The Asian Pacific Islander (API) community face many challenges on a daily basis. The Office of Equity and Inclusion’s (OEI) event Spilling the Tea on Diversity: API Heritage Month, illuminated some of these, and proposed solutions for how to be more inclusive.
The dialogue was facilitated by fourth-year Gaby Gil, who is a Diversity Ambassador at the OEI. As a person not of API heritage, Gil sought to learn more about API cultures and educate herself and others in an inclusive way. “I wanted to facilitate this because I am aware of the gaps of my learning. It was a challenge for me, because a lot of the information was new,” said Gil. “I think it’s extremely important, because sometimes [this community] gets overlooked.”
Gil began the dialogue by teaching the group some important terms. She explained how those from API cultures are often seen as a “model minority,” and are perceived as achieving higher socioeconomic success than other groups of individuals. Other terms that Gil described were Asian American, eurocentricity, tokenism, and stereotypes. These definitions were new for some and review for others and helped frame the remainder of the discussion.
Gil played two video clips for the participants that encompassed two topics of conversation: representation in the media, and what it means to be the “model minority.” The students shared their own experiences and discussed the damage that stereotyping does for those from underrepresented cultures. Other topics of discussion included mental health, the demasculinization of Asian American men, and the Asian aesthetic that is being appropriated.
Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion Jenny Guerra also encouraged students to ask who wrote the pieces that they study in classes and to seek out accurate representations of other cultures in their academics. “I’ll be very mindful of the different textbooks that I read in the future and who is writing them,” said third-year Ivelis Colon. “I need credible people to learn from.”
The students that participated walked away with new information that they will use in the future. “I definitely came to this dialogue because it was a population that I knew least about, and so, in order to be more inclusive and … have good credibility when I speak on different cultures, [I] would be to educate myself with these types of workshops,” said Colon. She said that these safe spaces allow her to share her own experiences. “It’s all about being honest with yourself, and I think that is the best way to learn,” said Colon.
“I think these dialogues are important because they bring awareness, not just to other folks’ identities, but [also to] experiences different than themselves,” said Assistant Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion Kayla Kosaki. “If we’re to have a socially just and equitable society, we have to be aware of these different experiences and identities so that we are more knowledgeable and informed when working towards solutions to social issues.”
Kosaki and Gil felt that it was a successful event and furthered the discussion. “I think we touched on a lot of different topics, and I think that went really well because it speaks to the Asian and Pacific Islander community in general, it’s so diverse and broad,” said Kosaki. “That shows that there is so much to talk about and so much to learn.” Kosaki cited speaking about Asian American male representation and mental health as two of the most important topics discussed.
“I just feel like these dialogues are super important , especially when it comes to identity,” said Gil. “We’re all thinking about it and creating this safe space helps us articulate our thought processes … and what don’t we know? What are we too afraid to ask?”
Gil left the group with a quotation by American Activist Yuri Kochiyama that she thought was powerful and spoke to the mission of inclusivity and education. “So transform yourself first… Because you are so young and have dreams and want to do something meaningful, that in itself makes you our future and our hope. Keep expanding your horizon, decolonize your mind, and cross borders.”