A Personal Message about Anti-Asian Racism

Dear Friends and Partners,

It is with immense horror, sadness, and anger that I write this message in response to the violence against Asian Americans over the past several weeks and the underlying hatred many have encountered throughout their entire lives.

Discussions of racism in 2020 centered on the racism that Black Americans face, and this year brings renewed awareness of the long arms of hate that reach beyond the typical black and white frame. As policy researchers, when we talk about Asian Californians, we often point to the population’s strong educational and socioeconomic outcomes. Let’s not forget the pain and suffering experienced as individuals in a society structured over centuries to bolster white success at the expense of all people of color. Further, the perpetuation of Asian Americans as a “model minority” has been driven by geopolitical interests trying to disprove systems of oppression are in place.

The idea that America is a place where individual determination alone can chart your course is at once a hope and a lie we tell ourselves. For too many, that California dream is just that—a dream.

My mother was a Korean immigrant and my father is Black. My mother rarely talked about the racism she experienced, but my dad recalls her bristling when coworkers referred to her as “the Chinese lady.” It’s different from what my dad went through, but it shaped her daily life, as it does for so many. As it does for me.

During last summer’s heightened racial unrest, I was scared to take walks, for fear of being caught alone and vulnerable by white supremacists. I thought twice before letting my sons play outside.

That fear ebbed to make room for a new wave of despair as I read the stories of Asian American women being shot to death and the attacks on our Asian American elders who were simply walking down the street. It must stop.

I think back over my own experiences of anti-Asian racism. They are not violent, but they matter. I remember being a child, watching people react to my mother’s foreign accent. Put-downs from store clerks and mistreatment from bank mortgage officers won’t leave you bloodied, but we know those experiences have nontrivial impacts on someone’s ability to thrive.

These things—these aggressions—happen. They’ve always happened, and they keep happening because the structures that support racism have yet to be dismantled. And whether it’s gun violence or a more subtle attack, we at California Competes have had enough.

We stand in solidarity with Asian Americans across the nation and here in California who have experienced racism in any form. What can we do?

As an organization, we commit to shining a light on the inequities that have manifested in the dark for too long, so a new and better society can be built. We commit ourselves to disaggregating the data that describe what it’s really like to live in our state so decision makers can see the truth. Further, we commit to identifying solutions and guiding decision makers to take action that will transform California’s postsecondary systems to center around equity, leading to thriving communities and an inclusive economy.

Personally, I commit to paying forward the actions that helped renew my strength after racially-motivated killings of Black Americans—pulling close my Asian American family and friends and making sure the Asian American community more broadly knows that my family is one more who has their back. I commit to supporting organizations that are working to break down the systems that allow this hate to grow.

I ask you to join me in taking small and big steps toward changing the narrative for our children and the young Asian Californians who are watching to see how their leaders will respond—watching to see what kind of world they will inherit.

I give my heartfelt thanks to those who are working on the frontlines to combat racism every day, and to those who have experienced and continue to experience racism in our society, I see you. You belong.


Them: Your name is “Su Jin”? That’s a Korean name.
Me: I’m Korean.

Su Jin Gatlin Jez, PhD
Executive Director
California Competes

Featured Items


Webinar Tackles Staffing Shortages and State Policy Amidst COVID-19

California Competes
March 09, 2021

Meeting California's Demand for Allied Health Workers

California Competes
February 17, 2021

Untapped Opportunity: Understanding and Advancing Prospects for Californians without a College Degree

California Competes
February 11, 2021