A Message from the Chair on Combatting White Supremacy and Systemic Anti-black Racism

July 2, 2020

As chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, I mourn the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many other victims of white supremacy and systemic anti-black racism in North America and in regions around the world. I stand in solidarity with many worldwide, from Washington D.C. to Seoul, who are protesting the long history of hate and prejudice and its violence against the bodies of black, indigenous, and other peoples of color. I believe that it is important that as scholars of East Asian studies we acknowledge this history and work to combat such racist systems, and support the struggle for equality, justice, and human rights.

I maintain that as a department, we need to further efforts to eliminate prejudice against black students, scholars, and members of our community at Yale and in the field of East Asian studies itself, while establishing alliances with students and scholars combating racism locally and elsewhere in the world. In our curriculum, we can expand education on racism in East Asia, its connections with white supremacy in Europe and North America, and East Asian studies’ historical connections to global systems of oppression. As chair, I intend to call on students and faculty, especially those of color, to help us develop concrete measures this summer to further these ends.

I believe we cannot stand back in the mistaken belief that East Asian studies is not relevant to these issues; we must think about how East Asian studies can contribute to the struggle against racism and white supremacy. What can we say about the fact that some American white nationalists have looked to East Asia for models of national racial purity? What can we say about the fact that African-Americans have occasionally looked to Asia for modes of resistance? Asians have also long been the victims of racist violence, with cases only on the rise in the age of COVID-19. But Asians themselves have been guilty of racism against black people, relying on notions of white supremacy even to discriminate against other Asians. The history of East Asia is one of both suffering from and advancing colonialism.

I am convinced that we as a department must work to eradicate oppressive ways of dividing humanity and embrace equality, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, and any other basis for oppression.

Aaron Gerow

Chair, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures