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Making BYU a Zion Community

Asia Now lecture addresses strengthening the campus against anti-Asian hate.

We love our Asian community on BYU campus. But does the BYU Asian community feel that love?

The Asian studies program launched a new semester-long lecture series, Asia Now, with a lecture by Niwako Yamawaki, associate dean of belonging in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, on February 23. Yamawaki’s presentation, called “Strengthening Our Asian Community at BYU,” addressed Asian hate crimes and combating them in our community.

Yamawaki pointed out that BYU’s mission statement talks about “the full realization of human potential”—a powerful notion, but what is the full realization of human potential? How do we recognize it, and how do we achieve it? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs answers many of these questions and was thus a key point in Yamawaki’s lecture. According to Maslow’s pyramid-style diagram explaining human needs, a person, at the basest level, needs security and safety before anything else. After those needs are met, humans can move up the pyramid to achieve love and belonging, then self-esteem, and finally self-actualization.

A lot of Asian Americans feel unsafe where they are, causing Yamawaki to reiterate, “Can we really achieve the self-actualization God wants us to achieve without safety?” To live up to our mission statement and reach full realization and self-actualization, “the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbors.”

Yamawaki further reinforced this need for love and concern with a quote from President Russell M. Nelson’s June 2020 social media post, which talked about the importance of loving our neighbors. He said, “The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!” Yamawaki testified, “This is your truth. This is your right thing to do.” And we can do it together through God. Through God, we will be able to work with each other, protect each other against injustice, and build a Zion community here on campus.

Yamawaki encouraged everyone by acknowledging that knowing what to do and taking a stand against discrimination and hate can be difficult for individuals. She said to even expect some opposition. But we can get creative. We are smart people, and “smartness is privilege that [we] are meant to share. [We] are chosen to be here.”

“Can we build Zion here?” Yamawaki asked. The audience answered, “Yes.”

“That’s a promise.”