Organization of Asian leaders open up about being mixed race, international and adopted
The Organization of Asian Leaders came together for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month to discuss their experiences of being mixed race, international and adopted students.
Inside a nearly-full Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium at Central Michigan University, student panelists talked about their experiences with racial stereotypes, language barriers, family and mental health.
The discussion was moderated by Jacqueline Huynh, followed by a chance for audience members to ask questions.
One topic was the idea of the model minority myth in Asian cultures.
The model minority myth perpetuates the idea that Asian Americans are particularly successful in academic, economic and cultural domains, according to the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession.
"Many people think this is a positive myth," said panelist Tyler del Rosario. "But we need to abolish that because everyone takes different paths in life."
Mitz Krueger discussed her experience with negative effects of the myth.
"There definitely have been times when I felt that I was being put into a box," Krueger said. "I use the analogy of a box (being) like a house, for some people, that house is great and it's perfect, but it wasn't built for me."
Other students on the panel discussed overcoming obstacles surrounding language. Ezaz Sabuz said that language was a barrier for him, as well as other international students.
"Coming from a different country that speaks a different language, it's always difficult for us to connect with English-speaking people," he said.
Sabuz said that these situations can portray individuals incorrectly, keeping people from sharing ideas.
"I couldn't convince (people) that this is not because I'm an introvert or I don't like people," he said.
For others on the panel, the language barrier comes from within their family. Xandria Sink learned Japanese as a first language but said after living in the United States, she has lost some of those skills.
"I definitely feel a little bit of a language barrier every time I go back (to Japan), and it does hurt because it feels like my childhood, and since I'm not using it, I'm losing it," she said.
Panelists discussed mental health and discovered it was often unexplored, and sometimes ignored in their families and cultures. For some, the pandemic exacerbated this.
"I remember going through Instagram and see all the anti-asian hate," Jake Kapusansky said. "Going out as an Asian man, seeing all these different things happen to people that look exactly like me was so scary."
While the pandemic did impact Kapusansky's mental health, he said he saw a positive side to how the pandemic changed the conversation.
"I honestly think all of us in this room, we're on a new wave and as we continue to talk about these things and normalize them, more people can actually open up about their feelings and be in a place of vulnerability and be okay with that," he said.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month events will continue to be held through April 15.