‘Stop Asian Hate’

Vigil held in remembrance of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings


Sami Mirza

Students stand in solidarity for the victims of the mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings which killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, the Association for Asian and Asian American Awareness and the South Asian Student Society hosted a vigil for the victims. 

Students and other members of the Allegheny Community began to gather on the Gator Quad outside the Henderson Campus Center at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, to hear from speakers, show support for those affected by anti-Asian racism and advocate for stopping Asian hate.

Among those who attended the vigil were President Hilary Link, Provost Ron Cole, Registrar Ian Binnington and other members of Allegheny’s administration. 

“It is important that as an institution, we continue to think about what our values are, and that it’s important not just to be seen but to also act, that we don’t just say, ‘hey, we have these great values, we have a statement of community,’ and that’s okay,” Binnington said. “We think about how we live that.” 

The vigil began with a series of speakers who shared their experiences and feelings in the wake of the shootings as well as the prevalence of anti-Asian racism. After the speakers finished, people were invited to use the platform to share their own experiences, light candles in remembrance of the victims, and write with chalk on the sidewalk leading up to the campus center. 

 The speakers highlighted the need for the Allegheny College community to both mourn the victims of the shooting and begin to understand what the community can do better to support Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander American people. 

Samantha Thai, ’21, president of A5, recognized the effort and time that administrators put in to attend the event, but also cited an additional way that the administration could support AAPI people. 

“Instead of just recognizing and sending out a message, doing more to actually support the community, instead of relying on student organizations and the faculty to arrange these things,I feel like there could have been a lot more facilitation on their end instead of relying on A5 and SASS and the Department of World Languages to be doing all of this work,” Thai said. 

Thai also advocated for increased learning on the part of allies of AAPI people, especially in how actions and behaviors contribute to the current cycle of racism and injustice. 

The President’s Cabinet sent out an email to the Allegheny College community the day after the shootings took place. The email unequivocally condemned the attacks and stated Allegheny College’s solidarity with Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander American people both at Allegheny and beyond.  

The email continued to offer resources for students in need of additional support, advocate for mindfulness and dialogue, and suggested that interested students could work towards hosting a community dialogue in conjunction with the Dean for Institutional Diversity, Kristen Dukes. 

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of these individuals,” the email stated. “Cowardice and fear continue to fuel racist and violent attacks against the AAPI community. Allegheny College unequivocally condemns these attacks and stands in solidarity with the AAPI individuals within the Allegheny community and beyond.”  For Binnington, the issue of anti-AAPI attacks is hard for the Allegheny administration alone to solve. 

“This is difficult work because what we’re trying to do in a small area in Northwest Pennsylvania is deal with issues that are systemic and that are structural and that go beyond our borders,” Binnington said. 

Binnington went on to advocate for a deeper understanding of what it means to uphold the Statement of Community and its values.

“We think about what that means on a day-to-day basis, whether that’s in the classroom, whether that’s on the playing field, whether that’s in sports and clubs, in the residence halls,” Binnington said.

Emma Godel, ’21, was among the attendants. 

“I have to show support for other human beings,” Godel said. “This is the bare minimum and I hope to do more.” 

Godel also had suggestions about how the Allegheny College community could better support AAPI people and other groups who have often become targets of violence. 

“I think the vigil is a great start,” Godel said. “I think white people especially educate (themselves). Privilege is often something that goes unnoticed because you’re so used to it. If you are privileged within a group, and in this case if you’re not AAPI, educate yourself on what this community has been through and how you can help improve their situation.”

For Thai, allies of AAPI people should work to better understand how behaviors and actions have an affect on others. 

 “For our allies, (take) the time to educate yourself about racism and about how your own behaviors and actions affect the Asian-American community as well as other people of color,” Thai said.