Harvard’s #AAPI women speak out against racist, misogynistic email death threat & official response


In the wake of last weekend’s emailed death threats that appeared to target Harvard’s AAPI female population, several of Harvard’s AAPI women are now speaking out. In a powerful statement published in Manifesta Magazine, a Harvard-based feminist magazine, the AAPI women of Harvard decry the racism and misogyny of the weekend’s email threats as well as the university’s response.

The article was written anonymously by four AAPI students at Harvard with input from many more community members, and it touches on a number of important points arising out of this weekend’s death threats. Labeling Friday night’s email an act of terrorism (and rightfully so), the article positions the email threat as the latest in a disturbing pattern of online harassment, abuse and invasion of privacy that has targeted some of Harvard’s AAPI women for months.

As an Asian-American community, we are deeply affected by this act of hate that unnerved many of our closest friends, community members, and family members.

Our discomfort is heightened in learning that this act was not an isolated incident but the result of many months of data mining: For many recipients of the death threats, this sender has sent multiple spam e-mails, Facebook requests and messages, and LinkedIn requests. Moreover, this sender has taken on the persona of several members of our community, sending out links of personal social media sites to strangers.

The article also reveals how Harvard’s administration was complicit in downplaying the violence of the weekend’s email threat to the campus’ AAPI women. The administration appeared slow to take the threats seriously, and their response borders on the absurd: the first email warning encouraged students to watch a short video on Homeland Security’s Active Shooter protocols, while latter emails maintained that the campus was open. Harvard also, apparently, scrubbed discussion of the racist and misogynist content of the emails from their official missives. Write the authors of the articles in Manifesta:

Despite the virulent racism and violence contained in these messages, however, we have been disappointed in the official response to this incident. In the four emails sent by HUPD Public Information Officer Stephen Catalano, none mentioned the anti-Asian sentiment of the emails or that they had primarily been sent to Asian and Asian American women. In fact, the administration edited an email from the organizers of Perspectives, the pan-Asian American and Pacific Islander town hall that was postponed due to the threats. In forwarding the message to the Harvard community, the administration purposefully cut out the organizers’ reference to the specifically racist and misogynist nature of the emails.

By not including this essential information, HUPD and the university minimized our community’s horror and confusion at receiving these messages, and put Asian and Asian American students in danger by withholding the knowledge the threat had been directed at them.

…Make no mistake. Sending hate speech and death threats to members of our community was an act of violence in and of itself. It was an act of terror meant to make certain students, marked by their race and gender, fearful of their lives when they should be free to learn and grow in this environment equal to any one of their peers. Harvard is not an institution that erases barriers of gender, race, and other aspects of identity; rather, it is a place where Asian-American women still struggle for ownership in the classroom, in social spaces, walking down the street, their careers, and basically all facets of life.

In addition to demanding that law enforcement and administrator maintain dedicated efforts to identify and apprehend the email sender, the authors of the Manifesta article criticize the university’s Office of Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution for its ongoing silence on the emails. The authors also demand that Harvard establish a reporting system for on- and off-campus micro- and macro-aggression bias-related incidents.

The article ends powerfully, and deserves to be quoted in full:

We, as Asian Americans, refuse to apologize for who we are or for our existence.

We are unapologetic.

We are unapologetic for being afraid, for being angry, for feeling resentful, for being at Harvard, and most of all – for demanding better.

This site stands in support and solidarity with that message, and with Harvard’s entire community of powerful AAPI women.

Read the full article in Manifesta Magazine here: Unapologetic and Refusing to Remain Silent

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