As an Asian American alum, former co-chair of the Asian American Students’ Association (AASA), staff member of the Asian American Community Center (A3C), Ethnic Theme Associate for Okada and member of Lambda Phi Epsilon, I am disappointed in the ignorance and oversimplification displayed by Mr. Matsuura in his op-ed.
I agree that the Asian American community should “be a resource for us to explore our Asian American identity.” However, I strongly disagree with his contention that this exploration should be confined to “education and justice.” The idea of how Asian Americans are developing an identity is enormously complex — there is an entire developing field of study devoted to this: Asian American Studies.
Although cultural groups play an essential role in education, it is foolish to completely disregard the contributions of social groups. “Cultural” groups are able to host non-cultural events and “social” organizations are able to host non-social events. AASA hosts an annual concert and the Lambdas hold typing drives to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in the national bone marrow registry. Both of these events draw the community together, but take radically different methodologies. No single group can completely address an issue as multifaceted as the Asian American identity.
I found it particularly disappointing that Matsuura stereotyped the Asian Greeks as members of a “glorified social club where people look the same” by sweepingly accusing members of being ignorant. If he had looked more closely, he would have seen that the Asian Greeks are among the most active in leading other cultural organizations, but this is beside the point.
Being a part of the Asian American interest fraternity, I witnessed our brothers’ struggle together to figure out what our identity means for ourselves. I learned much more about the Korean and Vietnamese cultures through social interaction than I ever did at any conference. These interactions helped me shape what aspects of my own ethnic culture I have chosen to embrace and integrate with parts of my American culture, and therefore what I believe it means to be Asian American.
Each Asian American affiliated group — from AASA to Sanskriti, to the Greeks, to Team HBV, to the numerous others — has a distinctive role in contributing to our community. We hold protests to end injustices to Stanford workers, host conferences to help immigrant high school students attend college and hold informal discussions explaining different customs and what they mean. As groups explore the ideas of race and ethnicity with different, yet valid approaches, they do not and certainly should not conform to any one person’s definition of identity.
It is important for the Asian American and greater Stanford community to realize that the most basic purpose of any group is for its members to grow. I implore everybody to reconsider ways to improve our communities on the Farm rather than laying the blame onto one another.
Andrew “Pip” Pipathsouk, ’10