As you probably know, there are so many stereotypes directed towards AAPIs and other minority groups. What is our role in dispelling these stereotypes?
So I was raised in a really small town that probably had more cows than it did people. Because of that, I was one of the very few Asian Americans within my city. My school comprised of about 50% white people and 50% Latinos, so a lot of these kids had never been exposed to any sort of Asians. All they saw were the stereotypes on TV or in books. So I think one of our roles is to be ambassadors from the minute we walk out of our doors everyday, to show people, like, “Hey we are not the model minority, we don’t sit behind computers everyday, we’re not anti-social. We have real lives, we have hobbies, we have passions, things that we also care about the way you do.” And I think it’s something that you can’t really tell directly to a person. You have to demonstrate it to people through who you are and your own actions.
Do religion, faith and being AAPI intersect in your life?
In my life for sure; I’m not only Asian American, but my parents are also Muslims and so that was very difficult for me to deal with when I was living in this very conservative town where every front yard was dotted with Republican yard signs and there were gun racks on the back of everyone’s pickup trucks. It was just a very different religious and cultural foundation than what I was used to at home. And I never realized how different it was until I came to Georgetown and met all these other Asian American Muslim kids who were raised in San Francisco or New York or other cities where there’s a very dense population of Asian Americans with similar religions.
I think there is a beauty in being outnumbered, a certain underappreciated beauty. It was because I was one of very few Muslims and Asian Americans in my hometown that I had to question what I believed and why I believed it, and I think that made me a much stronger person. It gave me character that I might have never built if I had lived in a bigger city. And because I was constantly questioning what I believed and why I believed it, it sculpted me into the person I am today. If I could go back in time I think I would still choose that really small, crop-infested alien capital of the world because I was forced to get out of my shell in a way that I wouldn’t have if I were in a place surrounded by people like myself. Because it’s so much easier when you’re surrounded by people who think like you, who act like you, who practice the same faith as you, to just blend in and not think about who you are or what you’re doing. But if you live in a place where it’s so different than what you know back home, then you always have to internally question why you are the way that you are.
Do you think coming together and addressing solidarity and intersectionality will have positive political ramifications given our divided nation?
I do think so. I think intersectionality leads to inclusivity, and recognizing inclusivity and showing solidarity to other groups will encourage different cultures and backgrounds and ethnicities to reach out to each other, which will create a type of unification that we haven’t had in years. So yeah. I am very optimistic about the future, so long as we continue this path of promoting intersectionality and solidarity within minority groups. Because it’s important to recognize that whether you’re from Asia, Africa, or any part of the world – at the end of the day we’re all facing the same struggles day to day, and it’s important that we take advantage of our pain and of our challenges by bonding over that and unifying — so that we can combat these challenges together.