The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Op-Ed: Asian invisibility

Lafayette College facilitates the tokenization of Asians and the oversimplification of the Asian identity while also failing to institutionally support Asians. As a predominantly white institution, there is great pressure for minorities to assimilate into white culture on campus. This is especially true for the Asian community, which is more often othered and not viewed as truly belonging on campus. Thus, many Asians on campus are torn between the desire to embrace their cultural heritage and the pressure to assimilate with the majority.

Lafayette College often views and treats Asia and Asians in an uncomplicated or careless fashion, either as a unique outlier or as an undifferentiated monolith. For example, the Lafayette College Dining Service’s Instagram post about beans in global cuisine clearly separated India from the rest of Asia.

SASA (South Asian Students Association) and ACA (Asian Cultural Association) received communication two days prior to the annual Holi event that it could overlap with the lighting of the quad for the spring semester. AAPI events are essentially invisible on campus (they were not in the Student Involvement email of activities and were listed at the bottom of Lafayette Today). Yet, it is only when students of all diverse backgrounds convene in a public space to participate in an Asian cultural event, in front of tours of prospective students, that Lafayette decides to point the camera and promote the Asian community. 

We are writing to express our discontent with how this campus views and supports the Asian community. Lafayette College needs to better support organizations and initiatives to raise awareness of Asian issues, events and visibility. Asian identity is diverse and intersectional, yet we are too easily caricatured. Lafayette College must truly understand the root causes of issues faced in the Asian community which are more complex than can be described here. 

There must be more accountability for those who commit verbal or physical assault against Asians and there must be a more accessible way to report hate. Asians are not a modern phenomenon. We want to work with the institution to research and demonstrate how deep our history is within this institution. We want to be heard by campus, faculty and students alike. We want to share our culture and provide a safe space for Asian voices to be heard. 

We recognize that as Asians, we experience certain levels of privilege compared to other POC groups. Yet, we are still victims of an institutional lack of support and widespread discrimination. We are fetishized, berated and exotified while touted as “the model minority,” full of silent, hardworking geniuses. Time and time again, we are questioned “where are you really from?” and made to feel like an “other.” At this college, people have been emboldened enough to defend the colonization of Asian countries, saying “but we gave you railroads and democracy” to our faces while simultaneously mocking our cultural celebrations (such as Lunar New Year)! Lafayette College has failed to provide a safe environment for Asian voices to be heard and celebrated.

We will not be silent anymore about these pressing issues. We are not your model minority. We invite the administration and campus community to learn and do more. If you truly care about Asians, not just in May, we ask that you reject the status quo and enact change.

Emily Rotola ‘24, Zubair Ali ‘24, Kira McCracken ‘25, Isabella Lu ‘25, Youmin Park ’24 and Andrew Nuth ‘25 are Asian students that are a part of the Asian Cultural Association and/or the South Asian Students Association.

Correction 05/05/2023: A previous version of misattributed some authors to the Southeast Asian Students Association. Said authors were actually members of the South Asian Students Association.

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    ZubairMay 5, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    Hi, small correction! It is not the Southeast Asian Students Association!!! It is the SOUTH ASIAN students association! South Asia is India Pakistan Bangladesh Nepal and Bhutan, Southeast Asia is Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia etc.