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An Open Letter to Chancellor Yang



To Chancellor Yang, to the “Asian male” suspects, to the UCSB student body:

We, the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance and South Asian Students Association, stand in solidarity with all folks who have been targets of sexual assault – across the entire gender spectrum. But as painful as it is to acknowledge it, sexual assault is gendered and racialized. Asian Pacific Islander/American women are disproportionately targeted by sexual assault, as well as Black, Latin@, and Native women – which makes the incidents from this past week all the more relevant to our community.

Last weekend, an UCSB alert was sent out warning students that a group of “Asian males” had sexually assaulted a young woman. A couple of days later, Chancellor Henry T. Yang sent out a follow-up email explaining what he did to address the issue, which was to hire five more police officers. That same day, hundreds of flyers were posted all over campus with sketches of the two suspects. On top of all of this, news vans from all over Southern California have been in Isla Vista, trying to get more information for their coverage of the story.

Let’s process all of that. There is clearly a lot going on here – many different forms of institutionalized violence meeting at many different intersections. This is a statement of solidarity and a call for critical redress of the events listed.

First and foremost, sexual assault is NEVER okay. EVER. As a student body, we should always be doing work to become conscious of, and ultimately dismantling, the rape culture that is prevalent both on and off of our campus. Organizations like Take Back The Night are doing the hard work of starting collective movements against sexual assault – and we should be doing everything we can to support said movements.

Those attempting to analyze this under a colorblind lens are horribly misguided – race can never be separated from any incident, just as race and gender can never be separated from a person. With this in mind, we attempt to critically address the myriad of events that have unfolded this past week.

To the suspects under investigation:

The deeds you’ve committed against the survivor and your entire community is grossly despicable and disgraceful. It is unimaginable how you have committed such inhumane acts against another marginalized community. Your malicious intent, your unspeakable misogyny and your violence is shameful, and it’s brutally indicative of how much work is ahead of us as a community and as a campus.

To Chancellor Yang:

How you can think that hiring five new police officers to this campus will facilitate any sort of change regarding sexual assault is beyond us. As if the police department does not directly commit sexual assault against women, especially women of color. As if the police department did not specifically target an API/A woman in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago. As if the police department has not criminalized people of color for decades. As if the police department has not instilled fear on campuses across the UC system, and specifically at this campus. As if the police department is equipped to handle instances of sexual assault.

To the UCSB student body:

It is heartbreaking and unspeakably disgusting that as one community rises, another community is villified and discriminated against. As the sketches of the two suspects have been plastered around campus, racist comments and hateful actions have already spread like wildfire. It seems that the stereotype of the “inherently patriarchal Asian man” have inevitably surfaced at this xenophobic, racist university.

Before we start talking about what is “inherently patriarchal,” we must remember to bring to life the real legacies of colonialism, neoliberalism and assimilation manifested by white governments. No peoples is “inherently” any adjective, and to assume so is a testament to the success of coded racism.

That being said, the lack of accountability by the greater API male community at large is horrifying. Where is the critical organizing against sexual assault by API men? Where is the accountability for the violence? Where is the condemnation that should be loud and clear?

This is not only a critical look at what’s been happening – it’s also a call for organization, for critical deconstruction and for actual change to happen in Isla Vista and within our communities. It’s a call to the student body to start educating ourselves. It’s a call to the administration to change how sexual assault is addressed at UCSB, in order to set an example that will lead the way in making sustainable change throughout the nation. This is not just our chance at changing the culture of sexual violence; it’s our chance to revolutionize how we look at sexual violence.

In love & solidarity,

API Political Alliance

South Asian Student Association

This is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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25 Responses to An Open Letter to Chancellor Yang

  1. Jason G Reply

    March 3, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    This is one of the stupidest, most unlettered pieces of published writing I’ve ever come across. Whoever wrote it should be ashamed that they produced something so stupid and badly thought out. It isn’t even coherent enough for me to argue with. You lack all critical thinking abilities and do not belong at a top university like UCSB. Fuck you.

    Love,
    Jason

  2. Danielle Reply

    March 3, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    Although I have so much love, support, and solidarity for the intentions behind this letter and the labor and organizing in which this Alliance is engaging, I have to say, I do have quite a bit of critiques. I want to be clear that these critiques come from a place of love and deep political solidarity with API communities across gender & sexuality, but we have to be open to growth and critique in order to grow, expand and learn with and from one another.

    Also I agree that gendered and racialized sterotypes impact all communities of color in particular and nuanced ways, I question the utility of this letter. I honestly feel that there needs to be much more sympathy, validation, and respect to the survivor of this attack.

    As a black woman, this is reminiscent of the blatant silencing and scrutiny to which black women were subjected when speaking out about the systematic sexual assault and rape they experienced by both black men and women. you know how some black men responded to the public accountability in which black women would attempt to engage? by saying shit like: “We cannot destroy someone to uplift someone”. THIS IS A COMPLETE DISREGARD OF THE HUMANITY OF THOSE SUFFERING FROM SYSTEMATIC SEXUAL ASSAULT AND VIOLENCE and seems similar to the position this article is taking.

    I also just think that women of color have always been (or been made to feel like they should) blindly loyal to men of color who do really fucked up misogynist shit to women. look at the public response to trayvon martin (hella black women rallied around the terrible injustice that occured surrounding his murder, as we all should) but what about renisha mcbride? what about marissa alexander who fired warning shots to an abusive partner? where is the urgency around these black women? where is the sympathy for the survivor of these attacks?

    I think we should be reflexive and critical when we write letters like this and I hope you all are being real & accountable about the impact this letter might be making, regardless of intent. much love to y’all.

    • Danielle Reply

      March 3, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      *although i agree that gendered and racialized stereotypes

      *systematic rape they experienced by both black men and WHITE MEN

  3. Liam Stanton Reply

    March 1, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Please learn to write before you publish an oped. Putting that aside, however, as I’ve always believed in listening to what people had to say more than how they say it (the opposite of the norm, because I try to realize that everyone has their quirks), I must still point out after careful reading and rereading my issues with this not so fine piece of rhetoric. This letter is, bluntly, tumultuously convoluted, lacking of any real, tangible purpose, and downright spiteful and self righteous.

    Let’s take this bit by bit:

    “…many different forms of institutionalized violence meeting at many different intersections.”

    Yes, it is clearly all a conspiracy out to surreptitiously harm you and your community.

    “…race can never be separated from any incident…”

    Really? Never, ever… ever? We absolutely and without exception have to consider it, in everything, all the time? Thought that might have contributed to the problem you’re talking about here…

    “As the sketches of the two suspects have been plastered around campus, racist comments and hateful actions have already spread like wildfire. It seems that the stereotype of the “inherently patriarchal Asian man” have inevitably surfaced at this xenophobic, racist university.”

    And another thing:

    Chancellor Yang’s response has, in my opinion, been as timely and sensitive as I think he knows how. The man can practically be reached by cell phone if need be by student association leaders, and he is a regular supporter of student interests, and shows it. He’s not perfect I’m sure, but do you really think it’s fair to spend more words chastising him, than you do chastising, oh I don’t know, the assailants? Let that sink in for a second, that the paragraph you spend talking about how Chancellor Yang is apparently contributing to the problem is more hefty than the one wherein you address the rapists. Good job.

    Oh, and about those police officers:

    “As if the police department does not directly commit sexual assault against women, especially women of color.”

    Do you think this about the majority of officers?”

    “As if the police department did not specifically target an API/A woman in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago.”

    Really? This one?

    Don’t get me wrong. I typically mistrust the police too, but let’s be real and fair. Most of them aren’t monsters, so stop acting like hiring 5 new officers is somehow aiding sexual predation, because it isn’t.

    So about our community here at UCSB…

    “…this xenophobic, racist university.”

    Really?

    And about the API community…

    “…we must remember to bring to life the real legacies of colonialism, neoliberalism and assimilation manifested by white governments.”

    Okay literally how is this even remotely relevant? Or if it is, it’s a stretch, a periphery at best.

    And on API males…

    “Where is the accountability for the violence?”

    Seriously? Because now every API male is accountable for this horrible crime that happened? Seriously?

    Anyway there’s actually a lot more wrong with this article than just what II had time to point out, but please in the future be a little less selfish and, instead of trying to steal the spotlight for your racialized politics, maybe we can focus on addressing rape culture together, Asian, Latina/o, Hispanic, African, White, Purple whatever… This has been a crime first and foremost committed against the victim, not your community. Show a little respect please.

    Also learn deductive reasoning.

    With lots of <3<3<3,
    Liam

    • Appreciative Reply

      March 1, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Thank you for the above comments!!!

  4. Alumnus Reply

    March 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Learn to reason and write with logic for a few more years before writing another article. Also grammar. Also to write an impactful letter you need to be persuasive and open minded. This sounds like a narrow minded person who is arguing his/her own points to try and steal the spotlight but instead stole the shame light. Don’t put words into people’s mouths with words like more police will make the minorities/colored people feel even less safe. That is just your opinion. Don’t just whine and complain about things without offering any good solutions. You’re making my alma mater look bad with this pathetic article.

    • a disappointed AsAm alum Reply

      March 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      I completely agree with the two alums below about the extremely poor quality of the article. Shoddy grammar and sentence structure, an unfocused sense of purpose, and lacking concrete solutions will isolate your cause before it really begins, and that’s as someone who considers myself “one of you” . Here’s my open letter, to all of you.

      1) Grammar

      Did you appoint one person to write this, or did you have a committee sit down and go point by point? Dome or Helix? It’s so disappointing to me as an English nerd that I’m want to mail a copy of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” to your organization.

      For starters, CAPS LOCK is never acceptable in any professional letters. The writer tries to hard to fit two words into a phrase where one would do (racist and xenophobic are so similar, just pick one!). Did you want me to snap my fingers after each “As if the police dept…”? This type of writing belongs on Tumblr and open mikes, but certainly not a professional setting. Though you may not see it, your words reach a wider audience outside the IV bubble, and it will be helpful to your cause to demonstrate concision and clarity.

      2) Purpose and tone

      It is perfectly understandable that you want to teach students about the structural conditions behind sexual violence. But your “isn’t it obvious” tone of self-righteousness reminds me of the immature Hermoine Granger who naturally assumed every student has read “Hogwarts, A History”. Throwing out buzzwords like “misandry” and “neoliberalism” is simply preaching to the converted, how do you expect to teach a broader audience of students who haven’t sat through Sociology 101? If you’re trying to overthrow globalization, you’re going to need a bigger pen.

      This letter could have been a valuable opportunity to teach the basics to a wider audience. You could be explaining some privileges a male like myself has in Isla Vista, things like how I’ve never once worried about walking home alone after a party. You could call out men like myself for not doing more to call out our bros for sexist behavior or rhetoric at parties. I particularly liked http://dailynexus.com/2014-02-26/taking-back-isla-vista/ the other op-ed by the editors who claimed personal responsibility for not having CSO phone numbers, as it depicted a feeling of “we for all” versus the victimized “us vs them” mentality.

      3- Offer concrete solutions

      Political and cultural organizations like yourselves will never build impactful relationships within the administration and student body if you lack clear solutions.

      For example, I don’t agree with this portrayal of all police officers as fear-mongering and racist sexual predators, but I understand it is within your right to distrust authority. However, if you really think Chancellor Yang’s decision to hire more officers is the wrong choice, what would be the right one from his point of view? Don’t ask him to end oppression or neoliberalism, you need give him a tangible plan of action. Establish trust and a dialogue, get a seat at the table, and offer constructive advice without antagonizing the entire administration. Because you put his name in the title of the title, I was under the impression he was somehow complicit in the patterns of sexual violence and abuse in the IV community.

      Furthermore, if you want to contradict that racialized image of a patriarchal Asian man, explain to the layperson why this essentialized form of thinking is inaccurate and even dangerous. You also raise a great point on the lack of AsAm male leaders, as it appears to me that most AsAm activists seem to be women. If this is the case, how can we promote a more inclusive space for men to get involved?

      I apologize if I came off sarcastic or condescending in any way, but truthfully I really care about how the current generation of API leaders represent themselves at my alma mater. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some of you myself, and I honestly believe in your potential to do great things. Best of luck to all of you and the UCSB community.

      Sincerely,

      a cisgender feminist southeast asian-american alumni

      • Liam Stanton Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        Agreed.

      • Jason Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm

        Way to reproduce an Asian stereotype by offering a nerdy comment, which tries to correct the grammar in the article. And, also, looks like it took you 2 hours to write.

      • Anonymous Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 6:43 pm

        “Establish trust and a dialogue, get a seat at the table, and offer constructive advice without antagonizing the entire administration.”

        Absolutely. No one will respond to you if all you do is amplify your problems, least of all the UC administration. You have to offer some solutions.

        If you want to create positive change, you must be open-minded and willing to cooperate.

    • Jason Reply

      March 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      I know grammar is important, especially if its directed towards the chancellor. However, I want to ask, really?! Grammar should be the less worried topic right now.

      And, if you don’t know, this article does have a point even though its a weak article. This might sound like an opinion but Asian male will likely feel discrimination and profiling during this situation. Why? Because we are in a majority White-town. Its just logical there would be profiling.

  5. Tim Watkins Reply

    March 1, 2014 at 10:09 am

    As a lifelong citizen of WATTS I’ve had the benefit of exposure to witness some of the worst public policy in America. A brief look beneath the surface of life in Watts reveals horrendous backlogs of investigation into all forms of human rights violation. Rape, incarceration, homelessness and poverty in general that has been exacerbated and perpetuated by poor public policy.

    The point of the letter is to activate thought around the deeper, underlying issues of racial subjectivity and the reactive futility of suppressive tactics rather than improved education that informs transformative, cultural change. Hats off to APIPA and SASA.

  6. Asian alumni girl Reply

    March 1, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Aside from the fact that this letter completely takes away from the solidarity we should be feeling against violence and unjustifiably points fingers at chancellor yang for taking measures that are both helpful and appropriate, this letter is also horribly written. Please don’t throw around terms that you learned in your political science class. I want to understand what you’re fighting for in human speak.

  7. Ernesto Silva Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    this is the worst thing I ever read. Have some consideration and solidarity for the victim. “It is heartbreaking and unspeakably disgusting that as one community rises, another community is villified and discriminated against”. It is even more disgusting that you are completely missing the point that a crime was committed and no arrests have been made yet, but you sure are quick to point fingers and start mentioning “discrimination”. I wonder if the suspects were Mexican or black, if people would just say “oh yeah, it figures”. The point is that we as community need to speak up if we have information on the case rather than say “oh that person looks like me”. I’m sorry if people feel offended, I’m not Asian, but if I was I would primarily worry about helping instead of talking about discrimination.

    If you are innocent you have nothing to fear.

    I agree that the police description was poor: “medium build short, thin build tall”. How about they get more specific, like approximate weight in lbs and height in ft and inches. And I do agree that as a community we are lacking in teaching each other about health and safety practices regarding relationships. But this does not have anything to do with the fact that a crime was committed and it does not warrant your claim that any discrimination has been made. All we should be doing is trying to find the suspects and bring justice to the victim.

    By writing a letter like this, you hurt the people who suffered and downplay what they went through.

    • Anon Reply

      February 28, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      You’re missing the point here. These sexual assaults, race/gender-based violence and their stereotypes has been pervasive throughout the UC system. The author isn’t downplaying the crime itself and isn’t trying to take the spotlight away from it. The author is saying that these types of crimes and behavior have been pervasive and this incident is a result of that.

      Of course, I 100% agree with you to catch the suspects and bring justice. However, if we don’t promote a behavior that prevents the very mindset that perpetuated this behavior or rape culture in the first place, the same crime will happen once again. The author isn’t capitalizing on this incident to bring out a different issue; in fact, this incident is a result of the issue.

    • anon Reply

      February 28, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      I think it’s far more disturbing that you are so quick to dismiss this “discrimination” thing you seem to think only applies to Mexicans and blacks. Does the fact that a crime has been committed mean racial profiling and stereotyping of Asians is now on the table? From what you’ve wrote it’s clear you think it’s ok- “if you’re innocent you have nothing to fear.”
      What’s ironic is that Hispanics are fighting racial profiling as we speak in states like Arizona. I’m sure you would disagree with stop and ID laws there right? What happened to “if you’re innocent you have nothing to fear?” What’s wrong with pulling over every Hispanic driver in the county if some ese robs a convenience store?
      The worst part is that you are basically using what happened to that poor girl as an excuse to condone racism and discrimination “to bring justice to the victim”. Two wrongs don’t make a right- hurting the image of every Asian male on this campus doesn’t undo what happened to her and it sure as hell doesn’t bring us any closer to finding the perpetrators.
      Please take a moment to think how you would feel if people were commenting on how you could be the rapist because “you guys all look the same”. Thank you.

  8. Angry and Asian Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Although I’m not affiliated, I would like to wholeheartedly support SASA and API in their social justice activism. However, I really can’t get behind this open letter, even though I want to. As Jonathan mentioned, it’s misleading. In addition, I finished reading this letter wondering what was the point of it all. I already agreed with the sentiment of this letter before I even read it. This letter won’t convince anyone who wasn’t already of like mind. So many general big-concept words are being thrown out throughout this letter without demonstrating what they really mean to this situation and why it is important to be aware of the history of police brutality and /all/ of the isms involved.

    On a rhetorical level, what’s the point?

    • Anonymous Reply

      March 1, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      I 100% agree with ‘angry and asian’. When I saw this article in my Facebook feed I was intrigued, and excited that someone might be willing to discuss rape culture. Not so. This article is horribly written, full of jargon, and won’t convince anyone to stop blaming the victim and accept that rape culture is the real problem on this campus.

  9. Predictions Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I’m with SASU and API on this one. There is nothing worse than making really general and offensive statements about an entire group of people.

    On a totally unrelated note, here is my favorite part of their letter:
    “As if the police department does not directly commit sexual assault against women, especially women of color. “

  10. Anonymous Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    what is the point of this letter? It seems like you are just trying to further your groups agenda. The focus should be on catching the criminals and taking care of the victim. The measures that have been taken by Mr. Yang are justified. Your point is important in some aspects but it seems like you’re just trying to capitalize on this incident.

    • Anon Reply

      February 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm

      They are not capitalizing on this incident. They are addressing the very issue behind this incident, which is the perpetuation of rape culture and gender/race-based violence. I agree that the focus should be catching the criminals, however the underlying issue will not be resolved. It will happen again. As I said before, if we can’t promote and instill a behavior that prevents the very mindset that preceded the incident, then we’ll have the same incident occur once again.

  11. anonymous Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    This letter, including others I have seen, have really taken away from this entire case. Instead of focusing on how marginalized each community feels by this investigation, why don’t we first focus our energy on catching the RAPISTS? If you feel upset because the alert mentioned “Asian males” as the suspects, please take two seconds, reconsider what you’re feeling, and realize what the victim must be going through. If these violent sexual offenders are not caught, what will stop them from recommitting this act?

    “As if the police department does not directly commit sexual assault against women, especially women of color.” …really? Is this relevant? Does the release of the police’s facial composite, which clearly distinguishes two Asian males as the suspects, upset you enough to shift focus away from the crime itself? Yes, there have been many instances of police brutality and simply awful behavior (I have experienced this first hand, which sent me to the hospital), but to QUESTION if the police are even “equipped to handle instances of sexual assault” is an awful, awful thing to say. How would YOU feel if you were the victim of a violent sexual assault and a part of an ongoing investigation, only to hear people question the people HELPING you? Police and investigators in these situations are not the bad guys, they are doing their job and truly trying to help.

    Saying that “race can never be separated from any incident, just as race and gender can never be separated from a person” is a very astute observation — have you considered what the police are dealing with? Look, race in America is a defining feature of our society. Unfortunately, it has become something that we cannot escape, but that is something that takes hold in a place as diverse as the United States. If we lived in somewhere, lets take Norway or Costa Rica for example, race would rarely be an issue, simply because countries like Norway and Costa Rica are so incredibly homogeneous. America — a country that PRIDES itself on diversity — contains (maybe a slight exaggeration) every imaginable people on this planet! Maybe if we lived in an alternate universe where none of us had looong histories of discrimination based on the color of our skin would this matter, but this is something we must ALL get past, including the authors of this letter.

    This case is no longer about catching the people who committed this awful sexual assault, but of many other issues facing our society. I agree that these issues have plagued all of us, me included, for years and years, but to focus on it NOW, just as this investigation has started, is selfish. Please consider the victim before yourself.

  12. Jonathan Abboud Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    The letter is somewhat misleading, Chancellor Yang also allocated funds for CSO patrols in IV, lighting on campus, and staff for sexual assault education and counseling.

    • Alumni Reply

      March 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Jonathan: The fact that the Chancellor also plans to fund helpful areas like sexual assault counselors has no bearing on the APIPA’s objection to Yang’s hiring of more police officers as a response to sexual assualt. As the APIPA points out, police officers are (to say the least) ineffective at preventing sexual assault and investigating it after the fact. In fact, I have experience with many cases where the actions of police officers in IV, Santa Barbara and elsewhere, have added to the trauma experienced by survivors of sexual assault. While hiring more police officers might make privileged students feel safer, it will make many students from communities who are regularly victimized by the police feel less safe.

      As a student leader, you must be certain you are supporting these students as they advocate for themselves, instead of helping those who would like to see their voices silenced. This statement by the APIPA is not a news report on Yang’s e-mail: it is a response meant only to address aspects certain aspects of concern. By (inaccurately) describing it as misleading, Jonathan, you are undermining the legitimate concerns of these students, which I’m sure took no small amount of courage for them to express on a campus where racism is still rampant. I suspect this was not intentional, but if you claim to be a student leader, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard. Most of all, you need to remind yourself that students elected you to represent students first, not the UCSB administration (AS, not SA).

      • David Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 6:50 pm

        Alumni, though it might be hard for you to see, the article definitely is misleading to readers who might not have known much about the actions of Professor Yang and suggests that his only plan was to hire more police officers. This is not true but the article did veer towards this.

        Finally, I see nothing wrong with Jonathan’s point; he did not support a slightly deceptive article that seeks to convince through mostly pathos and absolutes. It would have been very easy for him to have supported it like many servile student leaders who blindly support actions that might have good intentions at its source, but he did not, and I respect him more for it. Most of all, the student president was chosen by the majority of voters, not by all, so you need to remember that he is not the opinion of the whole of UCSB community, but merely the majority.

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