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First let me take a #selfie

Apr 17 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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Check out ECAASU National Board members (including our social media expert from which I shamelessly stole this post title from, as well as yours truly :D) talking about why we are involved in APIA issues, and why YOU should be too!

 

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APIAs and the Affordable Care Act

Mar 23 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog, Advocacy, Blog
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From the Department of Health and Human Services comes this nifty graphic on how the APIA community is affected by health care and the Affordable Care Act.

APIAs and Healthcare

As you can see, the data shows the dangers many members of the APIA community face due to a lack of health care.

The stats are astounding and unfortunate. However, open enrollment for insurance through the Affordable Care Act is available through March 31.

Want to help get the word out? Share:

1.       infographics on AAPIs and the Affordable Care Act (click here and see attached)

2.       a photo using hashtag #GetCovered (click here for instructions)

3.       20 Reasons to Get Covered (click here)

Join many other famous APIA figures in spreading the message to our communities!

Mindy Kaling and the ACAGeorge Takei and the ACA

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Conference 2014: Workshops & Gala Reflections

Feb 25 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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After getting up way too early on Saturday morning, I decided that I would walk to George Washington University from the Grand Hyatt, where I was staying. Sure, it was 1.3 miles according to Google Maps, but it was also the nicest day I have seen this year (I am from Connecticut, after all, where we have been pummeled by more snowfalls than I can actually count), plus I made the executive decision to wear my running shoes (turning off my sartorial nature for the weekend–though to be fair they were still cute sneakers).

And it was a beautiful morning. My ears got a little bit cold from the breeze but the walk was stunning. It was a beautiful morning in D.C. and I’m glad I took the trek.

On my way to George Washington University.

On my way to George Washington University.

Unfortunately, I could not attend all of the workshops as there is only one of me and there were more than a dozen workshops at any given time. However, the two I did attend were an interesting mix and relevant to my personal interests.

My age definitely became apparent in the first workshop I sat in (APIAs and the law) as the panelists, current/recent law school students from various D.C. schools, discussed the admissions process, which I have long since suffered through and survived. Nonetheless, I listened sympathetically as the panelists stressed the importance of being positive that applicants wanted to commit to law school, and on the importance of having good grades and reaching out to networks such as the APIA organizations for connections and support.

The second workshop, APIA presence in the media, included a great presentation on how APIA characters get stereotyped in the media. While this is an issue that I’ve thought about and written about before, it was staggering to see that the stereotypes are so prevalent that the facilitators had a slide with the name of the stereotype and an image of someone who was used to embody that stereotype. Dragon Lady. China Doll. The list goes on and on.

Facilitators Gina and Tiffany lead a discussion on different stereotypes APIA characters face.

Facilitators Gina and Tiffany lead a discussion on different stereotypes APIA characters face.

There was some interesting group discussion about how prevalent these stereotypes were in popular media today. I listened in on a lively conversation over whether or not Dr. George Huang, from Law & Order: SVU, was one of these or not. Jury’s still out on that one. Readers, what do you think?

The facilitators also have created an awesome Tumblr (currently under construction; it’ll be launching next week) that you should all check out and submit to–I know I will.

The final event of the evening, the gala, was definitely what I was looking forward to the most. Delicious food! Dressing up! All of my favorite things.

Dinner was delicious! But I was too full for seconds :(

Dinner was delicious! But I was too full for seconds :(

The biggest moment of suspense that evening was the reveal of the 2015 ECAASU bid: Boston! I’m already excited to see how that will turn out and relieved that it won’t involve around 8 hours of travel time.

Another exciting announcement: congratulations to the 2014 Trailblazer winner, Kim Soun Ty. There were many qualified applicants and finalists, but Kim’s accomplishments and dedication were really quite astounding.

Co-Director of Outreach Gar Yeung presents 2014 Trailblazer award winner Kim Soun Ty with her award.

Co-Director of Outreach Gar Yeung presents 2014 Trailblazer award winner Kim Soun Ty with her award.

And the speakers and performers! Listening to Cris Comerford speak was inspiring–shattering glass and bamboo ceilings alike. Maybe next time Conference is in D.C. she can be the one catering our dinner! One can only dream…

Duty called me away and I wasn’t able to see Becky Lee, who I was really looking forward to seeing since her organization, Becky’s Fund, is instrumental in working against domestic violence, an issue I personally feel very passionately about. So if anyone has video or updates, let me know!

Luckily, I DID make it back in time for Ruby Ibarra, who easily trumped all of the other events of the weekend as my personal favorite (yes, she even beat out the oh-so-delicious orange creme brulee). Girl can SPEAK. All of her pieces were fantastic, but her very first one definitely stuck with me, in particular the line (sorry Ruby, I may have botched it) “I wanted to be a Cover Girl so I cover girl” which is just genius in about every way. Ruby, if you ever want to work with my high school kids, holler at me!

Anyway, the young ones tell me that the after-party was pretty fun too, but since I had to go back to Connecticut at the crack of dawn the next morning (okay, 7:30, but after this weekend that was basically the crack of dawn) I demurred.

All in all, ECAASU 2014 was a fantastic experience. Thanks to all the performers, speakers, attendees, and of course, Conference and National Board. Mission Ignition: Success!

Since I wasn’t able to stay for the final day on Sunday, I would love to hear from all of you! Let me know at cynthia.luo@ecaasu.org or @scluo on Twitter. And for more photos from conference, check out our new Instagram, @ecaasu!

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Conference 2014: Opening Ceremony Reflections

Feb 24 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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Yes, it took me more than a day to recover from the hecticness (but in the best way possible!) that was conference. As a “young professional” who hasn’t been a student in a couple of years (besides the oh-so-cliched “student of life”) I was excited that the themes and the workshops didn’t just target college students, but addressed issues outside of the student realm as well. I loved the idea of “Mission: Ignition” and I think I came back from conference pretty ignited. I struggled to find ways to get involved in my community after college, having watched my regular network of friends and fellow activists disperse after graduation. But then there was conference! Where else could I have found nearly a thousand other activists, students and working professionals alike, all invested in the same issues of race and oppression and everything I’ve been struggling against? Though conference was only a couple of days, there were so many things that happened that I couldn’t possibly list all of them.

But here are some highlights: The backstory of this photo is that I told my students that I was going to D.C. for a conference and they immediately asked me if I would be meeting anyone “cool.” I shrugged and said that I didn’t think they’d know any of the keynote speakers, but that I knew the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, would be the keynote speaker during Opening Ceremonies. I didn’t expect my students to know who he was, but one boy nearly fell out of his seat as he raised his hand shouting, “Ooh ooh Miss I have something to share!” Now this boy is notorious for sharing very off-task and unrelated stories, and knowing that I would be missing school for conference I tried to gently dissuade him from sharing now and asked if he could share after class if there was time. But he was so vehement “THIS IS RELEVANT I PROMISE!” he nearly shouted that I relented, and he said, “I saw him [Duncan] on TV! He was in the celebrity basketball game! He scored 20 points!” I was surprised at this piece of information, but then figured that if anyone knew basketball, it was this student, who loved all things basketball.

I didn’t know at this time whether or not I’d get a chance to speak to Secretary Duncan, but promised the student I’d pass on his regards and admiration if given the opportunity. Luckily, I was able to catch Secretary Duncan before his conversation in the ceremony, and below is me explaining the story to him. I’d like to think I did my student justice in demonstrating his excitement. Secretary Duncan listened obligingly to my story and gamely told me I could pass on a “Hey” to my student–who I’m sure will be thrilled to hear this.

I share my student's story (and apparently excitement) with Secretary Duncan.

I share my student’s story (and apparently excitement) with Secretary Duncan.

Duncan’s armchair conversation with Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders was an interesting one indeed.

The armchair discussion between Kiran Ahuja and Arne Duncan during the ECAASU 2014 Conference Opening Ceremony.

The armchair discussion between Kiran Ahuja and Arne Duncan during the ECAASU 2014 Conference Opening Ceremony.

They discussed AANAPISIs (follow the hashtag on Twitter for more information!), the fact that the United States is currently ranked 12th in terms of college grades because of stagnation, and bringing the costs of college down for students. For the latter, Duncan acknowledged the particular difficulty first generation college students face, especially when needing to work. I looked around as he polled the audience, asking who had to work to support themselves in college–and I saw many hands up (my own included).

Ahuja brought up unique issues the APIA community faces, including the fact that 1/3 of APIA students are limited English proficient and that nearly 2/3 of APIA students face some type of cyber bullying but have the lowest rate of reporting such abuse. When contrasting this with the model minority myth, Duncan said that we should celebrate success and excellence but need to have honest conversations about broader communities.

Duncan’s interest in education stems from growing up in Chicago and noticing inequalities in his neighborhood. When he said “Education can be the great equalizer…or exacerbate the situation between the haves and have nots,” I remembered this sentiment–as it’s the very one that brought me into education.

Another conversation of note was one on mental health. The statistics on mental health in APIAs are staggering, especially when it comes to young APIA women. Duncan discussed the need to reduce stigma and also dealing with cuts to school budgets and the number of counselors and social workers. He also discussed concern over gun violence and its intersection with mental illnesses as well.

However, the biggest moment for me was his observation that unfortunately, many colleges don’t take sexual assault seriously and give merely lip service to handling it on campuses. As a UConn alumna who is deeply ashamed of the way the university failed several survivors of sexual assault, and one who was heavily involved in attempting to end sexual violence on campus, I was happy to hear Duncan say that the office has been doing more investigations and working with colleges in a proactive way. Of course, only time will tell if things change–certainly there are greater societal issues contributing to the atmosphere of violence in general.

The rest of the opening acts were fantastic, including hilarious commentary and song by Jen Kwok, lyrical music by Us, and my personal favorite: badass slam poetry by G. Yamazawa. All in all, an excellent start to conference.

As this post turned out more extensive than I originally planned, I’ll follow up tomorrow with some more observations on the rest of Conference. If you’d like to share your conference story, email me at cynthia.luo@ecaasu.org or find me on Twitter @scluo!

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“I Believe” Campaign

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is proud to announce the “I Believe” Campaign to continue supporting all ECAASU efforts and projects. ECAASU, since inception, has grown from an annual Conference to incorporate year-round projects and events that will continue to inspire, educate, and empower those interested in the Asian America and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues for years to come. Along with expanding our National Board in recent years, we have explored multiple new avenues to continue the conversations concerning AAPI issues.

 

Since 2008, ECAASU has expanded our legacy projects, as well as incorporated new initiatives to confront AAPI issues. This year, inaugural events like the AAPI Adoption Forum, AAPI Mental Health Summit entered to provide open platforms to spread awareness and create dialogue amongst attendees. Legacy projects such as the Campus Tours and ECAASU Holiday Concert continue to grow every year creating opportunities for the AAPI community to network in a comfortable setting to share experiences and gain new knowledge. Last year we witnessed record-breaking numbers at  the ECAASU 2013 Conference at Columbia University in New York City, as attendees from all across the United States came to participate in the unique experience that included attending interactive educational workshops and professional and social networking events. ECAASU through the years has created a strong network to provide the AAPI community the tools to challenge social inequalities and build mutual respect between other communities.

 

The “I Believe” Campaign asks everyone to pitch in to help support all current and future ECAASU initiatives. ECAASU has made a positive impression on so many lives and with a donation as small as $1, you can help ECAASU grow and continue building ECAASU’s national presence.

 

 

 

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ECAASU NYPD Police Brutality Statement

http://newsrender.com/trend/Kang-Wong-Beaten-For-Jaywalking

On January 19, 2013, Mr. Kang Chun Wong, an 84-year-old man, was viscously beaten in a case of police brutality in broad daylight in New York City. Mr. Wong had lived a block away and crossed the same intersection at 96th and Broadway many times before. In this particular incident, a police officer stopped Mr. Wong for jaywalking, held him against a wall, and issued a $250 citation. Although signs demonstrated that Mr. Wong did not understand the officer because of a language barrier, the officer used force to constrain Mr. Wong as he was thrown to the ground and beaten for struggling. Mr. Wong was dazed, bloodied, and suffered cuts and bruises. He was surrounded by officers, handcuffed, and taken to the hospital for four stitches for his head wounds.

Police brutality and sheer misconduct are far from being unprecedented. We can recall Peter Yew who, in 1975, was beaten and arrested by the police during a minor traffic altercation in New York’s Chinatown. Thousands of protesters marched the mile from Chinatown to City Hall to protest against police brutality and called for change. In 2008, police threw an Asian student on the ground at Columbia University in addition to yelling racist insults at him for holding an open beer can. The incident led to racial sensitivity training classes at the local NYPD precinct. New York City has had its own run with “stop-and-frisk” policies and harassment that have discriminated against minorities, particularly the AAPI community. The incident with Mr. Wong stands as a reminder that the need for reform has been long overdue. No other person should have to endure the pain that Mr. Wong faced that day.

The East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) is committed in demanding greater accountability by the NYPD for this case of police brutality. We firmly stand against acts of unnecessary degree of violence, discriminatory stop-and-frisk laws, and senseless abuses of authoritative power. Moving forward, we must ensure officers are able to work with those who are limited-English proficient or faced with a language barrier. Lastly, we call on Mayor Bill de Blasio to hold the officers responsible for their actions against Mr. Wong to deliver him the justice he deserves. Our allies at 18 Million Rising have created a petition demanding accountability from Mayor de Blasio. Please sign and share the petition: http://act.engagementlab.org/sign/18mr_kangwong_nypd/#campaigns

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Congratulations to the Trailblazer Finalists!

Jan 25 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog, Uncategorized
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12.31.13 - Trailblazer Award with Logo

ECAASU would like to recognize the four finalists for the 2014 Trailblazer Award. There were many qualified applicants and narrowing them down to just four was a challenging task. Thank you to all of those who nominated and applied! Pictured below are the 2014 Trailblazer Award finalists.

Tarika Dalmia Freshman, University of Georgia

Tarika Dalmia
Freshman, University of Georgia

My name is Tarika Dalmia and I am from Alpharetta, GA. I am a first-year student at the University of Georgia, and I plan to fulfill a double major in Biology and Sociology. After graduating, I plan to attend medical school and thereafter specialize in pediatric oncology. I would also like to work for the Fulton County Court System and more specifically, as a family and child social worker. I believe that my dedication to helping others will allow me to be an effective social worker and I hope to help those in the criminal justice system that are in need of advice, guidance, or encouragement. I am the youngest of three children, with an older brother currently studying medicine and an older sister who has studied and finished law. My parents were both born and raised in India but moved to America as young adults in search of a better education and way of life. I enjoy being involved in organizations and activities that represent the Indian culture. On campus, I am active in the Indian Cultural Exchange, an organization that strives to bring the Indian community and others together through various cultural, social, and service events. Moreover, I also learn and play the Tabla, an Indian classical percussion instrument, and I try to take part in events and activities that allow me to share the beauty of the instrument with others. I hope to continue inspiring and empowering others to become involved in their local communities as well as motivating people to chase after their dreams.

 

Junior, Georgetown University

Anthony Do
Junior, Georgetown University

I am a Vietnamese-American born and raised in Portland, Oregon. I am a first generation college student and the youngest of four children. I am a Junior at Georgetown University majoring in Human Science with a Premed concentration and I hope to attend medical school. I am the President of the Georgetown’s Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), a brother of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and I conduct research on genome instability. VSA has been something that I unexpectedly became very committed to. I feel that it is very important to aid not only my fellow Vietnamese brothers, but my brothers in the AAPI and other minority communities (including different skin colors, religious background, sexual preference, socioeconomic background, disabilities, etc.) to advance and rise through disparity. VSA has become my vehicle to construct bridges between these groups and show that we share common threads.

Additionally, I have become invested in the Center for Multicultural Equity & Access at Georgetown, specifically their Community Scholars Program. I participated in the program, which was geared towards helping “disadvantaged” students transition into Georgetown. Now, I try to make myself available to these students, hopefully serving to be their mentor and guideline while they navigate their journey through Georgetown.

I see so many disparities placed onto minorities – not only at Georgetown, but everywhere. It is so disheartening, but it is something that I fight against. It is an issue that I see as important and I hope that others can see that as well.

Kristina Joyas Graduate Student, Columbia University

Kristina Joyas
Graduate Student, Columbia University

Kristina Kalaw Joyas is a New York City native of Filipina descent who has been involved with community organizing for over 10 years. She is currently the founder and Executive Director of LEGACY (Leadership Education, Guidance, And Critical thinking for the Youth). Her work is focused around mentoring student leaders and helps them gain the skill sets necessary for running efficient and ethical community organizations. LEGACY promotes collaborative efforts and envisions its leaders to work towards large scale social movements to tackle issues that specifically affect their communities. Kristina has a particular interest in working with smaller AAPI communities, seeing if the model being developed can be duplicated for groups that lack the resources to sustain effective leadership.

Kristina is currently a Grant-Making Fellow at the JCRC/Cause-NY The Queens Fellowship and working towards a degree in Fundraising Management at Columbia University, She holds a B.A. in Economics, with a minor in Studio Art from Stony Brook University and has held professional internships for the Asian and Asian American Studies Program in the Charles B. Wang Center at and the Institute of International Legal Studies at the University of the Philippines, College of Law. She is an active sister of AF3IRM promoting education and social activism on issues pertaining to transnational women.

Aside from school, her fellowship program, and LEGACY Kristina is a single mother raising her strikingly intelligent and beautiful 2 year old daughter named Katerina Valentine. They live together in Queens, NY.

Kim Ty Soun Senior, UMass Boston

Kim Soun Ty
Senior, UMass Boston

Kim Soun Ty is a second generation Cambodian American woman of refugee parents from Dorchester, Massachusetts. She is currently a fourth year student at the University of Massachusetts Boston studying Asian American Studies and Sociology. Through the Asian American Studies courses and her past experiences as an urban youth growing up in Dorchester, she has been able to apply what she has learned to her work with urban Chinese American and Cambodian American youths. The struggles Kim and her family have faced growing up as a daughter of refugee parents has shown her the importance of higher education, especially for Cambodian Americans. Kim hopes to continue her education and to become an ethnic studies professor in the future, impacting Asian American students to continue to help the growth and development of Asian American communities.

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It’s 2014–Why do we still treat cultures as costumes?

Jan 22 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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You’d think that college communities (in these three instances, frats–but I don’t want this to devolve into an anti-frat conversation) would have learned after numerous incidents of dressing up as other cultures that it’s not a good idea and that there will be consequences. But no, an Arizona State University fraternity decided that it’d be a good idea to have something called an “MLK Black Party” for Martin Luther King Day, no less. And racist stereotypes abounded–from watermelon cups to the sartorial choices. Fortunately, they have been suspended for this, but honestly, it baffles my mind that these things are so common.

The “Colonial Bros and Nava-hos” party at Cal Poly happened just last November–and it’s particularly heinous a theme to have for so many reasons.

  1. You really going to joke about colonization when it essentially wiped out entire Native American communities?
  2. You really going to joke about “Nava-hos” when a Native woman is 2.5 times more likely to face sexual assault than women of any other race?
  3. You really going to perpetuate the narrative that women of color are exotic and hypersexualized beings? (I’ve also written more on this here).

Then there was the situation at Duke, where there was a nice smattering of racist accent stereotypes in the information about the “AsiaPrime” party–along with the usual mish-mash of multiple Asian cultures merged together as some great pan-Asian cultural appropriation of Asianess.

Time and time again, we’re told that these are “jokes” or even more bizarrely, some form of homage to the cultures that they’re appropriating. Sorry, I don’t appreciate being told that as a Chinese woman, I’m either a dragon lady or a porcelain doll–that is not at all “honoring” my culture.

Students at Ohio State University have put on a great campaign against these types of cultural stereotypes:

Ohio student group STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) run a campaign on stereotyping and costumes.

Ohio student group STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society) run a campaign on stereotyping and costumes.

Now if only these frats would listen.

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An Icy Truth: The Politics of Figure Skating

Jan 13 2014
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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Having dabbled in a few ice skating lessons as a child, I appreciate (though obviously only to the tiniest extent) the amount of effort and dedication it takes to reach skillfulness in figure skating. So I can imagine how devastated Mirai Nagasu must feel after being denied a position on the United States Olympic figure skating team for the 2014 Olympics, despite finishing third over all. Instead, Ashley Wagner, the fourth-place finisher, will take her position. Nagasu opted not to appeal the decision on Sunday night and also won’t be skating at the World Championship in March, either. This is the first time that the USFSA has passed over a medalist in favor of a non-medalist for the Olympic team aside from injuries, according to the Boston Globe, which makes it all the more shocking.

I know that there is been a lot of controversy about this decision, as while Nagasu obviously finished better than Wagner on Saturday, both have a very different list of accomplishments. Certainly, Wagner has a more consistent history than Nagasu, including but not limited to taking gold at the past two U.S. figure skating championships, whereas it appears that Nagasu’s primary placement in the past was fourth at the 2010 Vancouver games.

And obviously, it’s not Wagner’s fault that she’s a conventionally pretty, white female. Nor the fact that she’s been so heavily promoted. Like pretty much any other athletic activity (or really, any activity), politics plays a role in the figure skating world. Looking at certain comments on the various articles I’ve read up on while pondering this article, there are many who suspect racism to be a contributing factor to the politics that prevented Nagasu from taking a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

I’d be curious to see what other prominent APIA figure skaters might have to say in that regard. Indeed, out of all of the sports that I follow, figure skating is the only one where I immediately think of skaters such as Kristi Yamaguchi or Michelle Kwan before Dorothy Hamill or Tara Lipinski. Again, major disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on figure skating, just a minor spectator.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure what conclusion to draw. If anyone has any thoughts, please share them with us!

And for those of you who missed it, here is Nagasu’s performance from Saturday night–wonderful regardless.

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Speaking Up Against Racism at UMich

Dec 18 2013
By: Cynthia
Categories: Blog
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It’s easy to see problems externally–we are quick to notice when others wrong us or people with whom we identify. So it can be particularly jarring to face a problem such as racism internally. It’s challenging to figure out what to do in those situations, like when anti-racist groups contain sexism or anti-sexist groups contain transphobia. Or in the instance of the University of Michigan vs. Michigan State football game, anti-APIA racism coming not just from opposing hecklers, but from fellow students as well.

So in solidarity with the APIA students at the game, we share with you a post from the Vietnamese Student Association on their experience. I’ve excerpted a quote that I found resonates with me specifically:

This confirms our suspicions that there are affiliates of UofM who do not deem us as equal members of the Michigan community due to our racial identity. Maize and Blue are our colors, the University of Michigan is our school, and the Wolverines are our team, just as much as any student or fan can lay claim to. The fact that we have to fear for our safety because of both the colors we wear and the colors of our skin is something we find unacceptable. We are part of the University just as much as it is a part of us, and our experience should not be devalued by those who cannot fathom that we too love and are a part of this school.

I can’t count how many times people have asked me “What ‘side’ are you on?” leading me to scratch my head and wonder if perhaps I was standing on something incorrectly. No, it was just their inability to fathom that even though I am proud of my Chinese heritage, that I am also American, and that I also like living in America probably as much as someone born here does.

Unfortunately, there still does exist a sense of entitlement that people have, whether it be based on race or other privileges. At the end of the day, I’m glad to be a part of a community that speaks out against these entitlements, and encourage you to do the same.

To read the rest of the excellent VSA statement, go here.

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