The Association of University Presses (AUPresses) is shaken by the murders of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta on Tuesday. These devastating deaths are yet another outbreak of racist and misogynist violence in the United States, as well as a frightening example of the anti-Asian hate that is both a long and shameful thread of American history and a rising horror stoked by white supremacists over the past pandemic year.
This same week, the US House of Representatives was already set to hold hearings on the rise of anti-Asian violence and discrimination. In moving testimony, Daniel Dae Kim refers to the fact that political polls often do not report on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) populations due to what he was told was the “statistical insignificance” of AAPI numbers to their polling priorities. As well, this week, AUPresses released workforce demographic numbers from the US-university press (UP) participants in the Lee & Low Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0. That study showed that only approximately 4% of UP employees identify as Asian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, South Asian, or South East Asian. This number is the very definition of significant—indicating that discrimination and barriers to access and success in our professional field are faced by members of the AAPI community. Our Association’s commitment to anti-racism and equity must recognize and address this.
Over the past year, the world has seen the benefits of rigorous science, collaborative peer-review, and ethical global scholarly communications as the increased understanding, treatment, and vaccine development for COVID-19 have proceeded faster than we may have dared hope. In some countries, a reliance on science and public health expertise led to far greater control of the pandemic than in others. However, anti-intellectualism and white supremacy have, particularly in the US, contributed to poor public health controls and the deflection of responsibility onto “China” and, through the intentional stoking of ignorance and fear, subsequently onto Asian Americans who have borne increased violence because of this.
The US is beginning to see a turn towards better public health policies and acceptance of science-based measures in combatting the pandemic. As we address anti-Asian racism in our society, and indeed the intersectional misogynistic violence that is evident in the Atlanta tragedy, humanistic and social sciences scholarship may offer a similarly rigorous foundation on which to learn and develop effective policies. University presses have long partnered with scholars to amplify research in this area and are well-positioned to continue contributing to necessary understanding and change. A small sampling of important titles includes the University of North Carolina Press’s Two Faces of Exclusion: The Untold History of Anti-Asian Racism in the United States; Duke University Press’s Compositional Subjects: Enfiguring Asian/American Women; and the University of Washington Press’s Asian American Feminisms and Women of Color Politics and Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture. As the most recent violence makes clear, the need for this work continues, and this list undoubtedly will grow.
We stand in solidarity with our AAPI colleagues, authors, and neighbors in mourning the loss of eight lives and in fighting anti-Asian hate.
“Books that show Asian Americans have never been silent” (NBC News, April 19, 2021) features several works published by university presses that consider the ways that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have organized and fought back against oppression.