Kansas State’s Asian American Student Union is sponsoring Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American Heritage month throughout April. To commemorate, the organization invited author Belinda Lei to lead the virtual workshop, “AAPI Hate Crimes and Anti-Blackness” Thursday evening.
Lei grew up in a strong Asian-American community and witnessed firsthand the many different shades of being an Asian American. She is now the author of the novel, “Not THAT Rich” and is the managing director of Act To Change.
“Writing my novel, ‘Not THAT Rich’ actually gave me an outlet to reflect on my own identity through story-telling,” Lei said. “It allowed me, as an Asian-American female who grew up in a predominantly Asian-American community, to think about how my upbringing and environment impacted my world-views.”
While talking about typical stereotypes members have heard about Asian-Americans, such as being good at math or driving poorly, Lei discussed the falsities of the model minority myth.
“It’s an idea where Asian-Americans are seen as highly educated and with higher socioeconomic statuses, and therefore they do not experience racism,” Lei said. “The model minority myth suggests that somehow Asian-Americans are more successful than other ethnic minorities due to hard work and education.”
Michelle Le, secretary for AASU and junior in civil engineering, said it is important for AASU to have these conversations as one of the larger APIDA organizations on campus.
“The purpose of these discussions is to keep our members informed and engaged with the APIDA community while also encouraging thought and discussion,” Le said.
AASU recognizes Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, fosters unity across campus
When Lei asked viewers if they have experienced anti-blackness within an Asian community — many members had. Lei said this isn’t a one-time issue, but a systemic one.
“As a Chinese-American woman growing up in my culture, I was taught that fairer skin equates to beauty and darker skin was a flaw,” Lei said. “I literally wasn’t allowed to go swim when the sun was up because I was going to get tan. … When an entire culture’s beauty standard equates lighter colors to being good and darker skin tones to being bad, anti-black sediments naturally form from that.”
Lei closed the workshop by asking what people can do about this other level of discrimination and said it takes three simple things: speak out, be an ally and learn.
“This issue is incredibly complex, and I’m still 100 percent learning every day, too,” Lei said. “The best that we can do together is to become educated about these issues in the Asian-American community and share knowledge with others within our community and outside the community as well.”
These are not one-time conversations, Lei said.
Students and community members who would like to get involved in conversations such as this and become more informed about the events planned later in the month can find more information on the AASU Instagram page.