The year of the rat is upon us! Sounds weird? It’s actually a significant part of Asian culture that is celebrated with each New Year. Saturday, Jan. 25, was 2020’s Lunar New Year — one of the biggest holidays amongst Asian countries. Many Asian traditions mark the occasion by gathering with friends and family, eating a lot, and giving out red envelopes with money (红包) .
This year, Asian Student Association (ASA) celebrated with the Westmont community in the GLC with lots of food and fun. Through videos and shared stories, ASA hoped to include Westmont in sharing their understanding of and participation in a yearly tradition that has spanned centuries.
ASA is one of Westmont’s several Intercultural programs (ICP) focusing not only on Asian issues, but also on how Asians can stand out amongst a majority-white campus. Led by co-leaders Tiana Krukar and Catherine Meng, they offer Westmont the opportunity to delve into different topics specifically surrounding Asian culture. Through regular meetings, boba nights, and campus-wide events like Let’s talk A (BAO) t it!, their goal is to dissect and discuss the stereotypes and normalities that spur ideas which shape Asians into the supposed model minority.
Compared to other ICP groups, ASA is one of the largest. “At some of our big meetings like the Lunar New Year event, we get around 70-90 students. Generally, we are known for having more constituents and more people attending events,” says Meng. Kurkar added, “Part of it has to do with Asian culture being easier to accept and it being easier to buy into for the general student. There is less labor involved in attending an ASA event while going to the 1619 event, for example, might be more daunting.”
One of the biggest events from ASA’s fall semester was aptly named Let’s talk A (BAO) t it! after the Pixar short film “Bao.” It tells the story of an Asian family whose child (represented by a dumpling) moves out, leaving the mother to be an empty nester. “The first time around, I thought it was a very cute short film, but watching it over and over again really makes the viewers think deeper and see the story behind it. I think it’s really relatable for many ABC (American Born Chinese) students because the son in the film is Asian American and there is often a disconnect between immigrant parents who can’t really relate to a lot of things that they are going through,” noted Meng.
After the film, participants made dumplings! Doing this reminded Clark Senator Mikey Kong of his childhood. “My grandma made a huge pile of meat to make 500 wantons for my family. I thought there was no way we could finish all of it, but we did! I also remember her trying to teach us how to make them.”
In the past, ASA has tried to stay away from topics that might be too controversial. But this year, they’ve been working to change that. This semester, they plan to discuss “why it is so important for Asian people in the US to band together, realize the importance of voting, and know that their voices are being heard. Hassan Minaj does a great job explaining this and we might talk specifically about Andrew Yang and his vision for becoming president.”
Asian culture in general seems easier to accept because of the aforementioned model minority myth. The model minority myth is an Asian stereotype based around the idea that they may score better academically and be of higher socioeconomic status. However, this is not necessarily the case. Jason Cha, director of ICP, explains that “Asian Americans often find themselves as interlopers between the black/white racial binary. Therefore, it is so important for more Asian Americans to become racially literate and avoid being used as a wedge between other communities of color. This is one of the biggest challenges of the model minority myth — it uses Asians to obscure power and racial hierarchy.”
Being Asian is not something to be overlooked. Cha observes, “There is so much rich diversity within the racial category of Asian. Asian Americans are far from a monolithic group and unfortunately too often get reduced to stereotypes. I believe Asian Americans will play a critical role in addressing white dominant culture within churches, higher education, and in society at large.” ASA already offers this insight to its members. Now, ASA hopes to share its perspective with you.