Asian American Awareness Week looks to end stereotypes

N-Asian-American-Awareness Colby Patterson

The Asian American Student Association is helping U students look #BeyondTheStereotype.

U students on campus this week can look forward to a variety of events planned by AASA to celebrate the U’s 21st annual Asian American Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “#BeyondTheStereotype.”

The week was planned by Merissa Nakamura, a senior in sociology and ethnic studies. Nakamura said the theme was chosen to fight misconceptions about Asian American students, such as the stereotype that they always excel in academics.

“When you think of Asian Americans, you typically have a pretty firm mental image,” Nakamura said. “This week is meant to switch up those narratives.”

Asian American Awareness Week kicked off yesterday with a photo project called “Asian American Womxn Who Empower Us.” Nakamura said the project is in solidarity with fellow Pac-12 schools UCLA and USC, whose Asian American student resource centers recently received letters targeting Asian American women. Nakamura called the letters “really racist and sexist.”

In response to these letters, Asian American students at UCLA created the #BeyondTheStereotype photo project, which aims to counter the accusations that Asian American women are weak, promiscuous or suffering from low self-esteem.

To contribute to UCLA’s project, Asian American women at the U wrote messages such as “love and strength,” “rise against” and “be empowered” on their arms before being photographed.

“We wanted to contribute to the growing counternarrative of what it means to be an Asian American woman,” Nakamura said.

Asian American Awareness Week continues through Friday with an event every day. Nakamura said each event was chosen to highlight a unique aspect of the Asian American experience.

Today’s event, a panel discussion featuring perspectives of Middle Eastern, South Eastern and South Asian American women, will be held in the Union den. The discussion will focus on the panelists’ experiences navigating a predominately white university.

“I don’t hear a lot of voices speaking about the experiences of South Asian women in an institution that’s predominately white,” said panelist Harjit Kaur, a senior in biomedical engineering. “I decided to participate because I feel like sharing my experience is the only way I can really connect with a lot of people … There’s a lot of knowledge and resources people can take from sharing.”

The week will continue with lectures from Karen Kwan and Suey Park, creator of top-trending hashtags like #notyourasiansidekick and #cancelcolbert on Thursday and Wednesday respectively. Thursday’s other event is another panel discussion focusing on concepts of gender and sexuality within Asian American communities. The week will wrap up on Friday with a “Celebrasian” in the CESA lounge.

Jem Locquiao, a senior in civil engineering and environmental studies, is looking forward to sitting on Thursday’s panel.

“This is my opportunity to speak to underrepresented voices, both within the South Asian and LGBTQ+ communities,” Locquiao said. “This week gets the conversation started.”

Kaur is optimistic about Asian American Awareness Week’s potential impact on campus.

“If even one or two people are affected by the week, I think it’s a success,” Kaur said. “But I know that we will reach far more than one or two people.”

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu

@allisonoctober