because victims don’t feel comfortable disclosing this information, but the university investigates hate crimes seriously, said Raymond Betzner, a spokesperson for the university. 

“Students who violate this policy are subject to punishment from the university or the law,” Betzner said. 

Students who have felt victimized or have seen anti-Asian discrimination should come forward to resources like a resident assistant, the Dean of Students Office, the Wellness Resource Center or Tuttleman Counseling Services.

Temple can support their Asian American students by improving diversity in required courses, holding more thought-provoking events and enforcing Student Conduct Code policies.

Students can help their peers by speaking up when they hear blatantly racist jokes, Durnan said.

“I’d appreciate if people stopped model minority myth-ing me by saying this isn’t an issue or completely ignoring it,” Durnan added.

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