Campus march a step towards solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Vendela Norris

The day before Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month began, a crowd gathered at the William T. Young Library to stand in solidarity with AAPI in against Asian hate.

The crowd, made up of UK students, faculty, local activists and other members of the Lexington community, crossed the campus as part of the solidarity march, jointly hosted by the Office for Student Success, Office for Institutional Diversity, International Student and Scholar Services and Student Government Association.

Bystanders watched and listened to the march chants echoing “Stop Asian hate” and “We are one community,” on their way to the Gatton Student Center, where speeches were given. “Our work for social justice, and fight against systemic racism of all kinds, has to be a lifetime commitment,” said keynote speaker Dr. Huajing Xiu Maske. Dr. Maske is the executive of the UK Office of China Initiatives (OCI) and former executive director for the UK Confucius Institute.

“It was asked very often ‘where are you from, no, where are you really from?’ To some of you that say what is wrong with that question, what harm does it do? Well, let me tell you how I felt, personally, when I heard that. I felt I was not American enough, or my English is not good enough, or I totally just don’t belong here,” Dr. Maske said about the emotional process she went through when becoming an American citizen in 2004.

Following Dr. Macke’s speech, a representative from Student Government Association spoke, saying that condemning racism and injustice are essential to the campus community.

Other march attendees believe the university has not done enough to represent minority communities.

“SGA what are you doing? It comes down to the administration, what are you doing? What are your capacities, what you making happen for other people? We have to hold ourselves accountable,” said Katherine Counts, a graduate student and president of the Graduate Student Congress.

Counts also spoke at the rally to say that allies should talk directly to communities to find out what they need. 

Mack Thompson, a UK freshman majoring in anthropology, said allies can support the AAPI communities by staying informed and updated on topical issues.

“Concerning recent events, political patterns need constant support and affirmation of diversity within this institution especially,” Thompson said.

Bias and hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen across the U.S. in the last year, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic being called the ‘Chinese virus.’

But in rallies in Lexington and at UK, many speakers testified that racism against Asian Americans is a long-standing problem in the country and one that recent acts of violence have shown cannot be allowed to continue.

Attendees at the rally on April 30 said some of the steps are simple, but the easiest one on Friday was to step in on the march and stand in solidarity.