Update on the University of Colorado’s “War Against Asians” controversy

Here’s a video produced by Annie Guo, a Denver journalist and entrepreneur who is editor of Asian Avenue magazine, a pretty solid monthly publication, for a website she and other young APA activists have created called In-Solidarity.com. This is an Asian community response to the “satire” published by the University of Colorado’s Campus Press Web site back in February, in which a white student columnist wrote, “If it’s war the Asians want, it’s war they’ll get.”

The column provoked a firestorm of protest from APA and other students, not just at CU but also other area colleges, and from the Asian community at large. Guo and her In-Solidarity compatriots were part of an immediate response team that joined with CU’s Asian Pacific American community. The furor was covered by the local TV stations and mainstream print media. CU apologized and the public pretty much put the incident in the past, which is what the CU administration wants to happen.

But the APA community and the APA students at CU haven’t forgotten. One parent of a student who will start at CU this fall, Rich Wong, has formed an outside community group and CU’s Chancellor has agreed to meet with his group monthly and hear his suggestions and report on CU’s progress on diversity training and other issues. The student group of CU students have been working tirelessly, sometimes to the detriment of their studies, and have met with administration officials. These student heroes are stretched to the max, and the administration is asking them to shoulder the burden of effecting change at the school.

Erin and I attended a meeting today at the university, where some of the community activists, including Wong, and some staff and faculty could brainstorm with the core student activists. It was a helpful meeting, and the main concerns were keeping the issue alive so it doesn’t get swept under the dusty rug of history, and how to keep the issue alive during the summer off months.

The students will be meeting with the Chancellor this week and wanted some suggestions of agenda items for the meeting. One I came up with is they should let the school know that although the mainstream media already considers this old news, the students will reach out to organizations such as the Asian American Journalists Association, which has a number of at-large members in the area (including Erin and me), to keep an eye on progress at CU, and to cover any new developments. Another talking point is to try and get the journalism school to commit to bringing in AAJA members to talk to j-school students about the issues that confront journalists of color in the industry.

The past history of racial incidents at CU show that when there’s a protest, some surfaces changes are made, and other demands or recommendations (there was a blue ribbon committee report submitted the last time race incidents at CU made the headlines) are slowly put on the shelf and… you guessed it, eventually forgotten.

But that’s not happening outside CU.

In the months since the story broke, the Pacific Citizen, the national newspaper of the JACL (the country’s oldest APA civil rights organization — full disclosure: I’m the editorial board chair of the PC) has published an article.

Meanwhile, the In-Solidarity group is planning a May 9 “In Solidarity Day.” The Denver area APA TV show, “Colorado Asians Today” is hosting a live panel discussion about the CU controversy this week, and it’ll air repeatedly in the months to come on both Denver and Aurora cable channels.

So the story has legs. Let’s hope the students at CU can hang in there and keep fighting the good fight. We told them today how much we appreciate their courage and how the community outside the university’s walls aren’t letting it go. The war’s on, just in a different way than the Campus Press columnist envisioned in his satiric column.

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