I am very disappointed to see that The Flat Hat is now publishing racist conspiracy theories without an ounce of logic just to gain some kind of moral high ground by appealing to the mainstream political culture on our campus. Here I do not speak of your internal affairs, but of Sinophobia, which, since the start of this year, has risen to new heights. It is now politically correct to hate the Chinese government and anything the CPC does and anyone who defends them. Unfortunately I, like many Chinese students, gave up on pushing back against these sentiments months ago and chose to keep quiet, thinking that if we ignored it, it would not affect us, but now the threat is real and very directly harms our interests, our needs, and our collective reputation.
Sept. 8th, The Flat Hat published a manifesto from a guest columnist basically accusing Chinese students of assisting in genocide and calling for the administration to ban and remove the Chinese Students and Scholars Association because, according to the author, it is allegedly controlling rhetoric and harassing those who disagree with the CPC. No evidence was given for any of these accusations, nor was there any logical reasoning for why banning CSSA would solve human rights abuse. The method of argumentation was emotional screaming and broad appeals at ideology. Had the author written this article for a grade, I would hope that any professor with some sense of scholarly integrity would give him an “F.”
What exactly is CSSA and what does it do? CSSA is an organization whose only purpose is to serve the needs of Chinese international students. It is a bridge between students and the Chinese embassy, which communicates necessary consular information through CSSA, protects our rights in the US, and funds cultural activities. This year, CSSA was responsible for handing out medical supplies and protective gear from the embassy to not just Chinese students, but also any other citizens of China within the community. Saying that CSSA is dispensable would be like saying that foreign embassies are dispensable. Each university’s CSSA is entirely autonomous and run by students. The claim that CSSA is a foreign government plant is an extremely harmful conspiracy theory, just like Trump’s claim that all Chinese students are spies. Sorry to disappoint, but we are too busy agonizing over our health and safety and how to get a balanced meal to spy on you and harass those who don’t like our government.
By the way, dismissing people who point out that anti-Chinese propaganda is discriminatory by saying things like “I don’t hate Chinese people, I just hate the Chinese government” is extremely ignorant. It is hurtful too, because it essentially carries the message of also hating Chinese people who support their government (aka “brainwashed CPC trolls.”) Perhaps you don’t understand the relationship between the Chinese people and our government — we don’t applaud everything they do, but in general the majority are satisfied with their services and the progress of our nation’s development. A lot of people even feel an emotional bond. Why are we here if we support our own government? (This is something that I have actually been asked before.) Well, disregarding how disgusting and ridiculous that question is, we actually happen to also respect and tolerate American political culture and values. Can you do that too? I’m simply asking that you respect our values and listen to our side of the story. It’s not hard. Humanitarianism is fine, but throwing around conspiracy theories and attacking Chinese students for dispelling rumors or having different opinions is not.
Chinese international students at William & Mary, or perhaps anywhere, are not known for being a particularly vocal group. Perhaps you have met a few of us in your classes or in clubs, but as a group it is true that we are not fond of engaging the rest of the student body. That which concerns our common interests are discussed internally, and organized events are often only known within our circles. Know that your words, your groundless accusations, have infuriated all of us, and that you can be reported for libel, fabrication, and discriminatory rhetoric.
It is fortunate that the original article was not widely read or acknowledged, but similar rhetoric has been found on smaller platforms all year. As a public platform with some influence on campus, The Flat Hat has the responsibility to consider the consequences of what they publish, especially if it potentially breeds a hostile environment. I hope that my words will have some effect on the way people are thinking about and treating Chinese students and that our relationship can be ameliorated.
Email Artemis Fang at firstname.lastname@example.org.