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Statement from Bishop Provenzano on Anti-Asian Violence

diocese-logo-mark-full-color_square.pngDear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other events of the past year, hundreds of parishioners across our diocese have responded with discerning hearts and minds, doing a deep dive into how racism has been woven into the fabric of our nation.

This has included participation in our church-wide Sacred Ground curriculum, among many other vehicles of learning and action. We are yearning — for the health of all of our souls, and with God’s help — to pull and unravel the threads of that fabric, dismantle this sin, and build up God’s kingdom here on earth.

This examination includes acknowledging historical anti-Blackness, our mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples, and our scapegoating and cruelty toward recent immigrants. I am proud of our church family as we strive to walk in the way of Christ’s all-inclusive love.

But one aspect of our history that often goes unnamed is the deep-seated anti-Asian sentiments that have been unveiled (again), with often deadly consequences.  A survey of police departments in 16 major U.S. cities revealed that from 2019 to 2020, there was a 149% increase in anti-Asian violence.

Just last week in NYC, there were several more reports, some recorded on security cameras, of Asian Americans being kicked, punched and stabbed in unprovoked attacks. One Chinese restaurant owner spoke out, worried for both the physical and mental health of his workers, realizing that they can barely make it to and from their jobs without incident. In Sacramento, California, last Friday, a high-school teacher made a slant-eyed gesture during a Zoom class.

But it’s not just big cities. Hundreds of attacks have been reported in areas across the nation. In March of last year, a 34-year-old father grocery shopping in Midland, Texas was slashed on his face, his 3-year-old stabbed in the back, and his 6-year-old stabbed in the face. When the perpetrator was asked his motives, he confessed to trying to kill the family, saying that he thought they “brought the virus here and were trying to spread it.” He also told the authorities that “all Asians must be from China,” reflecting the pervasive ignorance about the vast diversity of the largest continent on earth.

Unfortunately, these sinful acts, willful ignorance and/or lies have been actively fueled by our former president, and this rhetoric continues to be fomented by members of Congress, other political figures still in power, and the hate groups who support them. A quarter of anti-Asian attacks included a perpetrator using language out of the former president’s playbook: phrases like “Wuhan virus,” “China virus,” “kung-flu” and “go back to your country.”

An alarming number of these brutal attacks have been on defenseless elders, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades. Most attacks go unreported, so we know this is the tip of the iceberg. As a result of this spike in assaults, many Asian Americans report being fearful of leaving their home or sending their kids back to school.

While much of the rise in violence has been amplified and normalized by the white supremacist doctrine that pervaded the prior administration — on full display on Jan. 6, 2021 — the false narrative of “the yellow peril” has been with us for a long time and did not begin with COVID-19. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to Japanese Incarceration in the 1940s, this is yet another long-standing thread in the fabric of our complex American story.

Sadly, white supremacy has, with great success, pitted minority communities against each other to feed its own insatiable hunger for power. For a deeper historical and social perspective, I commend to you a recent article by Michelle Kim, founder and CEO of Awaken, for a clear and thoughtful analysis of anti-Asian bias: "On Anti-Asian Hate Crimes: Who Is Our Real Enemy?".

As followers of Jesus — especially in our immensely diverse corner of God’s vineyard — it is our responsibility to recognize and interrupt the forces that divide the children of God. Our Scripture and teachings command that we welcome the stranger and see the image of God in the face of every human being.

For the safety of our communities, and in the hope that God’s love be embedded in every aspect of our common life, I ask that we all fervently use our eyes to see the face of God in everyone.

As Christians, we are called to love and serve, and to pray for “deliverance from all danger, violence, oppression, and degradation” for all people. [BCP 385] We will stand up, speak out, and defend our neighbors of Asian descent, especially in times when they are scapegoated for the failings of our society.

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The Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano
Bishop of Long Island

Click below for translations of Bishop Provenzano's statement: 

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Recommended References:

[LA Times] Anti-Asian hate crimes and harassment rise to historic levels during COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-03-05/anti-asian-crimes-harassment

[ABC New York] Asian man recalls unprovoked attack at Manhattan subway station: https://abc7ny.com/asian-attack-assault-unprovoked-hate-crime/10385810/

[NBC New York] CEO of NYC Chinese Restaurant Franchise Opens Up About Attacks on Workers: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/ceo-of-nyc-chinese-restaurant-franchise-opens-up-about-attacks-on-workers/2915432/

[NBC News] Asian Americans have often needed to 'prove' racism. Then social media video came along: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/asian-americans-have-often-needed-prove-racism-then-social-media-n1258896

[PBS] Asian Americans (five-hour film series): https://www.pbs.org/show/asian-americans/

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