APALSA periodically releases statements on issues and events pertinent to the HLS community and to APA students:
Harvard, Divest from Israeli Apartheid
Link to sign here: tinyurl.com/HarvardBDS
In recent weeks Palestinians have been subjected to a new wave of violence by Israel. In the face of a historic uprising across Palestine, the Israeli state and settlers have escalated targeted attacks on Palestinians – including the disposession of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, attacks on worshipers in Al-Aqsa mosque, violent suppression of protesters by Israeli forces, lynching of Palestinians by Israeli settlers, and an aerial bombardment of Gaza – the death toll of which has reached more than 200 by the time of writing, including at least 66 children, with almost 2,000 injured.
We join Palestine student groups, Harvard faculty, and other community members (including 80+ student groups across Harvard and 800+ individuals at the time of writing) in mourning these losses and affirming our support for Palestinian liberation. We share the belief that the current wave of Israeli violence must be situated in the context of Israel’s apartheid policies and settler-colonialism, which began in the early 20th century. Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Israel’s largest human rights group B’Tselem, have recently acknowledged what Palestinians have been saying for decades: the situation is “so severe as to account to crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” It is an ongoing Nakba, made possible primarily through support by the United States, which provides $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year.
Harvard University is one of many institutions that grants legitimacy and financial support to Israeli apartheid through its investments. A Crimson investigation found that in the 4% of Harvard’s $39.2 billion endowment that is publicly disclosed, the university maintains nearly $200 million in public, direct and indirect investments in companies that are involved in illegal Israeli settlements, including companies that provide surveillance, weapons, and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. If the undisclosed 96% of the endowment corresponds to this pattern of investment, Harvard likely has billions invested in companies profiting off Israeli apartheid.
Palestinians have called for international solidarity in the form of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, BDS pressures Israel into complying with international law through targeted boycotts and divestment from companies invested in Israeli apartheid. BDS specifically targets companies and businesses that are operating in Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and businesses that are directly involved in Israeli apartheid activities. We urge the Harvard community to join communities at other academic institutions – including Columbia, Brown, and Barnard – in calling on our universities to divest. We demand that Harvard Management Company:
- Disclose direct and indirect investments in companies that aid Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism. These include companies that operate fully or partially in Israeli settlements as documented by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, and
- Divest all direct and indirect holdings in these companies immediately.
Harvard has previously divested from the tobacco industry as well as companies affiliated with the Darfur genocide and South African apartheid. Human rights violations in Palestine should not be an exception. Inaction is complicity. Harvard must stand for human rights and divest from Israeli apartheid now.
Statement by Palestine Student Groups at Harvard University
on Violence Against Palestinians
12 May 2021
We, as the Palestine Caucus at Harvard Kennedy School, the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Middle Eastern Law Students Association at Harvard Law School, the Harvard Palestine Health Initiative at Harvard Medical School, the Harvard Divinity School Students for Palestinian Rights, and the Middle East and North Africa Student Organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design write to firstly acknowledge and express our outrage at the latest wave of Israeli state-sanctioned violence against Palestinians. The current escalation of violence against Palestinians in Palestine and in Israel follows years of systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing committed by the State of Israel.
What is happening in Palestine?
Escalations of violence that have erupted Tuesday night, including the impending eviction of Palestinians living in Sheikh Jarrah, the recent attacks by Israeli forces that wounded over 300 Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa mosque, the right-wing Israeli state-sanctioned vigilante violence towards Palestinians living in Palestine and Israel, and the most intense aerial bombardments of Gaza since 2014, which have killed 35 people including at least 10 children (at time of writing) must be situated in the context of Israel’s history of ethnic cleansing and apartheid regime. Since its establishment, Israel has implemented several forms of hegemonic rule over Palestinian lives, starting in 1948 with the military rule imposed on Palestinian areas in Historic Palestine and after the 1967 Six-Day war when Israel implemented military and economic control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights.
As an occupying force, and against international law, Israel has erected a web of discriminatory laws that pervade every aspect of Palestinian life and exceeds the forms of direct violence we are witnessing these days to include structural and cultural forms of violence. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, access to water, prevents Palestinains from building homes, and has separate highways only for Israelis. In Gaza, Palestinians live under siege in the world’s largest open air prison and are subject to regular bombings, “unlivable” living conditions, and an economic blockade that restricts its most basic infrastructural capacities. Forced evictions, such as those occurring in Sheikh Jarrah, are representative of Israel’s systematic settler-colonial violence that serves to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from East Jerusalem. These continual deprivations have been deemed by Human Rights Watch to be “so severe as to account to crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”
Why should you care?
As students attending influential academic institutions and as potential future decision makers, it is important to challenge the current biased and misleading narrative on Palestine. Our silence does not make us neutral in this conflict.
“Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor” – Ginetta Sagan.
Unfortunately, in the face of recurring and systematic oppression, often two responses are common. First, a litany of anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia (in both explicit and dog-whistle forms) pervade public discourse and impede necessary condemnation and collective resistance. Second, within communities that view themselves as committed to human rights, equality, and peaceful conflict resolution, Palestine remains the exception to otherwise universal principles. Academic institutions, popular media outlets, and political representatives either dehumanize Palestinians or remain silent and unwilling to critically reconsider their position as religious sites are being attacked in Jerusalem, Palestinian families are being forcibly displaced in Sheikh Jarrah, and as civilians are being killed by brutal military force in Gaza.
The United States is not a passive third-party observer of the ongoing settler colonial violence against Palestinians, but an active participant. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign and military aid. In 2016, the United States passed the largest military aid package ever given to any country, providing $38 billion in military assistance over the next decade.
The weapons used to kill Palestinian children in Gaza, the teargas used to assault worshippers in al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, and the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes to make way for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem neighborhoods like Sheikh Jarrah, are all purchased with American taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers in Massachusetts alone are spending over $128 million each year on military aid to Israel that supports these activities.
In addition to material support, the United States routinely uses its veto power in the United Nations Security Council and other international mechanisms to shut down efforts to hold Israel accountable for its repeated violations of international law, providing impunity for Israel as it occupies, displaces, and bombs the people of Palestine.
Harvard University, our university, is also not an innocent bystander when it comes to the occupation of Palestine. In the 4% of Harvard’s $39.2 billion endowment that is publicly disclosed, the university maintains nearly $200 million in public, direct and indirect investments in companies that are involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise, including companies that provide surveillance, weapons, and bulldozers to demolish Palestinian homes. If the undisclosed 96% of the endowment corresponds to this pattern of investment, Harvard likely has billions invested in companies profiting off Israeli apartheid.
We call on the Harvard community to take action regarding what is happening in Palestine. To our fellow Harvard students:
- Add your name to this document demanding that Harvard makes a public statement rebuking Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians.
- Write to your congressperson to support H.R. 2590 Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, which seeks to amend the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act to prohibit the use of U.S. funding to Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories on: the military detention, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children; on the seizure and destruction of Palestinian property and homes,;and on measures supporting Israel’s annexation of Palestinian territory.
- Call on the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense to Demand the end of Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, especially regarding the current violent displacement of the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods
- Challenge what you are told through popular media platforms and educate yourself and your community about human rights abuses in Palestine. Write, tweet, and share on social media platforms, but above all, reach out to your representatives at the federal and local levels.
To the Harvard administration, we demand that the University makes a public statement rebuking Israel’s excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians. We call on our university to end its complicity with Israeli apartheid policies and occupation by removing its investments in companies that are involved in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise until equal rights are guaranteed for all citizens in Israel and Palestine.
To our student groups/organizations, we urge you to join us in bringing attention to these international law violations and human rights abuses by signing and sharing this statement and spreading awareness within your communities. To co-sponsor this statement and have your group’s or individual name listed at the bottom of this document, please confirm by filling out the following form.
To the wider student body in all universities, we urge you to speak out, organize, and educate your communities about this moment and the longer history of the Palestinian dispossession and struggle.
Petition to End HLS’ Ban on Honoraria
Dear Dean Manning,
Currently, Harvard Law School has a ban on using HLS funds for speakers’ fees or honoraria, a policy that we think should be ended. We learned about this unfair DOS practice as we organized the 2nd Annual Critical Race Theory Conference. With 24 HLS student organizations co-sponsoring our grant application, we won a generous DOS conference grant. But when we went to use that money to compensate three formerly-incarcerated panelists for their planning, speaking time, and valuable lessons, DOS told us “no.”
We are asking DOS to end its ban on speakers’ fees and honoraria, and allow student orgs to use their funding from DOS to platform more speakers from Black, Latinx, Indigenous, AAPI, immigrant, poor and working class, formerly-incarcerated, LGBTQ, and disability communities, community organizers, and other people who know what the law is from living under the boot of its application, rather than solely from the point of view of theory and doctrine and academia. In tandem, we call on student orgs to take advantage of this policy change to invite and pay more marginalized speakers.
“Isn’t speaking at Harvard Law a reward enough in itself?” If you are already privileged and will benefit from putting it on your resume, maybe. But working class people can’t pay the bills with a line on a resume. As a result, our options are limited to campus speakers that are privileged, tenured, from wealthy backgrounds, or can readily monetize their appearance at HLS (e.g. selling their books). We don’t believe in exploiting regular people doing important work in their communities by inviting them and not compensating them for their time–and few would accept if we did. As we seek to build a more just world, we need the insight and inspiration from people whom the law was not designed to protect, and it is only fair to compensate those people for their valuable time, knowledge, and experiences.
“If we allow payment of honoraria, then student groups with more money will benefit to the exclusion of student groups with less money.” This doesn’t even make sense. DOS could devise any number of policies to make sure that student groups are able to bring speakers to campus. The DOS conference grant itself, which is designed to provide more funds to student orgs when they have sufficient co-sponsor support from across campus, is one way of democratizing funds. Additionally, disparities across student groups already exist, as organizations with national chapters, such as the Federalist Society, host speakers paid directly through the national chapter, and other organizations receive funding from firms. If you dig around enough, you will find there are funds lying around at this institution to pay speakers. However, the extra hurdles and restrictions to access these funds create the very two-tiered system that DOS says it is trying to prevent.
DOS’ “neutral” policy against honoraria claims to create equal opportunity across student organizations to invite speakers those organizations wish to hear from. Not only does the policy not address that problem, but it in fact restricts who organizations can invite and limits the opportunity to hear from invaluable voices. By not allowing DOS funding to be used to compensate speakers for their time, it all but excludes Black, Latinx, Indigenous, AAPI, immigrant, poor and working class, formerly-incarcerated, LGBTQ, and disability communities, community organizers, and other folks it is necessary to learn from. We therefore call on HLS to remove its ban on speakers’ fees and honoraria.
April 26, 2021
Dear Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Lewis,
My name is Alice Zhang. I am a second year student at Harvard Business School writing on behalf of a coalition of AAPI student, faculty and staff affinity groups across Harvard to express our grave concerns about the anti-Asian racism flyer released by CAMHS. Not only has the flyer posed a detrimental impact on our mental health, we are deeply distressed that such a flyer came out of CAMHS, especially under the current climate of violence and hate against AAPI communities. We would like to start by setting the context so that anyone reading this letter will have some background about the turmoil currently facing AAPI students and how the content of the flyer is troubling.
In 2020, anti-Asian hate crime in America’s largest cities surged by 2.5-folds while hate crimes overall declined by 7%, reflecting a growing racism against Asian Americans since the onset of the pandemic. There were 3,800 reported cases of anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year, which likely represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occurred given that most incidents go unreported. AAPI students live in a reality in which new cases of heinous attacks against members of our own community are surfacing daily. Such attacks often occur abruptly at random places and times, and target the most vulnerable in our community: women and the elderly. Just a couple weeks ago, a 65 y.o. Asian woman was brutally assaulted on her way to church on Sunday. This attack occurred on the very street that some of us had walked by the day prior. Frankly, we fear for our own safety as well as the safety of our family, friends and community members. This fear is exponential for AAPI students whose family members work in the service industry and/or own establishments that have been targeted in many of such attacks. Fear takes a huge toll on our mental health as well as limiting our physical activity.
In addition to the distress caused by the violence, we have felt unsupported in the country that we call home. The assault of the 65 y.o. woman happened in the plain sight of a security guard who not only failed to defend the victim who was repeatedly kicked in the head and body, but also shut the entrance
door on her when the perpetrator fled the scene. In another instance, after the mass shooting in Atlanta, in which 6 of the 8 killed were Asian women, the sheriff’s immediate response was to defend the shooter, saying he was having a “bad day” and that he targeted the spas to combat his “sex addiction.” The Atlanta shooting was driven by another form of racism, the hyper-sexualization of Asian women, which has a deep historical context and impacts all of us. While the intention of the sheriff may not have been malicious, his response was highly inappropriate and insensitive.
We have felt silenced until more recently, when the media finally began providing more coverage for the ongoing hate crimes against AAPIs. Unfortunately, we have experienced gaslighting and even faced backlash from speaking out about our issues. The public discourse surrounding this issue has been yet another source of pain, with people trying to dismiss our traumatic experiences or tell us what we should or should not say.
As you know, anti-Asian racism has been long part of American history and has always been present in various forms. COVID-19 has merely amplified such racism that AAPIs have lived with our entire lives. Now we are crying out to be heard, for our pain to be acknowledged, and for more people to stand up for the most vulnerable members of our communities.
We assume that you have already received a number of student responses about the flyer. While we do not assume any malicious intent from CAMHS, the flyer was tone deaf to an extreme degree. The language of the flyer minimized our experiences (e.g. “most individuals are not racist and these events are infrequent”), made invisible the current plight of AAPI students (e.g. “your ancestors likely went through similar or even worse incidents”), invalidated the American-ness of AAPI students (i.e. one would not tell Black American students to appreciate “the Nairobi I love”), and propagated “otherness” – which frames AAPIs as perpetual foreigners in our own country – just to name a few. Moreover, the advice to “steel yourself up mentally” and show empathy to our perpetrators (e.g. “a situation like this might bring out the worst in people”) sends a message that we should simply accept and live with anti-Asian racism. This is wildly inappropriate particularly post-Atlanta shooting and during a time like this when AAPIs are trying to challenge the model minority myth and speak up.
Even more than the flyer content, we are deeply troubled by what this incident reveals about CAMHS’ complete lack of awareness around the struggles and realities of AAPI students. Good intentions do not negate the devastating impact of such messaging on students’ mental health, particularly for younger students who may be more susceptible to internalizing such messages from Harvard. This incident has caused the confidence of AAPI students across Harvard in CAMHS to plummet. If unaddressed, it can breed distrust among students towards CAMHS’s ability to support the emotional wellness of minority students at Harvard.
We acknowledge and appreciate that you have apologized for your mistake. However, we believe this incident represents a systemic issue at CAMHS which must be addressed before our confidence in CAMHS can begin to recover. We are asking for:
- An acknowledgement from the Chief of CAMHS, Dr. Lewis about the pain that this flyer has inflicted on AAPI students, faculty and staff and an explanation of what has led to such flyer being released
- Accountability and a clear action plan from CAMHS on how it plans to strengthen its capability to support AAPI student mental health (e.g. DEI officer in CAMHS, increasing representation of AAPI clinicians and leadership, educating all CAMHS therapists about the racialized experiences of AAPIs so that they can better provide support for them)
- A forum for CAMHS to engage in a dialogue with Harvard-affiliated AAPI stakeholders who can provide feedback and support, which can come in a form of taskforce, townhall, or at the very least a meeting with representative students.Thank you for reading and we look forward to engaging with you.
Alice Zhang (HBS‘22)
APALSA Comfort Women Letter to President Biden
Dear Mr. President:
In your upcoming discussions with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this month, we respectfully request that you encourage him to offer full and unequivocal apology and compensation to the women, girls, and boys from dozens of countries coerced into Imperial Japan’s Asia-Pacific War military comfort stations.
We, the undersigned, believe that it is paramount for the U.S. government to actively engage with Japan in resolving the “Comfort Women” issue and that it is in the interest of the U.S. to do so. This international human rights issue truly lies at the forefront of the strained diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, and yet, numerous half-baked attempts to resolve the issue, without focusing on restoring dignity and justice for the “Comfort Women” survivors, have only deepened the decades-old distrust between these two key allies of the U.S. in Asia. Only when the “Comfort Women” issue is fully resolved in a victim-centered manner will the trilateral relations between the U.S., Japan, and the Republic of Korea move forward.
On March 9, 2021, the Japanese government held a meeting to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. At this meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed his Cabinet to step up efforts to promote gender equality in the nation. If he is serious about this goal, he must first align his government’s perspectives on women’s rights and the realities of violence against women, both historically and for the future. It is impossible for Japan to accept international norms regarding gender equality without first accepting that the “Comfort Women” were victims coerced into sexual slavery.
An unequivocal apology would entail either a Cabinet Decision or a Diet Resolution embedding it into the Japanese legal regime, and a statement of apology to all victims of the system by the Prime Minister in front of the global media. Government reparations would entail funds from the Japanese government (and not from private institutions) to be paid directly to the victims and their families based on the aforementioned legal regime, as well as funds to support programs of education and healing not only about the “Comfort Women,” but also about violence against women and wartime sexual violence.
Most importantly, the Japanese government must end its support of campaigns to distort and deny Imperial Japan’s WWII military history toward the “Comfort Women.” We have painfully observed through Harvard Law Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s article, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” that historical denialism and revisionism are still very much in existence not only in Japan, but also here in the U.S. and abroad. State-funded projects focused on denying the coercion of “Comfort Women” or demanding the removal of memorials in the City of Glendale and elsewhere in the U.S. or in the Philippines must also stop.
If the Japanese government continues to maintain its contrafactual position that the “Comfort Women” were not sex slaves but were voluntary prostitutes, the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice to be tried and judged once and for all. We welcome an opportunity to discuss with you or your staff about a path forward.
April 5, 2021
Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Berkeley Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Columbia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Cornell Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Duke Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Georgetown Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Michigan Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
New York University Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association
Northwestern Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Stanford Asian and Pacific Islander Law Students Association
UChicago Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
UCLA Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association
University of Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
University of Virginia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Yale Asian Pacific American Law Students Association 2020–2021 Executive Board
KAHLS Statement in Response to Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s Article “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War”
Professor J. Mark Ramseyer, the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, recently published an article (“Contracting for sex in the Pacific War”) and accompanying editorial (“Recovering the Truth about the Comfort Women”), in which he describes the forced sex slavery organized by Japan during World War II as a consenting, contractual process. He claims, without sufficient evidence, that the Japanese military sex slaves were willing prostitutes who were able to “negotiate” for substantial wages in a consensual, contractual relationship. In his editorial, he also makes multiple assertions that the comfort women story is “pure fiction,” a revisionist claim that is recycled time and time again by neonationalist figures.
Professor Ramseyer’s arguments are factually inaccurate and misleading. Without any convincing evidence, Professor Ramseyer argues that no government “forced women into prostitution,” a contention he also makes in his editorial. Decades’ worth of Korean scholarship, primary sources, and third-party reports challenge this characterization. None are mentioned, cited, or considered in his arguments.
Professor Ramseyer’s deficient presentation of the historical record is demonstrated by his bibliography. Korean perspectives and scholarship, both rich sources of material on this topic, are almost completely absent in his work. Scholars studying history understand the possibility of post-hoc revisionism and bias. To counter such effects, they consult a wide-ranging set of materials from a variety of sources. Professor Ramseyer does not.
He also ignores expansive scholarship done by international organizations, such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, which has conclusively found that the “comfort women” were coerced, kidnapped, or forced by the Japanese government. After its independent inquiry, the Japanese government itself acknowledged as part of the Kono Statement that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of comfort stations.”
As students of law and democracy, we are committed to a fair presentation of diverse perspectives. Our professors stress the fundamental importance of bringing multiple perspectives to a discussion. Again, Professor Ramseyer’s article falls short in this regard. He does not engage with the historically validated and important perspectives of scholars who have worked to amplify the testimonies of these women. To ignore this work is to create the false impression of a settled history of an imagined world where Korean comfort women were free to contract for higher wages paid at their preferred schedule.
Analytically, Professor Ramseyer takes these contracts as a given. He suggests comfort women “negotiated” their contractual terms. Such value-neutral language erases important historical context of coercive sexual violence. He assumes away important issues of consent, duress, and power dynamics. As law students, we study the doctrines and equitable principles that have developed to correct for these issues in our first-year curriculum. As future lawyers, we recognize that much is still to be done, that settlements and non-disclosure agreements can do much to obscure latent coercion. As citizens of a world where sexual violence, denialism, and slavery run rampant, we call attention to misleading histories and economic analyses that callously suggest that these women negotiated into their own sexual slavery.
We, and the undersigned, strongly condemn the deliberate erasure of human rights violations and war crimes. Up to 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military, from not only Korea, but also China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma. We stand with the victims who have yet to receive full reparations and a proper, official apology from the Japanese government. We strongly condemn all actions that inflict pain and insult to the victims, who bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.
As students, we have the utmost respect for academic freedom, including that of Professor Ramseyer. But at the same time, we firmly believe that a sincere commitment to academic freedom is inseparable from the obligation of academic integrity as part of a genuine search for truth. Upholding these values requires that we shed light on the failings of misleading narratives that omit important voices and obscure critical histories.
February 4, 2021
Korean Association of Harvard Law School (KAHLS)
Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA)
Harvard Law School China Law Association (CLA)
Statement of Solidarity in the Face of Violence
June 7, 2020
We stand with all Black people—including women, men, non-binary, trans, queer, disabled, and low-income—who have been and continue to be unjustly impacted and targeted by anti-Blackness. We condemn the outrageous violence and systematic injustice that the Black community faces. Unequivocally, Black lives matter. The recent horrific murders—of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Nina Pop, and countless others who have not caught national attention—are unacceptable. At the same time, they are not surprising. The reality of structural racism, oppression, and violence against the Black community has always been present in America.
The Black community has been tireless advocates for justice, rights, and equality for not only themselves, but all Americans throughout our nation’s history. We must acknowledge the unique struggles and unjust burdens that Black Americans have undergone and faced in their fight for equality. We recognize that these efforts have benefited all communities of color, including the Asian American community. The Black-led civil rights movement led to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, to which the Asian American community owes much of its presence in America. Our diverse diaspora and our progress is tied with the Black community and its activism. Our solidarity here is essential and unreserved.
While centering and elevating Black voices and work, we also have a responsibility to speak up in our own spaces. It is imperative that we hold our Asian/Asian American communities accountable in our allyship. To strongly support the Black community, we must reckon and unlearn the insidious and pervasive nature of anti-Blackness ingrained in our community and cultural perceptions. Dismantling problematic prejudices within our community starts with consistent self-reflection, education, and having uncomfortable conversations with our friends and family. It takes showing up for the Black community in our actions, in our learning, and in all our capacity. Without this form of advocacy, we will continue to see Asian police officers, like the one involved in the murder of George Floyd, perpetuate a history of excessive force and brutality. This is unacceptable. We must reverse this.
We stand firmly behind the Black community in their protests and work to push for long overdue change. We will stand with them until that change is here. We also call on all of our members to take action. We particularly endorse and uplift the Harvard Black Law Student Association’s statement on this issue, which includes specific actions.
As an organization, APALSA commits to following up with further events, discussions, and continual dialogue on this issue. Solidarity goes beyond statements and requires ongoing, communal action.
Black Lives Matter.
Statement on Affirmative Action Lunch Event
October 11, 2019
This past Tuesday, two student organizations held a lunch event to discuss affirmative action and the results and ramifications of the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard decision. The event featured the lead trial counsel for SFFA and a Harvard Law School professor.
Last year, the 2018-19 APALSA board issued a statement conveying our nuanced opinion of the lawsuit after engaging with our membership through notice & comment. We expressed our support for diversity, inclusion, and affirmative action, and at the same time condemned any and all discrimination against APA applicants by Harvard. We made clear that the two beliefs are not mutually exclusive.
We write now not to address the lawsuit, but rather an incident that occurred during Tuesday’s lunch event. A remark by the SFFA attorney elicited responses from a group of students in the crowd that disturbed some of the APA students in the room. An insinuation may have been made that Asian students inherently possess less appealing personality traits than applicants of other races. Today we do not question exactly what words were used. Rather, we focus our message on the impact that this incident may have had on members of our community.
We believe that first, those were the voices of the few, and second, that these comments were not intended to target APA students. However, a negative stereotype that specifically impacts and harms APA students was perpetuated. As many of you know, one critical issue during litigation was the lower “personal ratings” given to APA applicants versus those given to other racial groups.
To those of you who were hurt by this or who spoke up about this, you are not alone. Vocalizing feelings of discomfort in a public forum takes courage. Doing so in an environment with complex histories and strong tensions is difficult. We thank you for standing up for our community and each other.
APALSA hopes to work in solidarity with other affinity groups on issues surrounding affirmative action. In addition, we believe it is also crucial to have conversations about APA identity in particular in the context of this issue. We pledge to you, as a board, that we will make programming based on open dialogue a priority in the coming weeks.
Your 2019-20 APALSA Board
Statement of Solidarity with Section 7
July 31, 2019
Dear members of APALSA,
As many of you may already know, earlier this spring four students in Section 7 were targeted with racist and sexist messages sent by an anonymous student or students who have yet to be identified. On behalf of APALSA, we applaud the bravery and strength exhibited by the victims of these hateful attacks. Bigoted thoughts have no place in either our academic institution or our collective conscience as residents of this community.
We also stand in solidarity with our friends in BLSA, who have urged the administration to remain faithful to its commitments to diversity, inclusion, and justice. No one should be made to feel like they are not welcome at Harvard Law School or that they do not belong. Each and every one of us is here simply because we deserve to be. We call on the administration to use each and every resource at its disposal to identify the culprits and hold them accountable for the consequences of their actions.
APALSA will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and protection of both our members and of the broader HLS community. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you are made to feel unsafe or unvalued. Remember that any burden is ours to bear together.
#DefendDiversity Week of Action
October 9, 2018
After reviewing the general body’s comments about the proposed co-sponsorship of the #DefendDiversity Week of Action and race-conscious admissions policies, the APALSA Board has voted to co-sponsor and stand with the broad coalition of civil rights organizations, student groups, and alumni organizations pledging to #DefendDiversity in schools and workplaces. We hope you will join us for the #DefendDiversity Week of Digital Action, local discussions, and for the Solidarity Rally for Education and Opportunity this Sunday, October 14th, 2018 to continue this conversation and/or show your support for race-conscious admissions. We offer the following statement to contextualize this decision:
APALSA exists based on the belief that our racial and ethnic backgrounds are an integral part of who we are as individuals. As a community of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders we are highly diverse and yet we have come together as students through our shared experiences—of immigration, family, expectations, language, food, values, and even a Hollywood movie that we thought we might never see. That shared experience, however, also includes persevering in the face of discrimination ranging from the questioning of our right to belong to American society and implicit bias, to extreme injustices, oppression, and hate crimes. Through these, we have often also suffered the offense of being overlooked and unheard.
And that is why we feel we must raise our voices.
Edward Blum’s most recent challenge to affirmative action in SFFA v. Harvard has raised serious questions and concerns about how Asian Americans are treated in the Harvard College admissions process. We emphatically denounce any discrimination, implicit or explicit, that exists in this process, such as the alleged personality rating disparities that map onto some of our worst fears about how Asian Americans are perceived in this country. We are disappointed by these allegations. We demand that Harvard takes them seriously, including improving training for admissions officers on Asian American issues, disaggregating data based on nationality, and committing to hiring a diverse admissions office staff. We will continue to keep a critical eye on Harvard’s admissions process and how Harvard is addressing the influence of damaging stereotypes of Asian Americans as part of their holistic admissions approach.
At the same time, research has shown that any bias or potential bias against any group must be addressed by more and deeper understanding of racial, ethnic and cultural issues, not less. We believe that race and ethnicity are critical components of the diversity of the student body that enrich our legal educations. Accordingly, we cannot support the remedy sought by SFFA, which seeks as its sole remedy that Harvard “conduct all admissions in a manner that does not permit those engaged in the decisional process to be aware of or learn the race or ethnicity of any applicant for admission.” Twenty-four Harvard College student and alumni affinity groups, including the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, have signed an amicus brief affirming that diversity counts in their educations.
We believe that Harvard has a responsibility to be inclusive of students and communities whose educational opportunities have been limited by race- and ethnicity-related circumstances, and that Harvard must strive to better understand those circumstances as it admits each class through holistic review, a process that should not further historically entrenched stereotypes, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is not to say that Harvard and like universities bear the primary burden of addressing historical inequities, but they certainly must play a role. Many APAs also confront systemic barriers to education, and we want Harvard admissions to take those into account. We believe that all of us are better off when we learn alongside those who can relate at a gut level to our own lives as well as those whose journeys might be a struggle for us to comprehend. Race and ethnicity undeniably play a role in defining the system of intellectual and social support and challenge that Harvard should provide.
As law students, we know that upon leaving the diverse Harvard campus, the realities of the working world can be a rude awakening. APAs face barriers at all levels of the legal profession, particularly in advancing towards partnership, government positions, and the judiciary. Here again, the need for diverse leadership and the impact of race on our careers can be confronted only through a heightened awareness of barriers to APAs in the legal profession and intentional remedies to lower them. An attack on affirmative action in schools paves the way for the elimination of those very diversity programs that facilitate APAs’ entry and survival in workplaces that too often lag behind in diversifying their leadership and hiring.
Recognizing that the solution to discrimination is not race-blindness but an affirmative duty of institutions to better understand diversity and support people of color, APALSA pledges to defend diversity and educational opportunity. We hope you will join us for the #DefendDiversity Week of Digital Action, local educational events, and for the Solidarity Rally for Education and Opportunity this Sunday, October 14th, 2018.
Your 2018–19 APALSA Board