Dear Parents of the Harvard College Class of 2020:
Throughout our four years at Harvard, we’ve come to understand how close of a community this circle has been. Together, you have supported us, cared for us, and organized events for us to come together and celebrate each other, most recently at our WeChat graduation ceremony just a few days ago. Each of us wants to express our deep appreciation for everything that you have done for us to get us to and through Harvard.
We are asking for this incredible, tight-knit, and compassionate community that we’ve benefited so much from to come together again, this time to help with something that we care deeply about. As official Harvard graduates, we believe that it is our duty to become the citizens and citizen leaders of the world. In line with this, we feel the necessity to act against racism and hate. We believe that Black lives matter and that we should do everything in our power to support all people resisting oppression in America. We know our experiences and views might be different from yours, so this is why we would like to start a conversation with you — the people who are closest to us — about why we stand with Black people.
On May 25th, police killed George Floyd, a Black man, by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes, even after he pleaded he could not breathe and even for minutes after he lost his pulse. A few months earlier, police used a battering ram to break in unannounced to the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman and EMT, and fatally shot her with a spray of bullets in her sleep.
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are only two cases of many. In 2019, the police killed 1,099 people. Black people were 24% of those killed, even though they make up only 13% of the population. We’ve witnessed police violence on our own campus too: two years ago, Cambridge police detained and repeatedly beat a Black Harvard undergraduate right outside the Yard. Yet 99% of police officers who killed people between 2013 and 2019 did not face any charges.
Regardless of what your stance is on the protests, we hope that we can all agree that there is something wrong with the current system.
We are not strangers to discrimination. In the 1800s, Chinese people were exploited to build the railroads, chased from towns by white mobs, and eventually banned from entering the United States as dictated by the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a 28-year-old Chinese-American attending his own bachelor party, was targeted for his skin color and beaten to death by two white men — neither murderer went to jail. In 1997, Kuanchung Kao, a Chinese-American engineer, husband and father of three was shot to death by police who said they were afraid of his “martial arts” moves. In 2013, Chicago police physically and verbally abused Chinese-American Jessica Klysek, threatening to put her in a UPS box and send her “back to wherever the f***” she came from. Today, the rise in claims of “the Chinese virus” and anti-Chinese violence after COVID-19 has shown us that racism has never gone away, and that recent instances of police brutality against the Black community are also a result of this history.
And throughout history, the Black and Chinese American communities have stood together to fight racism. In 1975, San Francisco’s Chinatown mobilized 15,000 community members to protest the police beating of Peter Yew. In that case, as well as during the protests following the murder of Vincent Chin, Black Americans stood alongside Chinese Americans in solidarity. Black activists were also on the front lines with us during the Civil Rights Era, getting the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act passed, which allowed Chinese immigrants to come to America for the first time since Chinese Exclusion. Our suffering under racial discrimination is tied together. So to truly make a difference, we must stand together — to see ourselves and our stories in others, whether or not they look like us. The violence facing them today may also face us tomorrow, so how can we justify watching this from afar? We believe that we can and must continue standing by the Black community at this time.
So, what are we asking for?
Just as Black Americans stood with Chinese Americans throughout history, we must continue to stand with Black Americans today. It is our duty to recognize and resist acts of racism when we see them, to engage in the civic process, and to organize our communities around issues that are important to us and to our society. In order to do this, we are asking you to join us in doing the following things — all of which make a difference:
If you’re financially able, consider donating to our Givebutter fundraiser, which will be redirected to organizations fighting for racial justice and accountability.
VOTE: Asian American voter turnout still stands at 30% compared to the 50% national average.
Be aware of and support local politics and community organizations fighting for change.
Have meaningful conversations with us: as family members, we can work together to better understand how to combat racism in our everyday lives. Educating ourselves, finding helpful resources, and being more aware starts at the personal level.
Altogether, we believe that with each other, we can make a difference. From each of you, we have learned the importance of caring for each other, doing what is right, and educating ourselves. Now more than ever, we must do all of these things. Whether by donating, educating and speaking with each other, or even just sharing this information, what is most important is that we care. Today, we strive to embody the compassion you taught us by standing up for the Black community so that tomorrow we may live in a world that is also safer for and kinder to the Chinese community, the Asian community, and all minority groups.
65 Chinese American students, Harvard Class 2020