Asian Culture Day: Students discuss stereotypes

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Nina Kaplan” align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Seniors Matthew Moss-Hawkins, Kayla Wong, Rebecca Jereza and Joanna Saikali participate in a student panel during D-block.

by Samantha Libraty

Thirteen Asian-American students from this school discussed stereotypes, cultural differences and student experiences as a part of the Asian Culture Day presentation D-block in the little theatre.

When asked whether he enjoyed being Asian-American, sophomore Calvin Kwong said, “We have the best of both worlds. We experience two cultures: one Asian and one American.”

Senior Fatema Zaidi said, “I really like having my Pakistani background mixed with my American upbringing into one identity, which is me.”

When discussing her parents thoughts on some American traditions, senior Joanna Saikali said, “There is a generation gap. My parents don’t understand why I would want to have a sleepover just because they didn’t grow up with it.”

Being stereotyped is an issue for some Asian-American students.

Zaidi said, “You can’t stereotype. There are so many different cultures and tiers within Asia that they are not all the same.”

Senior Rebecca Jereza said, “I am Filipino, but people have come up to me speaking Chinese. I don’t understand a word, and it is really awkward.”

“This school is very accepting, but sometimes friends make little jokes that aren’t necessarily noticeable. Sometimes, in less diverse communities, I feel singled out,” she said.

Senior Wendy Jamsri said, “We don’t all do martial arts like in the movies. I feel like Asians are often portrayed as either nerdy or a martial artist.”

Zaidi, who wears a hijab said, “Sometimes it is hard to fit in, but only in airports do I feel singled out. They pat my head scarf, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Another important topic discussed was the presence of Asian-American history in this school’s curricula.

English teacher Michele Leong asked if any of the students felt that there was a lack of Asian-American history and stories in the curricula.

Jamsri said, “Especially in world history, we don’t learn about the Chinese immigration boom in the United States and other such topics. We do Asian history but that is different than Asian-American history. In Asian-American literature, I am learning about Asian-American history, and it is really interesting.”