PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop on Monday released a joint statement from well over 100 writers, artists, actors, and creative professionals calling for an end to anti-Asian and Asian-American sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Signed by Riz Ahmed, Ayad Akhtar, Alexander Chee, Min Jin Lee, Celeste Ng, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and C. Pam Zhang, among many others (click here for a full list of signatories), the statement comes as the two organizations also announced a May 27 online day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity” to condemn hate and celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers.
“The time to turn back this wave of hate is now,” the statement reads (full text below). “We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate.”
The statement comes against the backdrop of a surge in hate crimes, violence, and other assaults against Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders, spurred by hateful rhetoric and often taking place in public spaces. The statement also highlights that public officials and leaders have not taken sufficient steps to address such attacks, and in some cases are promoting theories that blame Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic.
“We realize that this anti-Asian sentiment comes alongside an equally troubling uptick in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence,” said writer and PEN America Trustee Min Jin Lee. “This is a clarion call that all forms of racist hatred, especially at this moment, are unwelcome, unacceptable, and intolerable. As writers, we reckon with the power of words each day, and we know that along with the physical violence, poisonous rhetoric is also visiting a different kind of violence on all too many people. We’re here to say: We won’t stand for it.”
“The long history of organizing in the AAPI community parallels a longer history of anti-Asian bigotry, and the recent wave of hate is an unfortunate reminder that these racist tropes have been harming Asian American communities for decades,” said AAWW’s executive director Jafreen Uddin. “The AAWW is proud to partner with PEN America in taking a stand against this dangerous rise in bigotry. Our partnership embodies the spirit of coalition-building that has long been at the heart of organizing within the Asian American community and the AAWW’s own work in amplifying marginalized voices through the power of storytelling. History has proven time and again that we are stronger together, and with allies like PEN America on our side, we are able to meet the challenge of this moment as a forceful, united front.”
On Wednesday, May 27, PEN America and AAWW will host a virtual day of action “United Against Hate: A Day of Solidarity.” The daylong program will include readings, lectures, poetry, and a teach-in to discuss strategies for combatting and defending against hateful actions and rhetoric. Click here for the full lineup.
Events include a teach-in featuring Jennifer Ho, Floyd Cheung, Pawan Dhingra, and Kathleen Yep; an AAWW Lit Lunch on Instagram Live with Huiyan B. Chan; a panel on countering hate speech with Nadine Strossen, Ishmael Beah, and Helen Zia; and a poetry reading with George Abraham, Kazim Ali, Regie Cabico, Marilyn Chin, Staceyann Chin, Tarfia Faizullah, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Jenny Xie, Monica Youn, and others.
Statement of Solidarity Against Anti-Asian Hatred
The surge in hate crimes, violence, and verbal assaults against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in recent months is a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia are persistent challenges in the United States. Many of these attacks have been brazen, occurring in public spaces and online. They have been egged on at times by an administration drawing on racist tropes and stereotypes, eager to distract from its own missteps.
Reports of any individuals being spit on, stabbed, beat up, or verbally assaulted are disturbing enough when they are isolated incidents. However, when such attacks are collectively driven by hate, and when they occur in such large volume, the onus lies heavily on civil society and on our elected representatives to condemn them. Shamefully, such voices have been too few in recent months. Attacks continue to be reported in large numbers, and one recent poll found that 32 percent of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic. The alarming rise in xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and anti-Black violence during this pandemic demands a robust civic response.
The time to turn back this wave of hate is now. We, the undersigned, call on everyday citizens to join us in standing in solidarity with all those targeted by hate during COVID-19. Together, we can use the power of our collective voices to call for a more just, equal, and inclusive society. As members of the global literary community, we know well that diversity is a pillar of any liberal democracy, providing rich and varied stories to celebrate. On behalf of PEN America and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, we invite you to join us on May 27 for a day of action to condemn this scourge; celebrate Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander writers; and to raise your voice to call out hate in all its heinous forms.