Asian Identity at Winsor

by, Qirrat Anwar

I am Asian.  It is because of this part of my identity that I attend AsIAm, an affinity group for students of Asian descent. It is an outlet and space to talk to students with similar cultural backgrounds, and who face the same struggles in a predominantly white environment. By going to AsIAm I have made a lot of friends and role models—both older and younger than I. AsIAm has definitely created a positive impact in my life, and I could not be happier that the group exists.

However, there are forty-eight countries in Asia.  The majority of the people who attend the group are from East Asia with few from the Indian subcontinent and even fewer from smaller countries like my own, Pakistan. Though there are some similarities between the various Asian cultures, including food, media, and traditions, there are still many differences. The generalization of East Asia alone includes China, Japan, all of Korea, Mongolia, and more. Therefore, it is almost impossible to connect on a cultural level with everyone in the group. Although the students are eager to hear what makes us all individually “Asian,” there is never much time to explore each other’s cultures in depth.

Additionally, with the limited time in our infrequent meetings, we are only able to hold a few events, which are forced to squeeze all of Asia into a very small box.. Despite our lack of time, we did manage to organize a fashion show last spring to showcase some of the clothing associated with our cultures, and we occasionally plan something for Chinese New Year.

Although it is very true that AsIAm has no choice but to blur the lines between different and separate Asian countries, I would not change its dynamic.  The collision of so many varying cultures is not a problem, mostly because it is not exactly a collision. It is more of a coming together. Although I do not know everyone or every culture extremely well, I feel comfortable around everyone who attends. We are all so different, but we all know what it feels like to be “Asian,” including the positive and the negative aspects of that label. Everyone is there because they want to be there. The only real problem is time. Affinity groups like AsIAm, SOMOS, and SISTERS meet on the same day, once every cycle during a thirty-five minute lunch period. Considering it takes ten minutes to get and later clear one’s food and an additional five minutes to walk to class, only twenty minutes are left for discussion. Katie T., class VI, one of next years AsIAm heads reflects on this issue, ““I feel like the meetings this year have been less meaning than last year’s when we met during community time (50 minutes) in the sense that now, by the time we all do our highs and lows (which we like to do every meeting), we only have a few minutes before we need to get ready for class. Also I think that some people take time to “warm up” during discussions, so they often participate less during lunch meetings than they would if we had more time.”

Affinity groups are important because they are supposed to help students  “connect positively to their own ethnic/cultural identity;”, as stated on the Winsor website. I completely agree with this statement. However, I am unable to finish my math homework in twenty minutes, so how am I supposed to connect with my identity in the same amount of time?