Redwood lacks action against AAPI hate

Kelly Chuang

On the afternoon of March 29, David Sondheim, Redwood’s Principal, released a statement regarding the country’s anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate in his Principal’s Update. The update stated that Redwood will “continue to work to raise our racial consciousness and develop staff and student anti-racism knowledge and skills.” It then referred readers, via hyperlink, to resources included in a previous email sent out by Tam District’s superintendent, Dr. Tara Taupier.

Faye Kwan, an Asian Special Education teacher at Redwood, was disappointed when she read the email. There was no mention of action to be taken by the administration, despite approximately 10 percent of Redwood being AAPI.

“I don’t think the school is doing enough, and at the same time, I don’t think it’s intentional,” she said. “But that’s the issue.”

The email was sent roughly two weeks after the Atlanta spa shootings. Gunman Robert Aaron Long left eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. 

The Atlanta shootings were not an isolated incident. AAPI hate crimes have been steadily increasing since the beginning of the pandemic, due to the racist correlation between AAPI and the spread of COVID-19. According to The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 150 percent amid the pandemic in the United State’s sixteen largest cities.

Kwan added that she has not heard of any further action from the district in regards to AAPI hate, or to support Asian students.

Redwood’s Leadership class, however, has been considering different courses of action. Sarah Steele, a junior in the class, said that Leadership is looking into installing a social justice display into one of the main cases at the main building’s entrance. The class additionally began discussing holding another school-wide presentation, much like the educational performance of The Mitzvah Project in late January. The webinar came as a timely strike against the Redwood community’s rise in anti-Semitism across social media. However, Steele does not believe these ideas are enough.

Responding to student questions, Roger Grunwald provided Marin students with insight on how to handle anti-Semitism, as well as extensive Jewish history in his educational presentation of The Mitzvah Project.

“Sure, adding a display case is great, but how is that actively supporting our students? Another presentation to the school is a great way to reach a lot of people, but we need to start having an active conversation,” she said. “A lot of the ideas we came up with are great initial [actions], but we need to come up with an idea that is about substance and truly supporting our students.”

Kate Giang, an Asian American sophomore, is open to the idea of having conversations on racism. She feels that the topic of AAPI hate has been pushed to the side, and that the school could be doing more.

“I think it would be interesting to have a chance to share my experiences with someone who might not have experienced anything similar before,” Giang said.

She encouraged that racial discussions should be conversations, not mandated speaking panels.

“If you were forced to talk to someone about your experience, it might be more awkward than if it was naturally brought up in a conversation,” she said. “[But] that’d be an interesting conversation to have; to listen to Asian experiences.”

During her years as a Redwood student, Kwan experienced racism in her classes and on campus. She cites the reason for her return to campus as to hopefully change the racist culture for future generations, and to create a safer space for all students.

“Seeing that racism continues to be such a huge issue, I did come back with this idea that I would be able to support the effort against it,” she said. “It does take a long time to change that type of culture, but it’s very hard to feel patient when it feels like so much more can be done, and it’s not being done.”