Student Activism on Campus: FASU, SOL, and BSU collaborate in discussion of the Stop Asian Hate Movement
March 26, 2021
On Wednesday, March 24th, the Filipino American Student Union (FASU) held a virtual discussion to address the recent surge of Asian-American hate crimes. The forum, in collaboration with the Student Latino Organization (SOL) and Black Student Union (BSU), aimed to lead a general conversation towards the treatment of minorities and encourage student activism on a virtual campus.
“Why do we have to convince other people that we are important enough to be cared about and acknowledged? Why is our discrimination debatable even after hearing everything on the news?” Co-president of FASU, Abby Joy Bautista, said during the discussion’s opening speech.
Student officers, members, and advisors collectively called for direct involvement from school administration towards issues concerning discrimination. Commentators believed that local, national, and global issues outside of school should be important to acknowledge, in order to prioritize a safe learning environment for all students and appreciate cultural differences.
“The least we ask for is an acknowledgement of these inequalities and a statement reiterating that discrimmination isn’t tolerated within our school,” Bautista said.
Spring Valley is the second most diverse high school in Nevada, consisting of 74.5% of minority students. Numerous cultural clubs, such as FASU, have been established over the years as a means to create communities for students with similar backgrounds, while also accommodating as a safe space to welcome and educate others on different cultures.
“We’ve talked about a collaboration with the other [cultural] clubs not just to come together as a school and as a program, but really to help unify and also educate the other cultures and introduce some of our amazing things from our culture to others; really to help educate and to break stereotypes,” FASU advisor, Mike Agustin said.
Since the beginning of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, Asian hate crimes increased by 150% within the largest American cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. In 2021 alone, 10% of people in the Asian- American Pacific Islander community have reported an experience in relation to Anti-Asian hate, thus rising the ‘Stop Asian Hate’ Movement. In response to the uprising, Bautista and FASU co-president Aliyah Shane Cuhabat sent emails to teachers and administrators to address the current situation.
“We’re not asking for a lot. All we’re asking for is support… Don’t ignore what’s happening; talk about it,” Cuhabat said
Both presidents, as Filipino-American students, felt as if there was a lack of compensation from school administrators and the Clark County School District to assess the rise of racial discriminatory practices against minority students. Bautista brung up how the social studies department was encouraged to discuss the January invasion of the US Capitol, yet silent when it came to the rise of racially- targeted hate crimes.
“Teachers have been saying these things to administrators, but until you guys say it, I really don’t think they are gonna listen…” Spanish teacher and SOL Advisor, Diane Hardy said.
Hardy, who is also on the State Task Force for Multicultural Education in Nevada, actively encouraged student activism and attention towards cultural issues prior to the virtual discussion. Hardy’s position as a white woman was, as she admits, “awkward” as the advisor of a student Latino organization.
“One thing that I’ve run across all the schools I’ve worked with [for the past 27 years]. I have actually heard a lot of white teachers say that they assume that the Latino and Asian kids are fine because they ‘don’t complain’,” she said.
Even without regard to her position in the foreign language department, Hardy found it necessary to discuss issues concerning the defamation of students’ cultures. In January, SOL organized a meeting to discourse on the Capitol invasion, allowing a comfortable platform for students to actively comment on the event. Throughout the year, SOL has also shared aspects of the Latino culture through sending emails about Hispanic history to teachers and staff during Hispanic Heritage Month, as well as collaborating with cultural groups such as FASU.
“[Ms. Hardy and I] always want to make sure that our Hispanic and Latino community are always comfortable and respected, but with the recent collabs with FASU and BSU I would like to hopefully make them bigger and more useful in the sense that we can demonstrate Spring Valley’s pride in our diversity,” SOL President Juan-Diaz Colon said.
The discussion further discussed how the hate crimes against Asians not only propose threats to Asian-American students, but it also allowed insight towards the matter of how other minorities view each other. BSU advisor, Marc Hyles, presented the idea of “social stratification”– the idea of how groups of people are placed on a societal ladder– and how it affects his everyday life.
“I was thinking about this video I watched in which I saw a black man punch an older Asian, because of these issues,” Hyles said.
Hyles believes that by shadowing attention towards issues concerning a minority group, silently creates a border among the other ones, rather than unifying. In an experience in which he was about to attend an Asian supermarket to try balut, a Filipino street delicacy, this issue was tested on Hyles.
“When I pulled up to the store, I parked, stared at the store and did not go in because I started to wonder if there’s a possibility that others have seen that video, and if they would perceive me as a threat walking into the store,” Hyles said. “How do I combat the receptions that you might perceive when you look at me, a black person, and what black person might see when we look at Asians?”
Hyles, who also teaches the African American experience class, advocates ways in which teachers can be responsive to students. His proposed question served as an driving outlet that remained relevant for the duration of the discussion. Many responded that miseducation from social media and school were the main sources that fueled racist remarks.
“As a US history student right now, you start to notice that chapters are dedicated to all these different concepts, then maybe at the end of a chapter, there’ll be one page talking about Asian Americans or African Americans,” Junior FASU member Miguel Torres said.
While a reformation of education towards minority history was discussed as important during the discussion, many students brought the idea of social media’s helpful, yet damaging impact on coverage towards hate crime events.
“Seeing this on social media got me kind of scared. It was kind of like how it felt with the coronavirus where seeing it first on social media, then how it developed into our lives,” Senior from West Technical Career Academy Areya Tran said. “I’m moving to New York for college in a couple months and seeing the amount of crimes there scares me, but it also scares me leaving my family here in Vegas.”
The virtual learning environment allowed Bautista and Cahabat to openly extend the discussion to students outside of Spring Valley, and overall create a comfortable platform to share comments of the Stop Asian Hate Movement. Students such as Jolina Miguel, shared her experience of racial discrimination through sharing the experience of her father, who has been pulled over due to the dark-complexed color of his skin, despite being an immigrant from the Philippines.
“It’s disrespectful to see my father go through that because I look just like him and I have experienced being degraded for the color of my skin, because I’m darker complexioned for a Filipina,” she said. “It’s so hard to live up to these expectations, knowing that these expectations are not real. I was born here in the United States. I’m technically an American. I’m not just a Filipino, I’m Filipino-American.”
The central demand that students and teachers of the discussion held, centered around how school administration should improve responsive measures to acknowledge racial events.
“It doesn’t stop at education. Issues like this also require action,” Bautista said.