Abel Liu is gaining national attention for winning election for Student Council President at the University of Virginia, becoming the first transgender and Chinese American to do so. His identify wasn't central to his campaign, but it became an issue.
"It was used to mobilize portions of the student body against me, but I was heartened to see that so many other students really rejected that narrative and rallied around a message of acceptance and inclusivity," said Liu from the Charlottesville campus.
Liu won overwhelmingly in an election that had a turnout twice the previous year that appears to reflect acceptance during a period of reflection and self-examination nationally over race, inclusion and anti-Asian attacks.
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"Are we a school that will rally around people who are transgender or Asian American? With 80 percent of the vote, UVA clearly says we pick an equitable and open way forward," he said.
Liu is focused on leveraging his position to bargain with university administrators on behalf of student needs. However, he also sees his election as an opportunity to address larger issues facing society.
"If you have a platform you need to use it to speak out against violence or discrimination in any form, especially when it impacts the community that you're a part of personally," the Bay Area native said.
A third-year economics major, Liu sees a fast-emerging Asian Lives Matter movement. In his view, Asians, Blacks and other groups face unique challenges, but addressing them requires solidarity.
"What matters most is solidarity across racial lines, class lines, gender lines in a fight against a common enemy of white supremacy," he said.
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