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Syracuse University Professors Share History And Experiences Of Anti-Asian Racism

Victoria Pickering

The March shooting in Atlanta that left six Asian women and two others dead along with other recent acts of violence against Asians across the country have exposed previously overlooked anti-Asian racism in America,  and even here in the city of Syracuse.


Syracuse University Law Professor Mary Szto explains such racism is rooted in history, such as laws excluding Asian immigration and internment camps that held Asians captive during World War Two. 

More recently, the narrative switched to claim that Asian people are models of assimilation.

“We wanted to promote the model assimilative minority myth, which as we know was fulfilling several goals, right,” said Szto. “To unfortunately drive a wedge among minorities and then to basically, again put Asians in a box, by labelling them as a model of assimilation.”

Szto says the model minority myth has suppressed anti-Asian hate and prejudice.  Sociology Professor Yingyi Ma says violence against Asian-Americans is often not defined as a hate crime.  Ma says this racism also targets Asian international students at campuses such as Syracuse University. 

“Asian international students seldom talk about their becoming the targets of racism,” said Ma. “But that conversation has shifted very quickly ever since COVID-19, that they have become the targets of anti-Asian racism.”

Ma suggests more opportunities to hear the experiences – and fears – of these international students, along with more support, would help.  Ma also believes increasing Asian staff would promote a more inclusive environment.

SU saw incidents of anti-Asian graffiti about a year ago,  and a professor referred to COVID-19 as the “China Flu” in a class. Just last month, racist notes about Chinese students were posted in university buildings.  

Szto and Ma shared these thoughts at a Syracuse University Honors Forum to discuss and reflect on Anti-Asian racism in America.


Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.