U-M Asian American Academic & Activist Addresses The Many Impacts Of Increased Anti-Asian Racism

Mar 31, 2021

University of Michigan assistant professor of American culture Dr. Melissa Borja
Credit Patricia Burmicky

In addition to everything else going on in the world right now, there is increasing attention to the nearly 4,000 anti-Asian racist incidents, mostly against women, that have occurred in the past year.

University of Michigan assistant professor and anti-Asian racism researcher Dr. Melissa May Borja talks with WEMU's Lisa Barry about her findings and what it has been like personally for her and her family especially over the past year.


Dr. Borja studies Asian American history, refugee policy, and religion and has spent the past year researching anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic.  She said this is something she has personally experienced since she was born.  She said she grew up in an era when there was a lot of anti-Asian sentiment and says her family was sometimes concerned about their safety.  But she said that situation helped her learn about the importance of standing up for justice and calling for change and organizing.

Dr. Borja says referring to the coronavirus as the "China virus" can cause racist backlash and stigmatisation of those communities.  She said research has found that anti-Asian bias has increased significantly because of the use of that term and reversed a decade-long, downward trend.  She says her own research has shown a direct connection of Asian American people being blamed for the Coronavirus.  She says many Asian Americans have become more concerned about their own safety due to recent events and are being harassed while going about their daily lives in public places.

The University of Michigan professor says in addition to being an academic and researcher, she also considers herself to be an activist, setting an example for her daughter.  She is encouraging government officials to take proactive measures in offering support, resources, and education to prevent acts of racism and building safe and inclusive communities for all who might be vulnerable.

Dr. Borja is also a contributing writer to stopaapihate.org.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu