Photo Courtesy of Tarleton ODIIP
During the average year, the celebration of Asian Pacific Islander and Desi Americans (AAPIDA) takes place in the month of May. This year, in an effort to provide as much awareness to this group of people as possible, Tarleton’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and International Programs (ODIIP) is hosting a recognition and remembrance today, starting at 3 p.m. in the Barry B. Thompson Student Center (TSC), room 27.
Moving the event to April allows more students to attend the event and participate in its activities during the academic year. This decision was made to give APIDA students on campus a place to come together and celebrate their heritage.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian hate has risen in the United States, what started off as racial slurs quickly became beatings and murder. In most recent news, the brutal attack of an elderly Filipino American women in New York re-sparked outrage from the public. For many non-Asian people, the discussion of anti-Asian hate had simmered out over the course of the pandemic, but this is reality for the Asian American community.
Elijah Perry Imbong, Senior psychology major and previous Texan Rider explained how although he has not experience hate himself, the recent attack on the elderly Filipino American woman has affected him greatly.
“In the Filipino culture, even if we’re not blood related we are all family. The attack didn’t personally affect me, but it still hurt. We haven’t done anything to insight this kind of violence,” Imbong said.
However, this anti-Asian hate is not a new occurrence. Kennedy Onuam, the Graduate Assistant with the ODIIP, explained how she remembers the constant discrimination she faced as a bi-racial child raised in a rural area. Onuam could not understand why she would be treated so differently.
“As a bi-racial Asian America I’ve been pretty conscious of instances of racial discrimination and hate crimes within the APIDA community. I remember being in grade school in a rural area where people made fun of me, scoffed at me or even gave me dirty looks because I was Asian. As a young kid, I didn’t really understand it. I lived with my mother and step-dad who were both white, and I myself was partially white too, so I didn’t think I was any different than anyone else. I just thought people treated me differently because they didn’t like me, my friends or family,” Onuma said. It wasn’t until Onuam grew older that she was more conscious of her identity.
“As I grew up, I really became more aware of my identity as a biracial Asian American woman for personal safety reasons. Sadly, what is being covered in today’s news stories are not new concepts. After hearing about the Atlanta shooting, I remember feeling physically sick and extremely upset. Overall, today’s climate has really re-enforced the need for me to be even more conscious of my AAPIDA identity, especially as an Asian American woman,” Onuma said.
Events such as the one taking place today, provide students a place to feel like they belong. Emily VanKirk, Student Specialists II for ODIIP explains how sometimes providing the space for students to create a community is the best way you can be supportive.
“Sometimes it’s about providing that space for community to be built. Designating a time and a physical space has been difficult during COVID-19, but I think it’s important that students who might not know people in their community have a way to find each other,” VanKirk said.
ODIIP strives to do just that and has already made an impact for many students. Imbong explained how the ODIIP has provided that space to feel comfortable for Asian American students.
“The ODIIP office always does a great job with handling these types of things. Being that support for someone you can lean on if you have been hurt or your families have been hurt,” Imbong said. Imbong also hope students can support each other. “You don’t have to be Asian American, Tarleton’s a family.”
Creating that community extends further than just APIDA-identifying people. Being supportive and knowledgeable of the AAPIDA community is extremely important. Onuam hopes this event will inspire non-AAPIDA people to be supportive.
“I think it’s really important for Non-APIDA identifying people to be more conscious of discrimination and crimes against members of the AAPIDA community. I hope this event serves as that for people who lacked the knowledge prior. Additionally, I hope people become inspired at this event to be advocates; to #StopAsianHate.” Onuam said.
The event will take place today, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., in TSC 27. At the event you can chat with student in the AAPIDA community and learn more about the life they live. There will be a guest speaker as well.
If you’d like more information about the event you can follow Tarleton’s ODIIP Instagram and Facebook @tarletondiversity.