Fighting Back Against Hate: Language and the Power of Racist Words

Gordon H. Chang

Xenophobia in the U.S. toward Chinese American and the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community often manifests across myriad of words, phrases, and tropes. The COVID-19 crisis and irresponsible rhetoric by political leaders have fueled a surge of discrimination and hate targeting Asian Americans – but the idea of framing “outsiders” as threatening is not new. To combat this issue, Committee of 100 has crafted an Anti-Hate Glossary as a guide for identifying terms, phrases, and conspiracies involving the Asian community.

On March 3rd, Committee of 100 held critical discussion to formulate an inclusive and effective approach to the use of language.

The full Glossary, press release, and virtual event replay are available on the Committee of 100 website HERE.


  • Professor Gordon ChangModerator, Committee of 100 Member, Professor of American History, Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities at Stanford University
  • Samantha Owens, Regional Director- U.S., Over Zero
  • Saba Soomekh, PhD, Associate Director, American Jewish Committee (AJC)
  • Professor Karen Umemoto, Helen and Morgan Chu Chair and Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center


Professor Gordon ChangModerator
Gordon H. Chang is the Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities and professor in the Department of History at Stanford University. With degrees from Princeton and Stanford, Chang specializes in the history of America-China relations and Asian American history. He has written and edited many books and essays on these topics. Among these are Friends and Enemies: The United States, China, and the Soviet Union, 1948-1972 (Stanford University Press, 1990); Morning Glory, Evening Shadow: Yamato Ichihashi and His Internment Writing, 1942-1945 (SUP, 1997); Asian Americans and Politics: Perspectives, Experiences, Prospects (Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001); Chinese American Voices From the Gold Rush to the Present (University of California Press, 2006); Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970 (SUP, 2008); and Fateful Ties: A History of America’s Preoccupation with China (Harvard University Press, 2015). Several of his books and essays have been translated and published in China and Taiwan. His latest work, Fateful Ties, speaks to the current American fixation with China as potential foe as well as global partner.

At Stanford, he is now co-directing the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project that is recovering and interpreting the history of Chinese workers who toiled on the first transcontinental rail line and other lines in the 19th century.

Chang was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. His father was the artist Zhang Shuqi from Hangzhou who advanced U.S.-China relations in the 1940s when he toured the country to teach and lecture on Chinese painting. His most famous composition was the “Messengers of Peace” which President Franklin D. Roosevelt received as a gift from the Chinese government.

Chang and his family live on the Stanford campus. He enjoys the great outdoors, good food and wine, art, and orchids, which he grows as a hobby.

Samantha Owens
Samantha is Regional Director, U.S. at Over Zero, an organization that partners with community leaders, civil society, and researchers to prevent political and identity-based violence. She is an expert in leveraging strategic communication for social change. Over the last decade, she’s led and managed communication campaigns to prevent extremism among youth in Bosnia, prevent youth homelessness in the U.S., and has overseen arts-based initiatives for conflict transformation globally.

Saba Soomekh, PhD
Dr. Saba Soomekh is the Associate Director at the human rights organization, American Jewish Committee-Los Angeles, and a lecturer at The Academy for Jewish Religion-CA, where she teaches Religious Studies and Middle Eastern History courses. She received her BA in Religious Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Soomekh teaches and writes extensively on World Religions, Women and Religion, intersectionality and its impact on the Jewish community, and the geo-politics of the Middle East. She is a participant in the 2021 Fellows Program at King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an inter-governmental organization that promotes inter-religious dialogue to prevent and resolve conflict. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Soomekh was a Scholar-in-Residence at Oxford University with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

Professor Soomekh is the editor of the book Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews in America (Purdue University Press, 2016) and the author of the book From the Shahs to Los Angeles: Three Generations of Iranian Jewish Women between Religion and Culture (SUNY Press, 2012). Her book was awarded the Gold Medal in the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award in the Religion category. Dr. Soomekh was the Exhibition Coordinator of the exhibition at the Fowler Museum at UCLA entitled: Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews. She was a consultant and participant for PBS’ documentary “Iranian Americans,” which aired in 2012.

Professor Karen Umemoto
Professor Karen Umemoto, Helen and Morgan Chu Chair and Director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Prof. Umemoto received her Master’s degree in Asian American Studies from UCLA and her Ph.D. in Urban Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research has centered on race relations and issues of democracy and social justice in multicultural societies with a focus on youth justice and community-driven planning and development in US cities. Her book publications include The Truce: Lessons from and LA Gang War and Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies. She is currently working on an Asian American Studies Multimedia Textbook so that everyone can learn the histories and experiences of the many and diverse AAPI populations.

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