As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and the school year begins, San Francisco city leaders joined other public officials, including vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, on Wednesday to call on schools to stand up against racism aimed at students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.
The leaders, along with organizers from Beyond Differences and the Community Youth Center of San Francisco, are asking schools to take part in the Stand Up for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Youth During COVID program.
Students have increasingly been exposed to racist language and attacks since the virus arrived in the U.S early this year, and schools lack the tools to have address it, the organizers said.
“In this moment where there’s so many powerful forces trying to sow hate and division and engage in xenophobic rhetoric, we know the strength of unity,” Harris (D-California) said in a video message. “We know that lifting up our young leaders and doing everything that we can to support them and their families.”
“I’m sorry that any of our AAPI students have had to deal with bullying, name calling, or stereotyping. We need to send the message to the president and to others that we need to stand together,” California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said.
“It takes a lot of bravery to share these experiences that you’ve had, and I know many of them have been hurtful; I had those hurtful words – as a woman, and especially as an African American woman – said to me, and it doesn’t feel good,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed. “We have to report racism, particularly with what’s going on since this COVID-19 pandemic began. I have heard numerous stories from our Asian American community [that they] are not reporting these incidents, and I do think it’s important that we report them and we as city leaders do a better job, that we are putting messages out there that unite our communities and not continue to tear us apart.”
“Racism against all of our communities, and against our Asian communities is nothing new: the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese American Internment, what happened to our Muslim brothers and sisters after 9-11,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “America is a work in progress, but we know that change will happen with every new generation.”
“Young people feel isolated so often and alone, and that’s how people win when we have groups of people bullying us and attacking us, they want us to feel like we are alone,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). “This virtual gathering is a reminder that we are not by ourselves and in fact, there’re more of us than there is of them.”
The Stand Up for AAPI Youth During COVID program is part of Beyond Differences’ national initiative Know Your Classmates, launched in 2016 to address Islamophobia in schools and help students deepen friendships and foster acceptance beyond race, gender or other differences.