This is a post that I co-wrote with one of the chairs of the Asian-American Student Collective Victoria Chu. It is designed to provide some context to a dinner taking place tomorrow entitled “Misunderstanding Minority”. I hope to see you all there.
Why have racist incidents been occurring recently in such alarming numbers on our campus?
To what extent are our students expected to play a role in addressing these grievances?
And most importantly of all – how do we expect to move forward if we stand as a campus still divided along color lines?
These controversial issues of closeted racism have been disturbing in itself, but they are indicative of a larger issue that is often neglected. As leaders of groups that are invested in the full membership of all students on this campus with particular attention to students of color, the two of us are compelled to acknowledge the lack of communication and collaboration among many identity groups on campus– and how a lack of cohesive alliances is ultimately detrimental to any sort of progress our campus may hope to achieve. These incidents are collectively not only an issue that affects our African American students, but also one that affects all students. A prescient example of these larger implications is seen within the Asian-American community on campus.
The lack of interest at Wesleyan in political issues concerning Asian Americans – particularly at a university purported to be so progressive – has been disheartening. It stems from an ignorance of the issues that Asian Americans face that have been dismissed by mass media in light of the unfair “Tiger Nation” stereotypes. It isn’t just physical hate crimes that fly under the radar. It is the skewed depiction of Asians in the media, the lack of adequate health care and housing for lower-income Asian groups due to cultural and language barriers, and the under-representation of Asians in the political power structures of our nation. However, is housing discrimination, obstacles to adequate health care, political under-representation, or racial discrimination shown behind the mask of linguistic and cultural differences restricted to the Asian-American community? None of these things are restricted to one race, one gender, one sexuality, or one class.
So then what keeps us from acknowledging our commonalities more often? Stereotypes have been instrumental in expanding the divide between persons of color. Asian-Americans are often normalized into the perception of the “Model Minority” stereotype, and choose to distance themselves from stereotypical images of African Americans such as “mammy” or “Sapphire”, caricatures also based in historical fallacy.
African-Americans, Asian-Americans and all persons of color have faced enormous discrimination that has often led to acts of violence, both within and between their communities. What we must understand is that these prejudices have arisen from the historical discrimination within the United States. Structural cycles of oppression within America perpetuate distance and dissonance among lines of color, gender, sexuality, etc. This causes us to ask the question of whether or not we even can (or should) attempt to reach that ideal of a “post-racial” society? It is this question and the need for solidarity both within the student of color community and the larger campus community that will ultimately move us forward.
With this recognition in mind, there will be a dinner/discussion entitled “Misunderstanding Minority” that will be moderated by Professors Amy Tang (AMST) and Lois Brown (AFAM) with panelists Victoria Chu ‘13, Kelsey Henry ‘15, Christian Hosam ‘15, Chantaneice Kitt ‘13, and Lynna Zhong ‘15 on Thursday, November 29th at 7PM in the Daniel Family Commons. This discussion is being co-sponsored by the new WSA Committee for Inclusion and Diversity, Ujamaa Collective, the Asian-American Student Collective, the Invisible Man Collective, Ajua Campos, the Caribbean Students’ Association and the Dwight Greene Internship for Diversity and Community Engagement in the hope that our student body will be willing to recognize the similarities between the struggles all minority groups face – and how to work with one another to further our progress.
-Victoria Chu, Co-Head of the Asian American Students Collective
-Christian Hosam, Dwight Greene Intern for Diversity and Student Engagement, Chair of the Committee for Inclusion and Diversity (CID)