Model UN Combats Hate in the Face of Mass Shootings


Arissa Khan

In the wake of record high hate-crime reports, Pleasant Valley Model UN holds an International night to help combat discrimination and unite the community.

Arissa Khan, Opinion Editor

Lunar New Year, a time of great celebration, ushers in a period of fresh beginnings for many. Festivals and traditions help to commemorate the start of a new year, bringing together family and reuniting loved ones. However, for the citizens of Monterey Park  the festivities were cut short, as were the lives of eleven people.

On the night of Jan. 21, a gunman opened fire in a class at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio killing eleven. Just two days later, seven more lives were taken at another mass shooting in Half-Moon Bay, located just two hours from Monterey Park. 

In the wake of the recent back-to-back tragedies, many people were left wondering of the motives: why would anyone commit such crimes at such a festive time? 

Referring to the Monterey Park shooting, L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna and other first responders were quick to shoot down any speculation. “‘The shooter’s motive’, Luna said, ‘remained under investigation.’” 

 President Biden referred  to the attacks as “hate-fueled” violence. “Even as we continue searching for answers about this attack, we know how deeply this attack has impacted the AAPI [ Asian American Pacific Islander]  community,” he said. 

The shooting at Half-Moon Bay was the second within one week. The combined attacks resulted in 18 people being killed. Of the 18 total victims, 16 were of Asian descent. 

In 2021, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that anti-Asian hate crime increased by 339% compared to the previous year. They attributed the spike to three causes: “a rise in COVID cases, a World Health Organization pandemic declaration and an increase in political and online stigmatizing of Asians.” 

Preliminary police data from the 2022 report indicates a small increase of 1.2% when compared to the 2021 data, but it’s important to note that numbers as high as these have not been seen since the 1990s. 

In general, hate crimes in the United States are at an all time high, a testament to the strained social and political climates that have developed since the pandemic. Active ignorance, a form of ignorance produced consciously and unconsciously by white people to obscure and exclude race-related knowledge, has become more acceptable than ever, allowing racism to reveal its true depth in America. 

In response to the nation’s step backwards  students at Pleasant Valley are taking a step forward towards informative inclusion. 

PV Model United Nations held an International Night in an effort to inform the community of the diverse cultural backgrounds of  students. Vice President and sophomore Alika Cho explained their goals to make a difference in the community while planning the event, highlighting their efforts to model unity. “Even if we’re just making changes to this small community of the Pleasant Valley district, we still believe that a small change is a big change,”she shared. “We want to broaden people’s minds and their opinions on different cultures.”

The International Night served as a unifying event with student representatives of different nations teaching different traditions, sharing fun games and providing delicious food. Families from across the district came together to share stories and learn from each other. 

The first step in reducing hateful interactions is to acknowledge the difficult history that many minority cultures have faced. Inclusive education efforts can help to reduce the magnitude of hate crimes. 

At The United Nations’ High Level Event Commemorating the first International Day on Countering Hate Speech, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris issued a statement regarding the role of education in lessening hate-speech and fostering peace. “Addressing hate speech at an early stage, including through education, is thus one of the most important tools to prevent conflict,” says Brands Kehris. Reducing ignorance and promoting diversity is a process that begins early on. 

Teaching and embracing diversity plays an important role in the United States, a pluralistic society where a multitude of cultures live alongside each other. “It makes me happy to see people from different countries who are taking the initiative to learn about [each other] because the world is becoming a more diverse place, the United States is becoming more diverse, and with that, Pleasant Valley is becoming more diverse,” Cho continued. 

She expressed her desire to foster a community where everyone, regardless of religion, ethnicity or cultural heritage, would be welcome through Model UN. 

Model UN’s efforts to teach the community about its inherent diversity play an important role in reducing ignorance and nurturing kindness. In a time where the Asian American community is hurting, community outreach and efforts to inform can make a great impact on reducing hateful rhetoric and promote a more unified and informed nation.