The Harvard Foundation Responds to Anti-Asian Violence and Discrimination

February 18, 2021


Dear Students, Staff, Faculty, and Members of the Harvard Foundation community,

Last Friday, February 12, was Lunar New Year. What should have been a season of celebration was instead punctuated by a spate of violent attacks against vulnerable members of the Asian community in the United States. 

On our own campus, members of the Harvard community, including the Korean International Student Association (KISA), have been actively responding to the harmful inaccuracies promoted by Harvard Law School Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent paper, which portrays “comfort women” as contracted workers, rather than as victims of trafficking and sexual slavery under Imperial Japan.

Make no mistake, the systematic marginalization and misrepresentation of Asian lives and histories is antithetical to the mission and aspirations of any academic institution. This undoubtedly contributes to the trend of dehumanization and violence that has been on vivid display since the start of COVID. But while this trend may be on the rise, xenophobia, racism, and hate crimes targeting the Asian community are far from new.

The Harvard Foundation, alongside our colleagues in the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) unit at the College, has made a public commitment to dismantling white supremacy. Today, in alignment with this commitment, we encourage you to take time to do the following:

  • Read KISA’s statement regarding Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent paper on "comfort women."

  • Read and consider signing the Harvard-wide petition regarding Professor Ramseyer’s paper on "comfort women."

  • Proactively educate yourself about Asian and Asian American experiences. Start with this article written by Harvard’s own Dunster House Resident Dean Michael Uy

  • Take action to stand in solidarity with the Asian and Asian American community. Acknowledge that the marginalization of Asian voices and experiences is rooted in white supremacy and is bound up with the systemic oppression of other marginalized communities. 

Words are never written or spoken without consequence, and actions do not take place in a vacuum. The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations is unequivocally committed to further diversifying our programming, and to continuing our learning around how we can most effectively educate, advocate for, and stand in solidarity with our students. 


The Harvard Foundation