Standing up against anti-Asian racism

by Qianna Xu, ESA Asian Ecology Section Student Liaison, and Lin Jiang, ESA Asian Ecology Section Chair

The past year has been a very difficult time for many people, with the surging pandemic, ongoing racial injustice against the black community, escalating economic despair and inequality. Meanwhile, bubbling beneath the surface, hatred directed towards people of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans was brewing. Anti-Asian hate crimes have spiked 149 percent since the pandemic began, according to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. This past year, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in violence and a general distrust that have affected many lives and livelihoods throughout Asian communities and have created fear and anxiety for the safety of our families and friends.

The series of mass shootings in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, that took eight precious lives – six of them Asian American women — was heartbreaking and the latest reminder of the times we find ourselves in. But what can we do when a clear solution is not available? As part of the effort to fight against ongoing anti-Asian discrimination and violence in the US, ESA issued a Statement in Support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities on March 23, 2021 and held a special Listening Session in Support of Asian Scientists hosted by the Asian Ecology section on March 26, 2021. The session aimed to provide a safe space for ESA members impacted by the rising anti-Asian incidents to share experiences or express concerns. The Listening Session raised alarms of how many students and researchers were inundated with experiences of anti-Asian racism and the feeling of isolation within their academic communities.

Within our own science community, attendees expressed concerns about the prejudices and biases and microaggressions they experienced on a regular basis. One attendee shared that he was asked three times if he were an international student AFTER producing a US passport.  Others were told they did not belong in the US. Several felt they could not speak up for fear of escalating any tensions. Indeed, despite being the victim of insult and stereotypes, Asian scientists regularly had to shoulder the burden of allaying any concerns that they would create trouble in the department.

There is still a long way ahead for the formulation of fully integrated policies to undermine structures of racial injustice in the US. When we fail to speak up and take actions, denounce racial slurs, and avoid uncomfortable conversations, we allow ignorance to thrive and fertilize the weeds of hate to encroach upon our society. When we speak up and use our voice to stand up for others, we can build awareness of racism, hate, and xenophobia against Asians in America and begin the journey of anti-racist, anti-oppressive healing. ESA condemns discrimination in any form and uphold the values of equality expressed in our Diversity Statement.

As a community, let us not lose hope, stand in solidarity, and keep fighting for the change that we all want to see.

For resources on anti-Asian racism, please visit:

For resources on anti-racism and allyship, please visit:


Qianna Xu
Ph.D. Candidate
School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology
Student Liaison, ESA Asian Ecology Section


Lin Jiang
School of Biological Sciences,Georgia Institute of Technology
Chair, ESA Asian Ecology Section