Their viral video, 'Say My Name,' has reached over 285,000 views on Facebook
Chinese students at New York City’s Columbia University who were targeted by racist vandalism have created a video to fight back.
Sixth Tone reports that during the Chinese New Year holiday period, several students had their name tags on their doors removed. The name tags had displayed romanized or pinyin versions of their names. At American universities, it is not uncommon for students living in residence halls to have their name tags on their doors. It is suspected that the vandalism was racially motivated as those with western names had their name tags intact.
According to Columbia’s student news website, the attacks on Asian name tags began earlier in the semester in one dorm and spread to others during the holiday.
Melinda Aquino, associate dean of multicultural affairs said that an investigation has been launched and has called for any information on those responsible. Aquino expressed concerns regarding the “growing climate of xenophobia” and its effects on the Columbia university community.
Just under a week after the reports, sophomore Columbia undergraduate Yan Huhe published a video he created with fellow Chinese international students discussing the meanings of their names.
Their viral video, ‘Say My Name,’ has reached over 285,000 views on Facebook.
“I don’t think this is racial discrimination,” Yan, 19, told Sixth Tone, referring to the vandalism. “This is xenophobia.”
The video serves as a statement from the stereotypically ‘silent’ Chinese community and a first step toward gaining more understanding,” he added.
Speaking to Mashable, Yan said, “The video is a way to challenge the stereotypes about the Asian community and especially Chinese students — that they are silent and take punches without complaints.”
“No, we might have good tempers and tend to avoid conflicts, but we do have an attitude and voices to be heard.”
“I initially intended the video to be shared among the campus community at Columbia, but the viewership reached much further. I’m very glad it has prompted people to discuss and reflect on their identities and how we can combat the larger xenophobic climate,” he said.
A Chinese Columbia surnamed Lin said a second “heavier” video that features 10 Asian or Asian-American students addressing the vandalism will be released later this week. “I think Yan’s video is so great because it shows how proud we feel of our own culture, and how inviolable our names are,” Lin said. “My video will go more into what the victims and Chinese students think about the issue, what we really want to say.”
The Asian-American Alliance, a student group, issued a statement co-signed by mainland Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese student groups “condemn[ing] these actions as xenophobic efforts to divide and incite fear among Columbia’s Asian and Asian American community.” The statement added that “these efforts echo the actions of the Trump administration that target people of color, specifically black and brown bodies with non-Western names, as unwelcome.”
Asian-American Alliance member Tina Wu told the Columbia Daily Spectator, “I’m hoping that this incident will draw attention to the racism that already exists in conjunction with Trump being elected and his few days in office.”
Speaking about the vandalism, Columbia sophomore Joanna Zhang told a student news blog, “It’s honestly just so fucking disrespectful.”