Berkeley Lab

Anti-Asian Discrimination and Violence – A Letter from Mike Witherell

Picture of Mike Witherell Lab DirectorWe all have been alarmed in recent months by reports of more frequent and escalating violence directed against people of Asian descent. This morning I learned to my deep sorrow that the horrific overnight shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, have left six Asian women dead.

Too many people in our society suffer discrimination and prejudice, often implicit and sometimes blatant. Most recently, in this time of pandemic and societal turmoil, we see that racial hatred can erupt in the form of physical violence. These crimes damage the sense of security and well-being, not only among the targeted population, but more broadly among all people who belong to marginalized communities. None of us is safe unless all of us are safe.

I recently met with the Berkeley Lab Asian Association to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and I will be meeting this week with the Asian Pacific Islander ERG. I am sure that we will talk about the stresses of the pandemic and the grim reality of this recent wave of violence, which continues a history of prejudice, racial scapegoating, and xenophobia experienced by Asian Americans and Asians in our country.

What can we do to address these hard realities? First, we need to reach out and take care of ourselves, our families, and those around us at work who might be experiencing discrimination, or worse, to better understand their experiences. Personally, I have had some difficult conversations about these issues with my daughter, who is Vietnamese-American. You can find resources for addressing anti-Asian violence here.

Something we can do collectively is to recommit ourselves to adopting behaviors that make the Lab a more welcoming and inclusive environment. At the heart of the matter is showing mutual respect in every interaction. The Human Resources (HR) and IDEA offices have put together resources that can help us learn about practices to support racial equity and to help build the environment we want to live in.

As a Lab community, we have worked together over the last year to sustain a safe and healthy environment under difficult circumstances. Let’s now join hands to support each other and to build an even more welcoming environment for everybody at the Lab.

Best regards,

Michael Witherell
Laboratory Director