Commentary

Footsteps in the Right Direction

This Sunday, I braved the 6 a.m. wake-up and 7 a.m. departure to attend the Asian American Footsteps Conference at St. George’s School. Filled with anticipation and excitement, I filed onto a bus along with twenty other Asian-American Andover students, and we endured a two-hour long journey. Despite the early start, I did not regret taking this opportunity to learn more about my Asian-American identity.

I am proud to identify as an Asian American. There is almost nothing that I value more than my rich Chinese heritage. The Asian-American identity is complex; it belongs to no one ethnic group or nationality. The sheer variety of people who are considered Asian speaks volumes to the diversity within this demographic. Unfortunately, there are very few opportunities for Asian Americans to explore this aspect of their identities on campus. Unlike Women’s Forum, Asian Society does not hold weekly meetings. Unlike Af-Lat-Am, we don’t often rally against racial aggressions and assert our identity. Unlike many of the affinity groups on campus, the Asian society has been strangely passive.

When the Footsteps Conference was announced, I jumped on the opportunity to attend. I have been frustrated with the general lack of discussion about Asian-American identity, something so integral to my sense of self. Attending the conference, I was not disappointed. It was an incredible and eye-opening event. I was able to attend workshops that did not attempt to define the Asian identity in a neat, politically-correct paragraph. More than once, lecturers admitted that they did not know the answer to a question, responding, “It’s complicated.” The Asian identity is so multifaceted and diverse, yet the extent of its complexity is all too often underestimated.

Possibly even more gratifying than the workshops themselves were the people who chose to attend. The conference was a rare occasion during which I felt that I was surrounded by people who shared my opinions. It was rejuvenating to feel like I didn’t have to justify my Asian heritage. There was mutual understanding among the attendees of the conference. For once, instead of watching white people nod in pity while I narrated my struggles, I found myself clambering to voice assent and agreement when others recounted their experiences.

The chances for us to explore and express opinions about our Asian-American identity are limited at Andover. If you identify as AsianAmerican, I strongly urge you to attend the Footsteps Conference next year. If you are not, seek out an opportunity that emboldens you to discover an aspect of your identity, especially if it is not acknowledged or widely celebrated. Events like these are not only educational but also rare, valuable, and inspiring. They may merely reaffirm the beliefs you’ve held all along, but they may be life changing. They are as impactful as you let them to be, and, if given the chance, they can completely recalibrate the way you think about your own identity.

Apr 29, 2016