ASG releases statement on racist meme and inclusion initiatives


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Soteria Reid, ASG’s executive officer of justice and inclusion, speaks during a Senate session. Reid said she asked the original poster to take down the offensive meme. She then checked in with executive board members of APIDA identities.

Yunkyo Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Associated Student Government Senate released a statement at this Wednesday’s session that a member of the Senate had posted a racist meme on its private communication channel on Jan. 24.

“We do not condone this kind of behavior,” ASG executive vice president and SESP senior Adam Davies said in the meeting. “We want to take responsibility for the pain and harm that this has caused.”

The meme depicted illustrations of Black Plague doctors alongside references to Asians in regard to the recent coronavirus outbreaks.

After seeing the meme, Soteria Reid, ASG’s executive officer of justice and inclusion, said she asked the original poster to take it down. She then contacted executive board members of APIDA identities to make sure they did not feel unheard.

“(The post) sent the message that all Asian people come from an Asian country and reinforced biases around the perpetual foreigner,” Reid said. “(It) was overtly racist and political and violent.”

Along with chair of health and wellness for ASG Revika Singh, Reid said she organized a caucus of APIDA individuals at ASG, which has since met once to converse about the consequences of casual racism in student government.

Senate leadership, Davies added, will continue to work to maintain an inclusive environment for senators of APIDA identities. Furthermore, Senate will work to become more accountable for the impact that ASG can have on marginalized communities, they said.

In response to the incident, ASG is also in the process of implementing an APIDA caucus, ASG President SESP senior Izzy Dobbel said in the meeting. She said ASG will also hold accountability workshops for leadership and will meet with APIDA senators.

Singh said she did not personally see the post. Still, relating the fear of the coronavirus to the APIDA community is dangerous, the Weinberg sophomore said.

Confronting racism within the organization is an “important learning moment” for ASG, Singh said. The student group should not only take full responsibility, she said, but work to make sure racist and exclusive incidents do not happen again.

Singh added that there is not enough APIDA representation at college student governments overall in the United States, and that ASG is considering reaching out to communities to promote larger APIDA involvement at the Senate. To do so, she said ASG should continue its commitment to putting marginalized communities first.

“While I think Northwestern and ASG have very diverse representation, I think we aren’t at the stage that we should be,” Singh said. “Diversity is one thing, making sure that your space is all-inclusive is another thing, and that is something that ASG has been committed to this year.”

ASG also voted to alter a constitutional amendment to decrease Senate seats, originally proposed by speaker of the Senate and Weinberg sophomore Matthew Wylie in its Jan. 22 session. The proposal was brought forth by concerns of chronically absent senators.

The original amendment proposed that Senate seats be reduced from 51 to 35, composed of 15 from undergraduate schools, 17 from student groups, one from the Interfraternity Council, one from Panhellenic Association, one from the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, one from the National Panhellenic Council and two from Multicultural Greek Council.

ASG Senator and Weinberg freshman Zack Lori proposed that this be amended so Greek life organizations would be lumped into student groups, and given a choice to apply for a senate seat. This passed 15-14. The full constitutional amendment to reduce Senate seats will be voted on in two weeks.

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