Looking at the photo of all the attendants of the Asian-American Footsteps Conference (AAFC), which took place on campus the past weekend, I was not surprised to see that the vast majority were Asian-Americans. While the conference predominantly talks about Asian-American experiences, I don’t think participation should be limited only to Asian-American experiences. In the presence of varied ethnic groups, people of all races should be strongly encouraged to attend this conference.
I realized that it’s very hard for everyone to be respectful at all times of all the differences in people around them. As an international student, I am very aware of the differences between different countries in the world. Very few countries are as racially diverse as the United States. Coming from a homogenous community myself, I had only discovered my ethnicity and overall identity upon coming to Andover. Before, being surrounded by people from similar backgrounds, I was unaware of my ethnic identities.
It occurred to me that it is very hard to have an equal view of different races, because after all, they are identified as “different” in our minds. I think it’s fair to argue that we have not yet reached the point of respecting all races and offering everyone the same opportunities to achieve their aspirations. As much as racial equality is being advocated, there are still numerous hurtful statements aiming towards minorities, and opportunities such as high positions in job companies and admissions in school are unevenly distributed to people of different races. Similar to how Dr. Anton Treuer told students at ASM how facts about Native Americans are never mentioned, never talked about, and ridiculed; it’s true that all people must educate themselves about all racial backgrounds that make up the United States.
In that sense, I think it is advisable for more people to attend AAFC. The goals of the conference was for, presumably, Asian-American students to embrace their identity and culture, and to share experiences between different boarding schools. I think it’s extremely important and helpful for Asian-American students to come together and discuss issues that are greatly relevant to their daily lives. As informative and inspirational as it was, it was a great opportunity for non-Asian-Americans to understand the cultural background of their Asian peers. Instead of basing knowledge on rumors and what others tell, it is more accurate and authentic when described by someone in the story themselves. I think having non-Asians attend the Footsteps Conference is a great way for all people to get to know the culture and ethnicity of Asian-Americans. And just to say, this applies to other races as well, not only Asian-American experiences. Only when everyone has gained a comprehension of the experiences of other ethnicities, then can they hold respect towards all people.
It is not hard to see that it would be beneficial for non-Asian-Americans to attend AAFC. It’s important for other ethnic groups to acknowledge the difficulties Asians face and heritages that they bear, and identify their unique experiences. This is a very straightforward and truthful way to present an explanation of the cultural background behind many incidents that are “specifically Asian.” I hope that people of different backgrounds can come to understand and appreciate values of all ethnic groups. This way, we can hopefully eliminate stereotypical definitions, and offer people an unbiased view of minority races.
Skylar Xu is a Junior from Beijing, China.