Ms. Bienert Discusses Recent Events in the Asian American Community
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Good morning Middle School and Upper School students!
I am Mrs. Bienert. I teach Chinese at the Upper School. This is my second year at Waterford, so being on campus for the Spring Term is a new experience for me. I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to you about a topic we’ve been hearing a lot about in the news - violence against Asians and Asian Americans.
Part of what I want to say is on behalf of our school, where we stand; but I also want to share with you my personal experience over the last year, to open your eyes to the fact that this activity is not a recent phenomenon and not just happening in far away places like San Francisco, New York, and Atlanta.
First, as a school, we recognize, similar to Columbia University, that “the rising violence against Asians and Asian Americans underscores the need to stand together in the face of hatred. Waterford School continues to denounce bias and bigotry in all forms and supports all members of our community.” In our special community at Waterford, in a year where our focus is on Caring, our stand as a school is especially significant.
This stance is even more important to me personally because, to be honest, I am stressed and exhausted. While some of the recent attacks like the one in Atlanta have made the news, these attacks on Asians because of our race have been going on for a long time now. Hate crimes against Asians in America have risen 150% in the last year, and we know that the numbers are under-reported. Personally, I have experienced aggression, some subtle and some not so subtle, that I would never have imagined in my 27 years in America.
I now look over my shoulder at the grocery stores, because a few months ago, at Whole Foods, a man about twice my size pushed really close to me, pulled down his mask and said some nasty words at me. And he went to find my daughter in another part of the store and did the same thing to her. And why wouldn’t he, when some people feel comfortable to use phrases like “China virus” or “Wuhan flu” to demonize my ethnicity. Things like this were rare in the past, but are now commonplace for Asians in our state and in our country. I feel safe at home, I feel safe at Waterford, but not so much in other places any more. My friends and family in China are worried and some even told my parents that they should move me back to China.
But I won’t do that, I don’t want to, because my home is here. I’ve been living in America for 27 years. I am proud of the life I have built here. Proud of the work I have done to teach American students my language and my culture. What I would like to ask all of us today is, in the spirit of Caring, take the time to recognize times of racism against Asians, and frankly, any other race around you. And say something.
I think about the international students I work with. I think about other students who are from Asian families. I think about the students, and even adults, who were adopted from Asian countries when they were babies. Are they OK?
We all need to care for each other and help to make our community a better place for everyone. I hope this helps to start a conversation amongst yourselves, at school, and at home. And I’m happy to keep the discussion going if you see me on campus!
Thank you very much!