AAS Takes Action to Build Diversity & Equity in Asian Studies

Issued by the AAS Board of Directors, June 16, 2020

The Association for Asian Studies condemns racism at the core of inequities and injustices in our communities and institutions. As a professional organization dedicated to the promotion of historical cultural understanding, we call for empathy and concerted action against racial injustice.

Over the past few weeks, we have been shaken by the news of police brutality and racism in the United States. The callous murders of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, among many other Black Americans, have broken our hearts and brought us great shame. These horrific acts of violence, compounded by a global pandemic, have laid bare the reality of systemic racism against Black bodies.

Understanding the historical and contemporary precedents of race-based violence and antagonism only adds to our outrage. As Asianists, we often turn our eyes towards a continent far from the social complexities of the United States. Yet, we know too well that long-embedded violence against, neglect, and oppression of communities based on skin color is something that is not exclusive to life in the United States. Race, and social interactions based on assumptions about race, underscore the social phenomena and the histories we study and teach about daily.

The Association for Asian Studies has taken time to hear from our constituents and to determine how we can move beyond words to action. The Association pledges to create opportunities for discussion about race as well as to build on our work towards inclusivity and equity. We make the following commitments:

  • We confirm our commitment to the equitable treatment of all members and staff.
  • We commit to expanding existing initiatives and programs to diversify our membership.
  • We commit to seeking ways to proactively support the research and teaching of minority members of our community.
  • We commit to fostering gateway and outreach programs at institutions aimed at exposing diverse students to Asian Studies.
  • We affirm our commitment to promoting undergraduate programs in the study of Asia that actively recruit Black students, including those in historically Black colleges and universities.
  • We affirm our commitment to supporting Black graduate students develop their careers in Asian Studies through funding opportunities and mentorship programs.
  • We commit to examining our institutions and practices to ensure we do not perpetuate race-based biases.
  • We commit to creating online fora (townhalls, roundtables, etc.) aimed at addressing issues of race, inequality, and the lack of diversity in Asian Studies.
  • We commit to providing a forum at our annual meeting for Black scholars of Asia, Black teachers of Asia, and scholars who dedicate their work to study racial inequities in Asia to discuss critical race theory and relevant pedagogy.
  • We commit to training conference staff and security on awareness of race-based bias, as well as to ensuring the safety and inclusion of all in attendance.
  • We commit to regularly engaging AAS staff in cultural sensitivity and implicit bias training.
  • We commit to engaging incoming members of the Board of Directors in an orientation wherein implicit bias is addressed.
  • We commit to creating a Diversity and Equity committee aimed at instituting structural changes and policies to build a truly inclusive and diverse Association.
  • We urge our members to commit themselves to change on all of these issues and to pledge themselves to action aimed at building equitable institutions, departments, classrooms, and communities.

As scholars and teachers, we must work to forge meaningful paths towards mutual understanding and respect as we stand in solidarity with those seeking social justice.