By, Samantha C. ’19
When you hear “Asia” or “Asian,” what or who do you think about?
This is just one example of the questions answered by individuals on Asians of Boston, a website and social media account that features exactly whom its name suggests: Asian Americans who live in Boston. Founded by Kayla L. ’19 and Becca L. ’19, Asians of Boston aims to celebrate the diversity within the Asian American community and to create a space for Asian Americans to share their personal stories. Although Asians of Boston currently features only Bostonian youth, Kayla and Becca hope to also feature older individuals in the future. For most of my life, Asian American voices have been left out of the “American” narrative. From rarely seeing people who look like me on screen to glossing over centuries of Asian American struggles in a number of history classes I can count on one hand, I can attest to the necessity for a platform like Asians of Boston. This project was created for the Politics of Identity course’s “Take a Stand” assignment, but to learn even more about the motivation behind this project, I spoke with its two co-founders.
Kayla, one of the platform’s co-founders, explained, “I wanted to start this project because I felt like “Asian American” only described East Asians. Asia is a beautiful continent full of diverse and beautiful people.” Kayla’s comment alludes to the question at the beginning of this article; perhaps, when you read the question, you pictured someone with light skin and dark hair. Maybe you didn’t. However, many people, including some Asian Americans, hold this narrow perception of what it means to be “Asian.” By featuring individuals from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds, Asians of Boston addresses this frequently overlooked—yet incredibly significant—issue. In addition to this idea of diversity, Becca, the other co-founder, adds, “I began this project with Kayla because, generally, America holds many stereotypes and pre-established images of Asian Americans.” In my experience, Asian Americans are often characterized as being “good at math” and “quiet.” Not only do these stereotypes undermine individuals’ successes, but they also paint a pernicious picture of sameness.
This idea leads me to yet another problem that Asians of Boston tackles: the often invisible microaggressions that Asian Americans face. In AsIam (Winsor’s Asian affinity group) meetings, we often discuss how the homogeneous portrayal of Asian Americans can lead to explicit consequences. When one member shared that she is frequently called the wrong name by teachers, every single member could recall a similar experience. Sophie d.C. ’19, one of the heads of AsIam who is featured on Asians of Boston, says, “I shared an experience I encounter all too often: being mistaken for being a part of other Asian families when out in public.” Sophie elaborates, “I wanted to speak about this microaggression in order to bring awareness about it and have it on more people minds as I still try to figure out, for myself, how to respond to these situations.” Like Sophie, I am also still trying to figure out how to respond when acquaintances ask me where I am from (no, where I am really from) or whether that random Asian girl is my sister. However, despite my frustration, I recognize that people’s ignorance is likely a product of systemic suppression of minority voices. Hopefully, through efforts like Asians of Boston, more voices can be heard and more stories can be shared. Moreover, listening to these voices and stories is equally as important, so, if you’d like to check out Asians of Boston, you can visit https://asiansofboston.weebly.com or https://www.instagram.com/asiansofboston/.