“United We Stand”: UF Japanese program fights against hate crimes

By: Lauren Wolters


UF raises awareness to the recent uptick of Asian hate crimes in the United States

The University of Findlay’s Japanese program invited two speakers, Grace Leng and Sachiyo Peterson, from the Columbus area to share their experience as Asian Americans. This event occurred virtually on Zoom April 12 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event hoped to raise awareness of the recent Asian hate crimes in the United States.

Tamara Medakov, a UF junior studying Japanese and Spanish, explained that crimes against Asian Americans in the United States increased 150% in 2020. Many of these crimes targeted women.

Medakov believes that raising awareness of this violence will help to decrease it in the future. The Japanese program sponsored this event with the hope that it will encourage Oiler Nation to talk about difficult subjects like Asian violence.

Dr. Katherine Fell attended the Zoom session and said that UF stands against hate crimes in all forms. “My hope is that this evening’s program will serve as a powerful reminder,” Fell said.

Peterson spoke first during the event echoing Dr. Fell’s words. “I have visited Findlay multiple times,” she said. “I think it really speaks volumes when the leader of a campus supports the cause.”

Peterson moved to Ohio when she was four years old. Her hometown had a very low Asian population. She described how the children around her mocked her. They compared her to a chia pet and to Yoshi.

“These experiences made me feel very small, very ashamed,” Peterson said.

Peterson admitted that adults would sometimes join in even when her mother was there. Peterson shared her regret in never standing up for herself. She explained that Asian culture teaches not to do anything controversial, so for a long time Peterson did nothing.

Leng shared very similar experiences. She moved to the United States for her graduate studies. She too struggled to stand up when hateful incidences happened.

“The first instinct is to keep to ourselves,” Leng said.

Leng explained that people shouted racial slurs at her young son and his friends one time when they were getting ice cream.

“It really hurts my heart when I think of my son who was born in this country,” Leng said.

Leng and Peterson both agreed that the shootings in Atlanta was a huge turning point. “When I heard about the shootings in Atlanta that was my breaking point,” Peterson said.

“I was finally happy to see people around the country not only from our Asian community, [but] people like you started showing action,” Leng continued. Despite the many hardships Leng and Peterson faced, they remain hopeful.

“A country has not been perfect, but eventually justice and humanity prevail,” Leng said. “We have to fight for it.”

“The reality is that everyone views society through a racial lens,” Peterson said. “Teaching our children about race and what is right and wrong with race. . .I think that the home is the best place to learn those things. . .It’s never too early to talk about it.”

Peterson admitted that as a child she felt best at Japanese school. She didn’t have to worry about being harassed, and she had friends.

“This friendship that I had with this girl was a huge turning point for me. I viewed my diversity as a strength instead of a weakness.”

On April 9, Medakov and a few other members of UF’s Japanese program arranged posters in the College of Business and Center for Student Life (CBSL). They sat at a table in the atrium to collect signatures for their program’s statement. The statement proclaimed their protests toward all violence against Asians and Asian Americans. When members of the UF community signed the statement, they confirmed their agreement with the program’s statement against Asian violence. Here is the program’s statement:

“Students and faculty of the Japanese Program at The University of Findlay are deeply

disturbed by the recent surge of crimes against Asians and Asian Americans. In 2020,

crimes against Asian Americans increased by 150%, many of which were targeted toward

women. This number is egregious. It is our belief that people are better than these

horrible acts of violence, which are bred from fear and ignorance. That is why, we here at

Findlay will take actions to stand together with the Asian communities across the nation.

We will fight to overcome ignorance, all forms of discrimination, and we hope to give

others the strength to do the same.”

For more information about the recent surge in Asian violence visit: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/asian-american-community-battles-surge-in-hatecrimes-stirred-from-covid-19  and https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/there-were-3-800-anti-asian-racist-incidentsmostly-against-n1261257.

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