Colleagues, Precious Students and Members of Our Saddleback Community:
On Monday, flags throughout our country, including those on our campus, will fly at half-mast in remembrance of victims of anti-Asian violence. I know that I speak for our campus in condemning the rising tide of discriminatory acts, including hate-violence, against Asian-Americans, Asians and Pacific-Islanders in our country and our own community.
When rats are packed into the same cage and put under stress, they begin to attack each other.
We are not rats. As human beings, we rise above lower brain responses, we self-correct errant cognition and we modulate our negative feelings. We do not selectively ingest propaganda that validates our animalistic rage, racism and xenophobia. And we do not attack each other in moments of stress, like lower animals. We are humans.
To be human is to know that bad things happen in the world. Storms rise up. Viruses mix and mutate, as likely happened with SARS-CoV-2, when a bat-virus jumped to a still unidentified intermediary mammal before infecting a human in Wuhan, China. To blame all Chinese people for COVID-19 makes as much sense as blaming all bats. To blame Chinese Americans, Asian-Americans, or Asians, in general, for COVID-19 defies logic…and all that is good in humanity.
For my Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific-Islander colleagues and our AAPI students, I say to you that xenophobia and racism will find no home at Saddleback. At Saddleback, we do not grovel in garbage like rats and lash out at our brothers and sisters in the face of pandemic stress. We turn to each other and find our common humanity, even more at times like this. We are no more different based on the shape of our eyes, than the length of our toes or angle of our jaws. We are no less the same than the color of our blood or the shape of our hearts.
As a college, our mission is to teach information literacy, to recognize misinformation; to teach critical thinking, to recognize demagoguery and the distractive power of hate speech; and to teach and demonstrate inclusivity, to help us recognize our common humanity and to distinguish humans from the lower animals from which we evolved.
Please take a glance at our lowered flags Monday morning, or think of them in a moment of reflection if you are away from campus, as a reminder that our colleagues and peers are hurting and afraid right now and need us, and that it is human, not awkward, to check in on and affirm our appreciation of one another.
Hate against any of us is hate against all of us and a desecration of the principles for which we proclaim our love in hanging our flag. The flag will hang at full staff on Tuesday, as these principles will endure, and our higher selves will prevail.
Dr. Elliot Stern
president, Saddleback College