Ethnic Studies Matters
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If We Have to Know U.S. History, Then I'm Learning Asian American History As Well

"Know History, Know Self" but, "No History...No Self."

If We Have to Know U.S. History, Then I'm Learning Asian American History As Well

I sat on the green blades of grass, basking in California, reviewing for my Asian American class final. In my peripheral, a man comes up to me. I internally roll my eyes, knowing this situation too well as I try to mind my own business. He strikes a basic conversation with me:

What are you doing?
You're really pretty.
What are you studying for?

"For my Asian American final," I respond to the last question. He scoffs and says, "You're Asian, why are you studying Asians? What's the point about studying yourself?"

I laughed nervously, not one to confront someone I had just met. But inside, I was boiling. Why do we study English? U.S. History? Biology??? Feeling invalidated, misinterpreted, and overall irritated, I left this conversation immediately and took my final. I reflected on what that guy said because it made sense to some degree, as in- why write about and get tested on the information you probably grew up with and experience yourself first-hand?

Asian American studies is not, primarily, focused on a specific ethnic group.

Rather, unless otherwise specified, most courses utilize the perspectives and histories of a mix of Asian ethnicities to develop an understanding on topics in history, art, activism, women, and more within the general Asian American community.

I'm not learning just about myself, but also about other Asian ethnic groups that I find similarities and differences with, such as Chinese, Indian, Laos, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, and of course, Filipino.

"But we're in America, you need to learn American History!

So...are you saying that Asian American studies is NOT American?

It's literally in the name. Asian American studies isn't about Japanese feudalism or Chinese Confucianism. It's about the relationship of the United States to other ethnic groups. It is the history of anti-immigration laws and anti-miscegenation laws against Asian communities.

It is the history of exported and exploited Asian labor communities by the United States' people and government. The studies shed light on the truth that mainstream America tries to ignore and avoid because history is incredibly rooted in xenophobia, stereotypes, and unjust regulation against Asian immigrants and their later generations. The field is as American as studying about the Civil War, the Boston Tea Party, and World War II. Why do we even study European History? We're not all French.

In Asian American studies, I am also learning about myself, my family, and my culture.

Doing so is incredibly insightful, validating, and empowering. So many American born-and-bred Asians don't get that history lesson or sociology class covering Asian American communities, because it's simply not offered until the collegiate level, and even that, only at some colleges! Moreover, learning about conditions within the community that I found relatable was so validating that I am not alone in what my family and I experience, which simply empowers me to move on from these adversities, share them with the world (like you reading this article), and change others' perspectives. Asian American studies and ethnic studies overall provides a holistic sense of personal, academic, and cultural growth that can't be found elsewhere but in this realm of academia. There are phenomena in your experiences that you probably never had the word for until these courses or a sense of shared experiences you would not think was possible. Asian American studies contextualizes and formalizes your thoughts, feelings, observations, and actions and tells you that you're not weird or different for any of it.

There is a saying that goes, "K(no)w History, K(no)w Self." Essentially, it says we are the history that has created us. However, without that history, the knowledge of our ancestral roots and our cultural community, who are we? Ethnic studies provide a necessary doorway for minority communities to feel this validation in academic spaces because American institutions have so far denied this necessary learning of identity and autonomy.

I hope that guy takes an Asian American course. I'm sure he'll learn something about himself, too, and not just that he was being incredibly ignorant.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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