Fallout of bias incident still relevant on the Hill three years later
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 16:04
“I think what was so infuriating was that he made a generalization about the Tufts community. He felt like he could say … something about somebody else,” Chan said. “I feel like that’s incredibly offensive, and I feel like that’s silencing and taking the power away from someone else.”
The op-ed also frustrated sophomore Jen Wang, who plans to live in the Asian American House, also known as the Start House, next year.
“I recently was agitated by [the op-ed] … regarding race and racial humor on campus,” she said. “The ignorant headline didn’t help the content of the article itself.”
Wang added that the op-ed was representative of commonplace naiveté surrounding issues of race.
“The article was filled with some lazy assertions about post-racial spaces as well as a ‘get over it’ type of attitude,” she said. “I was not fond of it.”
The Asian and Asian American community at Tufts has been proactive in forming support systems for students, including the Asian American Alliance (AAA), the Chinese Students Association and the Hong Kong Students Association, among others.
For incoming freshmen, there is an Asian American peer leader program, in which sophomores and juniors can address both general college concerns and issues related to growing up as an Asian in America.
In addition, the Start House provides a space for learning about the Asian American experience and hosts activities including art exhibits, food fairs, informal afternoon gatherings with faculty and discussions and talks on Asian American issues.
“I feel that AAA has done such great work in being active in regards to discussing Asian American identities,” Wang said.
She added that one event that served to address issues pertinent to the Asian American community was an open mic night on April 18 that discussed the KSA incident.
“By continuing to reflect and discuss incidents such as the 2009 bias incident, the Asian American community maintains campus awareness surrounding issues of racism and ethnicity,” Wang said.
She also discussed the AAA’s involvement in improving the curriculum that Tufts offers.
“They’ve also been integral to the implementation of the Asian American studies program,” Wang said. “It’s been a lengthy struggle for Asian American studies and AAA’s work in generating a dialogue about the importance of ethnic studies as a whole [being] recognized.”
Several students also stressed the importance of the uphill battle to move the focus of Tufts curriculum away from an overly Eurocentric focus.
“I worked on a resolution in Senate to focus on Hindi,” Huang said. “We actually have a center for South Asian studies, so why don’t we offer Hindi?”
The only new programs confirmed so far are an Africana studies major and minor and an Asian studies minor, according to Huang.
He said that although change is happening, it is not occurring quickly enough and that the administration has not been active enough in the process.
“The push has been going on for decades now. Sometimes it’s frustrating to see the administration reacting,” Huang said. “I’d like to see them proposing.”
According to American Studies Lecturer Thomas Chen, it is important in the discussion of implementing new programs at Tufts to know the difference between Asian studies and Asian American studies.
“Asian American studies is an interdisciplinary academic field dedicated to the examination of all aspects of the historical and contemporary experiences of Asian Americans,” Chen said. “A crucial distinction is that Asian American Studies is focused on the histories, communities, cultures and experiences of a racialized minority population in the American context while Asian studies is focused on Asia and the study of Asia.”
Chen explained that the foundation of Asian American studies as an academic discipline can be traced back to the national movements for racial and social justice during the 1960s and 1970s.
“In this tradition, Asian American studies also has a focus on addressing social disparities in the U.S. and the world as they relate to Asian Americans,” he said.
In terms of bringing a robust Asian American studies program to Tufts, students like Chan are still working tirelessly.
“We’re trying really hard to put this together because we think it’s important for Tufts to have an Asian American studies program,” Chan said. “Right now we’re only talking about a minor, and to only look at it as a minor is a big issue.”
Despite the progress that an Asian American studies minor represents, Chan is disappointed that the administration has put more effort into implementing an Africana studies program, while only using enough resources to establish an Asian American Studies minor but nothing beyond it.