This month marks Asian American Heritage Month, a program run by Asian Pacific Americans for Action (APAA). The event is “traditionally a celebration of contributions, struggles of the past and looking towards the future,” said APAA President Enoch Chu ’06. This year, the APAA is focusing the month on mental health issues and breaking down stereotypes.
The motto for both the month and the APAA organization is “‘Seen but not Heard’ — in reference to the Asian American community at Cornell and everywhere,” Chu said.
The motto serves to dispel “the model minority myth,” said APAA Vice President Hai-Ching Yang ’06, “that we have no problems.”
According to the Asian and Asian American Campus Climate Task Force Report in October 2004, the model minority myth involves “stereotypes, whether they be conscious or unconscious, that have a real impact on the experiences of Asian and Asian American students. The impact is clear not only in their self-perceptions but also in the perceptions of others — students, faculty and staff.”
The main focuses of Asian American Heritage Month are “workshops throughout the month to raise Asian American issues, like the controversy with the Antman comic,” said Jonathan Perez ’07. Perez referred to a frame of the comic strip recently published in The Sun with the caption, “curve-busting cyber-Asians.” These are the types of stereotypes that fuel the minority myth and skew public perception, he said.
APAA members say that the month is going well so far: “we’ve had a record number of workshops, at least 10 scheduled. Over the past few years there has been a lot of involvement,” Chu said.
“My favorite workshop was ‘The American Dream,’ because it relates to America as a whole, and immigrants and Asians in general. My favorite exercise was when the presenters asked a series of questions on socio-economic background, and then mapped the results so [people could] see [themselves] in relation to others. White males were ahead. Race was a factor and played a part in later [workforce] promotion,” Chu said.
Yang agreed that the visualization of the disparity was amazing.
Cardboard people with question marks on their faces found on the Arts Quad in recent days are also the work of APAA. They are “symbolic of the type of person sitting next to you in class, and you don’t know the problems that they have,” said Yang. The cardboard cutouts function in conjunction with the APAA’s main goal for the month: “To educate and inform Asian Americans and the Cornell Community as a whole,” Yang said.
There are still workshops going on for the rest of the week.
Chu, Yang and members of the APAA board are also working to develop a Peer Program, “a mentoring program pairing an Asian incoming freshman with an upperclassman,” Chu said. “Cornell already has peer programs in place, but this one will be tailored more specifically to addressing Asian American issues and concerns.”