The Society of California Archivists stands with those of Asian and Pacific Islander ethnicity in the United States against hate targeting their communities, and is deeply saddened and angered by the assaults and violent deaths that disproportionately affect AAPI seniors and women. The murders of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, and Yong Ae Yue are a direct result of structural racism that infiltrates every corner of our society, including archives. We support our colleagues who are experiencing the trauma of witnessing their loved ones, peers and community members being hurt or killed. The Society of California Archivists remains committed to the acknowledgement that our profession has supported and continues to support racist systems and practices that uphold systemic inequality and perpetuate white supremacy. White supremacy is directly responsible for the model minority myth, which has served to divide minoritized people and continues to hurt the AAPI community.
California, in particular, has a long history of racism and violence against Asian American immigrants dating back to the days of the Gold Rush, supported by state and federal legislation, including the passing of the the 1875 Page Act, which barred East Asian women from U.S. entry; the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers and perpetuated anti-Chinese racism; the California Alien Land Law of 1913; and the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Antiracist scholar Ibram X. Kendi tells us that policies shape attitudes; this is evident in the 145% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the past 18 months.
As archivists, we serve as witnesses to this shameful legacy, and the oppression and harm toward the AAPI community that has been a painful part of California’s wealth and prosperity. Our efforts to document the lives and contributions of AAPI Californians can counter and contextualize racist tropes and scapegoating promoted by the media and politicians for political gain, both historically and in the present. But this cannot be where our work ends.
We can also acknowledge how we may have been unconsciously biased in our archival practices. We should be reflective about how the anti-Asian policies may have affected our personal attitudes about Asian and Pacific Islander people. We strongly encourage all SCA members to look within their own institutional practices to consider how Asian and Pacific Islander archivists have historically been treated by our profession. How will we hold ourselves accountable if you notice yourself, or someone else perpetuating stereotypes about Asian or Pacific Islander people? The SCA Ethics and Inclusion committee has advocated for all members to participate in active bystander training to combat harassment or violence as it is happening, or before it escalates. The Board strongly encourages you to engage in this type of professional development, and will offer opportunities to join as an organization in such training in the coming year.
How can we center the voices of our colleagues who are the most harmed by these policies? The SCA Ethics and Inclusion Committee is in the initial stages of planning a BIPOC affinity group, to bring together underrepresented archival workers in a community-centered space. The Ethics and Inclusion Committee, with the support of the Board will facilitate ongoing discussions about actions membership and the SCA Board can take to continue to work towards inclusivity within our professional organization. If you have any suggestions, please contact the Ethics and Inclusion Committee at email@example.com.
As we look toward celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we encourage fellow archivists to foster awareness of AAPI history and culture, promote historical materials that highlight AAPI contributions to our country’s success, and surface AAPI stories and personal narratives that have long been silenced in our historical record. We should also consider how we are celebrating and supporting these communities on an ongoing basis.
Executive Board and Ethics and Inclusion Committee
Society of California Archivists