By Kasie Tran
Throughout the month of May, the Asian Heritage Club has taken the time to have a meet every Friday and come up with ideas on how to represent the Asian community. When people think of Asia, most think of East Asia – China, Japan, Korea. This is mostly fine, but we sometimes forget that Asia is a large continent that includes South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. The Asian Heritage Club does an amazing job at representing every Asian community.
To start, Jessica Song read a Mandarin poem titled “Quiet Night Thoughts” by Li Bai. Afterwards, Abeeni Puspanthan performed a semi-classical dance and Jeeviya Jeevanram performed an Indian classical dance known as bhartanatyam. Next, Nicholas Ramcharran read a beautiful poem, “This is Asia”, written by Shabahat-Noor Husnain and finally, Ms. Kim and Kyle Sung performed a duet of the song River Flows in You, Ms. Kim playing the flute and Kyle Sung playing the piano.
The Asian Heritage Club brings to light the stereotypes and racism Asian people face. They explain how it is disrespectful to diminish these struggles or to be ignorant of Asian heritage. The club reminds us, “We as a community, we must fight and stand up against these stereotypes and educate others about the discrimination we face.”
We are reminded about how much hate there is in the world, especially due to Covid-19. It is not uncommon for someone who looks or is Asian to receive insults such as “Go back to where you came from” or “Chinese Virus” especially to women and the elderly.
The Asian Heritage Club also urged us to think about the stereotypes and beliefs surrounding Asian people. I thought I knew a lot about the stereotypes that surrounded the Asian community, however, when they used Lily from Pitch Perfect, a shy girl who tends to mumble, and is unable to speak up in front of her band members, I realized that it can be really easy to miss these stereotypes in the media, especially if you aren’t even bothering to look. It’s important to constantly educate yourself, especially when it comes to race and equality.
Next, Jessica highlighted the Model Minority Myth, explaining how it’s a false narrative in which all Asian-Canadians/Americans are supposed to be the best in their academic fields and achieve a higher level of success than the rest of the population, other minority groups included. The stereotype of how the Asian kid is supposed to be the smartest and become the most successful in the STEM industry, such as medicine or accounting.
Another outdated and racist ideology that reinforces negative stereotypes of Asian women is Yellow Fever. Zora explains to us that specifically, Asian women are portrayed as obedient, shy, and vulnerable. Mostly in movies you can see them as either someone fragile and in need of someone to “rescue them”, the overachieving perfectionist, or the merciless dragon lady. This is yet another issue affecting the Asian communities that we are often oblivious to.
Afterwards, a video was shown in which a man shared a disturbing video on Tiktok advising other men that if they can’t get women in America to go to Asia. He explains that if you want nice, respectable women, all you have to do is go to Asia and “get a woman” because they want to “get here”. He continues by saying that it’s fine if they dump him in a few years because he can just go back to Asia and get a new one. There are so many problems with this video. Asian women are not trophies, and we are not replaceable.
Next, there were movie and TV stereotypes. Non-Asian actors and actresses often replace Asian actors and actresses despite how the role is scripted or is designed around Asian heritage. It is uncommon to see Asian leads, and if there are Asians in film or TV, they aren’t the star. Today, the film industry is slowly making progress in casting Asian leads and having Asian films.
One of my favorite parts of the assembly was the Allyship videos. The following students explained what anti-racism means to them. Kevin Debatolo, Flavia Allajdeu, Parise Erianamie, Ekaterina Manykyan, and Jona Allajbeu.
After the allyship videos, they sent out a poll to see which cooking video was to be shown. Our options were kimchi fried rice made by Ms Kim, chicken jalfrezi made by Hiba Haroon, Chinese dumplings made by Zora Yuqi Zheng, and pho made by Kasie Tran. The majority chose the Chinese dumplings. They looked like they were so much fun to make and would have tasted amazing. I personally cannot wait to try them out. Also, don’t worry, if you didn’t get to see the cooking video you wanted, it will be posted on AHC’s Instagram page, so make sure to check them all out.
They also talked about the difference between cultural appropriation and appreciation. They provided us with some ways to make sure that we do not become part of the problem. If we are taking ideas from other cultures, we should give credit to them, and make sure to respect their history and representation.
The Asian Heritage Club explains the issues in different Asian countries. For example, the government hid the fact that many people died and went missing during the civil war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. They also highlighted the Covid crisis within India and how their resources are depleted, the protests that are going on in Hong Kong, the military coup, and the fight for democracy as well as that Myanmar is asking for R2P (responsibility to protect) from the UN.
To end the assembly, they hosted a Kahoot with participation from over 300 students.
There are many things we can do to help the Asian community. Follow Asian news and activists and check in on your Asian friends, as our situation could be affecting their families in ways you never thought. Support Asian-owned businesses. Sign petitions, donate and speak out. Continue to educate yourself, and most importantly, continue to be an ally.