Sparks Magazine Issue No. 19 | University of South Florida

Page 1





FALL 2020 ISSUE 19



EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Amy Nguyen MANAGING EDITOR Zahra Saba CONSULTANT Samia Alamgir FINANCE DIRECTOR Isha Harshe PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Roshnee Patel PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Amy Pham CONTENT EDITOR Raisa Zaman DESIGN EDITOR Dencie Devora PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Zeba Khan WRITERS Isha Harshe, Amy Pham, Zahra Saba, Amy Nguyen, Neha Sajan, Raisa Zaman, Olivia Hemilton, Khoa Hoang, Sanikaa Thakurdesai DESIGNERS Trianna Nguyen, Dencie Devora

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Emma Ross MANAGING EDITOR Alexandra Giang FINANCE DIRECTOR Amanda Hoffman COPY EDITORS Mumtaz Abdulhussein, Michelle Lee DESIGN EDITOR Brianne De Los Santos PHOTO EDITOR Laura San Juan WRITERS Cherie Chick, Amanda Hoffman, Eileen Calub, Hanzhi Chen, Glenna Li, Karen Zhang, Cindy Duong, Marika Dumancas, Marium Abdulhussein PHOTOGRAPHERS Daniyah Sheikh, Josie Cruz, Hanzhi Chen, Nidhi Bhide, Lexi Lutz, Tejasvi Dudipalla, Nima Goodman DESIGNERS Rachalle Way, Maggie Dungey, Arun Jairam, Mercy Tsay, Kaela Marie Varias, Aryam Amar, Rutva Patel, Julia Guerrero PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTORS Xinni Chen, Stephanie Chang

UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Zohra Qazi MANAGING EDITOR Adrian Lee FINANCE DIRECTOR Natalie Nguyenduc DESIGN EDITOR Chi Pham WRITERS Asma Ahmed, Andrea Cabezas, Chelsea Della Caringal, Kissimmee Crum, Zainab Jamal, Natalie Nguyen, Mayumi Sofia Porto, Liana Progar, Fariha Rafa, Angelika Suansing, Farzana Talukder, Chi Tran PHOTOGRAPHERS Isabella Billones, Laura Cardello, Denise Ferioli, Timothy Nguyen DESIGNERS Asma Ahmed, Denise Ferioli, Ilise McAteer, Angelika Suansing, Skyler Shepard PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR Paolo Agahan PR STAFF Asma Ahmed, Isabella Billones, Janine Do, Jared Diago, Zainab Jamal, Christina Le, Ilise McAteer


letter from

THE EDITOR Dear readers, I’m very excited to share Issue 19 with you all! Despite a tumultuous year, I’m proud to say that my staff members and I have poured our hearts onto these pages. Old and new members alike, I’ve seen firsthand the time they’ve committed to making the best content possible. They’ve made time in between their classes, extracurricular activities, and personal life to contribute to this issue. I want to thank each and every individual who’s dedicated their time to this magazine this semester. You helped make this happen. This issue is a culmination of the unprecedented events surrounding 2020. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement showed us the significance of POC solidarity. The year has also brought us an overwhelmingly contentious national election. Not only did our staff members work through a global pandemic, but they also participated in uplifting marginalized voices while enduring anti-Asian rhetoric. We’ve worked to address the multitude of divisive issues in our articles; I could feel the passion in every word I read. The discordant state of the country brought bright minds together as we mourned, protested, and celebrated change. The work we’ve accomplished in this issue is something we hope to be representative of the year. As we ventured into holding virtual meetings, I found myself presented with new hurdles. I would like to thank my members for being patient with me as we both explored our new platform. However, the same hurdles that we faced were also used to our advantage.

With the virtual meetings, we were able to connect with members from halfway across the world. There is no limit to who we can reach with our stories. I hope Sparks served as a beacon of light for those in the dark. I’m incredibly grateful to see the progress our chapter has made in a short time frame. I’m eager to see what we’re capable of in the future. Though this was my first semester as Editor-inChief, I was met with endless support from the members. Thank you for accepting my flaws and giving me your trust. I will be mindful of all the love and support I’ve received to grow into a better leader for Sparks. I hope you enjoy our work. We’ve filled it with a lot of love. Best, Amy Nguyen

table of


Family Matters by Cindy Duong

9 My Ethnicity Is Not A Virus by Cherie Chick

12 The Rise of Rina by Asma Ahmed

15 Take Back the Swastika by Isha Harshe

18 Awakening the Sleeping Giant

by Amy Pham

20 Being Religious and Asian American

by Glenna Li

22 Silent Genocide by Zahra Saba

26 Multiracial Identities by Amanda Hoffman

28 We Bare Bears & Discrimination in America: A Personal Essay

by Amy Nguyen

30 Asia’s Diverse Musical Traditions by Eileen Calub

33 The Tears of India’s Daughters by Neha Sajan

36 Not-So-Subtle Asian Traits by Chelsea Della Caringal

38 Spilling the Tea on Tea by Mayumi Porto

40 Fresh Off the Boat: The Prejudice

Against South Asian International Students by Raisa Zaman

42 English Vinglish

by Marium Abdulhussein


eavy eyes peer at headlines in boldface. Hands grasp devices like armor. Drowsy mutters of native Mandarin, intermediate Mandarin, and “Black Lives Matter” exchanged over sips of coffee. Freyja, the housecat, hisses from her usual spot on the windowsill.

Ada Yan, a 20-year-old information systems and piano performance double major at the University of Florida, usually discusses the news early in the morning with her mother. Black Lives Matter is the fervent response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many more. After the staggering accumulation of acts of racial injustice this past summer, deep-rooted systematic issues regarding racism, police brutality, and white supremacy have become daily topics at the breakfast table.

Tori Chin is a 21-year-old public relations major at UF. Her father is Chinese Jamaican and her mother is from Hong Kong. “I’m lucky to grow up with relatively progressive parents,” Chin said. “Usually, we’re on the same page, but we have different solutions. They don’t feel the same as I do about some topics because I grew up here, and learned different things in school about racism. Sometimes, what they find extreme, I don’t find extreme. But they’re always willing to listen.”

This dissonance traces back to the media sensationalizing protests as harmful to society – dubbed the “protest paradigm” by scholars Douglas McLeod and James Hertog in 1999 – to increase views. For example, focusing exclusively on looting and rioting instead of the cause of Black Lives Matter.

6 | FALL 2020

design/Rachalle Way

Last June, 42% of respondents from FiveThirtyEight’s poll believed that protestors were too violent. However, 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been peaceful, according to the U.S. Crisis Project.

photography/Nidhi Bhide

For the Asian American community, conversations extend beyond race to what the appropriate response is, given the complex history between Asian American and Black communities.

by Cindy Duong



“The news skews the protests,” said Kevin Bui, a 20-year-old accounting student at Florida Atlantic University. “It’s contradicting to my parents because it’s like, why resort to violence if you’re fighting for peace?” Such media tactics lead to a dangerous lack of sympathy for the movement as a whole. The divide between truth and false perceptions of the truth hinder proper discussion and action to stand up for the Black community, specifically wedging itself between family members. This difficulty to communicate has subsequently led to lukewarm responses.

“It’s not even a discussion,” Bui explained, frustrated. “My dad just gives his opinions and I have to listen. If I have a different perspective, he tells me to be quiet. It’s annoying because he usually watches Fox News and Vietnamese YouTubers who translate American news, so there’s no variety. I don’t have a voice.” With unregulated social media platforms such as YouTube, where anyone can say anything, families might fail to distinguish fact from opinion. The solution seems obvious– consume various and reliable news sources. However, it’s not that simple. Along with news sources, language barriers also heavily influence the path discussions take. Many Asian Americans struggle to have civil discourse because their arguments are often lost in translation. “I don’t blame my dad. He’s not fluent in English so I get why he’s looking up these Vietnamese YouTubers to translate what’s going on, but I have no idea if they’re reliable or not,” Bui said. “I’m not fluent in Vietnamese, so these strangers on the internet can say whatever they want and I won’t know. I can’t even argue with my dad about this because I don’t know the right words to get my message across.” Bui is not the only student with this experience. Yan has parents who mainly read Chinese news. “Black Lives Matter is covered less in the mainland, so there’s less of a presence,” Yan said. “I’m more aware of it because I was born in the United States. I get to witness social and political matters firsthand, and be on platforms that cover the issue more such as Twitter and Instagram. It’s also hard to accurately express my thoughts in Mandarin, as I often have to use an online translator to explain my stance to my family.” Unreliable journalism and language barriers are just two of several reasons why Asian American families might not be supportive of Black Lives Matter. “Stereotypes about crime and colorism contribute, I think, to the discrimination against Black people in the Black Lives Matter movement,” Yan said. “It may seem like since we’re minorities, we should be more able to understand each other’s struggles, and to support each other within those struggles. Yet we still discriminate against each other.” The prevalent anti-Blackness within the Asian American community is exemplary of the different experiences the two minorities face in the United States.

7 | FALL 2020

Both have dealt with long histories of discrimination due to White supremacy, which should have contributed to the solidarity between communities as fellow people of color. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. “The model minority myth says Asian people are put to a higher standard, and are more adjacent to White people and the privilege they have,” Chin said. “And so, it’s easier to fall into the mindset of “why don’t they (Black people) just act like us?” But this myth just oppresses us, because we’re conforming to White supremacy.” The Black Lives Matter movement has many Asian Americans fumbling with how to properly and effectively practice their allyship. This conflict begs difficult questions: Should the Asian American community attempt to connect with the Black community through their shared oppression, or is that an unfair comparison? Is showing comradery making Asian Americans overstep their boundaries in a narrative that isn’t about them? Despite long, overlapping histories against unfair institutions of power, the label “people of color (POC)” doesn’t adequately represent the specific challenges within different communities. In 2013, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) was created as a more inclusive term that recognizes the vastly different experiences Black and Indigenous people deal with in their daily lives, as grouping all people of color without acknowledging their separate identities and struggles is simply erasure. Liz Ibarrola is a Ph.D candidate in Anthropology and the Director of Immigration Concerns for the Human Rights Coalition of Alachua County. “Anti-Blackness is pervasive,” Ibarrola said. “Being POC doesn’t automatically mean understanding your Black neighbor. There’s a racial hierarchy with white people at the top and Black people on the bottom that’s inherited, and hard to overcome. There’s also this immigrant experience of a culture that disguises inequality. As in, the mentality that if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. But who is that really for? What is the rule and what is the exception?” It’s crucial to recognize that POC allyship is intersectional with class, gender, sexual orientation, geography, and much more. POC is just one lens to keep in mind when questioning rules and exceptions. Quincy Surasmith, host and producer of Asian American culture podcast “Asian Americana,” was also part of the Thai translation team in the Letters for Black Lives project: a crowdsourced, multilingual initiative that aims to begin conversations with loved ones about the unique problems the Black community encounters, focusing on empathy and understanding. He shared similar sentiments. “I think, ultimately, it’s examining our core values,” Surasmith said. “How do you justify whether people do or don’t deserve basic rights and opportunities? There’d be no Asian American movement without the work of Black and Brown communities to make that kind of work and space possible, right? There’s a sort of legacy that I think is important for us to be aware of and to pay back not as in like, a debt, but to continue that work.” The first step to allyship is education on these issues, and actively practicing to reduce anti-Blackness within ourselves and the people around us. Researching, diversifying sources, donating, protesting, and having these serious conversations are only some of many ways to stand with the Black community. “With different discussions, there’s very different strategies,” Surasmith said. “If one strategy doesn’t work, then change your strategy. You’re not meant to have just one discussion. These conversations need to keep happening.”

8 | FALL 2020


my My ethnicity Ethnicity is not a virus An exploration and investigation of the rise in racism and hate crimes towards Asians during COVID-19


Between March and June, there were 2,120 reported attacks against Asian Americans according to CBS News. These attacks are not only verbal, but physical as well.

notice how these incidents only happened to them after the spread of COVID-19.

and a lot of Asians might be feeling – and doing – the same.

Their personal experiences, along with what they see on the news, have affected them emotionally and mentally.

“By referring to it as “the Chinese Virus,” it implies that the Chinese are to blame for the current situation that America faces, a defacto scapegoat which is very dangerous and has led to discriminatory acts towards Asian people with things like physical and verbal assaults we saw in March and April.” Chow said. He believes Trump’s name-calling further alienates the Asian population in America and makes them more vulnerable to racist attacks.

Kwok said that she feels terrified and started to hang out more frequently with her non-Asian friends, specifically White, just to fit in with the population and show that she is a part of them.

This is not only an American issue. Asians around the world have been facing attacks daily. Venessa Kwok is a third-year university student from Hong Kong who has been living in London with her brother.

“Since then I have been seeing way more incidents of Asian students being bullied, cyberbullied and even beaten up on the streets because of being Asian,” Kwok said. Terrence Chow, a second-year who is studying at the University of California in Davis, said, “A couple times I would get glares and people would actively walk away from me in a store.” Both Kwok and Chow noted that they are not entirely sure if the subtle attacks that occurred were due to the fact that they are Asian. However, they cannot help but

“It’s kind of sickening to see these backward and appalling actions still happening in places I call home, but it didn’t change the way I behave because I know I have a right to be here whether they like it or not.” Chow said. This problematic issue has been exacerbated by President Trump’s notorious racist labelling of the virus. By referring to the virus as “Kung Flu,” “the Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus,” President Trump is directly putting the blame on Chinese people. This reinforces stereotypes and puts Asians in a negative light. It gives Americans, or any non-Asian, an excuse to channel their anger and fear onto an entire race, and perform racist attacks against Asians. “My non-Asian friends would make fun of me by calling it ‘Wuhan Virus,’” Kwok said. “I cannot do much but just take it. I don’t want to lose them as friends.” The situation has caused Kwok to change her behaviours when she is around people,

Rosenberg mentioned the issue of political polarisation in America, which drives Americans to base their viewpoints solely on their political party. With President Trump being the most visible figure of the Republican Party, he has gained tremendous popularity and political capital in taking on an anti-China position. He is continuing the momentum with his policies and words during the pandemic. “When the president of the so-called free world uses this rhetoric freely and openly, he's doing several things,” Rosenberg said. “When you are associating COVID-19 with China and are fomenting this conspiratorial view towards China, he's absolving himself of blame. Whether or not he would admit to doing so, he's encouraging people to take his word as [the] Gospel, to go out there and target what they see as the root cause of all of this, of all this pain and suffering of many [people] in this country.” Interestingly, to some Asians, the nicknaming of the virus seems reasonable and even creative. Regarding the name “Kung Flu,” Kelly Lai, a third-year from Hong Kong who is studying at the University of Nottingham, finds it “creative and quite funny.”

9 | FALL 2020

design/ Aryam Amar

Kwok recalls a group of girls walking into a public restroom and giving Kwok judgemental looks when the group saw her. The event hurt Kwok, making her feel she was out of place.

Dr. Andrew Rosenberg is an assistant professor of political science who researches race and racism in international migration at the University of Florida.

photography/ Nima Goodman

Based on news reports by Buzzfeed and AJ+, an elderly man was robbed and attacked in San Francisco. An attempted murder of a family occurred while they were shopping at Sam’s Club in Austin, Texas. An elderly woman was set on fire in the streets of New York while another woman was attacked with chemicals in the same city.

by Cherie Chick

hen the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the globe struggled and suffered from drastic changes in their lives. Asians, however, not only live in fear of catching the disease, but also of the daily attacks against them.


go home

To Chow, however, it’s seen as being racially insensitive to the Asian community. Chow feels insulted as it creates an idea that his identity is determined by stereotypes which are untrue. “Terms like ‘Kung Flu’ have helped in stereotyping Asians as it carries derogatory connotation which doesn’t help us achieve social equality in the long run,” Chow said. Nevertheless, there also seems to be nuances between arguments when it comes to the naming of the virus. Both Lai and Chow reference names of past pandemics and agree that some names are not actually racially insensitive or derogatory, but rather stemming from historical trends or are politically driven.

10 | FALL 2020

“When it comes down to naming things, I don’t see why we can’t call it ‘Wuhan Virus,’ when Spanish Flu is literally called Spanish Flu because it comes from Spain,” Lai said. “This whole debacle is partially political because we never saw a problem with people calling the 1918 pandemic ‘the Spanish Flu,’” Chow said. “Trump himself– with the hostile rhetoric he created towards China and the increased racial tension in America for the past decade– has made such a topic very volatile, and unfortunately, Asian Americans are caught up in the middle.” According to Dr. Jeffrey Adler, a history professor who specializes in race relations and violence in the United States, there

has been a trend of xenophobic attacks accompanying epidemics that can be traced back centuries. “There's a long tradition of scapegoating. [Coronavirus] certainly again wasn't unique, but it's flared in the United States. Recent efforts by President Trump and others to identify Covid-19 with China and South Asia have accelerated xenophobic currents in American society and one spin off of debts, it is likely to have been hate crimes,” Adler said. On the other hand, Rosenberg raised ideas of how anti-Asian sentiments stem back to the beginning of Chinese immigration to the United States, which started with the Burlingame Treaty in 1868. Since then,

‘native born’ Americans have seen Asians as perpetual foreigners, dangerous, dirty, and economically threatening to wages.

training, and the second is by not tolerating any forms of racism. He stresses the importance of not ignoring racist comments.

“All of the rhetoric that you hear about immigrants today, in general, is what you were hearing about Asian immigrants to the United States from the 1860s on,” Rosenberg said. “A big part of that was the presumption that the Chinese immigrants that came particularly to the west coast, were somehow dirty or disease ridden, or threatening to the public welfare in some ways.”

“They have to be denounced, they have to be rejected,” Adler said. To avoid implicit biases from factoring into people’s subconscious and unconscious thinking, we have to call out on the people who act on these biases immediately when encountered. Rosenberg emphasised the importance of public education as a long term solution. “This is not going to be the type of thing that you can easily legislate away, or just have another politician say ‘Everybody should quit it with their racism or discrimination,’” Dr. Rosenberg said. “It's something that's going to have to be built slowly over time.” Rosenberg said there is no better way than cultural engagement for a person to enrich oneself. Through simple initiatives like trying food, listening to music, and talking to real human beings of other cultures, we can learn and obtain perspectives from people who are not like ourselves.

Due to COVID-19 it has become clear that a minority group will only be considered a model minority until there’s some crisis that leads to fear and insecurity among the majority population, Rosenberg said. Adler raises concerns on the role of implicit bias and how it will lead to potential negative long term effects on the conditions and experiences of Asian Americans.

It is important to remember this significant point brought up by Adler. The coronavirus epidemic has already killed over 200,000 people in the United States alone, but it is solely blamed on one ethnic group. This phenomenon and these attitudes have to be decried, denounced, rejected and not simply ignored.

“I think implicit bias research demonstrates that it [racism] has not disappeared and that it persists in subtler forms and that's one of the many fears I have about hate crimes and discrimination against people of Asian descent,” Adler said. While he acknowledges this moment may pass, he’s also fearful that this implicit bias will persist in people’s minds in ways they aren’t aware of. From the increased attacks on Asians all over the world, to the inability to recognise the distinctive groups within Asian population. It all shows the lack of understanding towards the diverse Asian populations, cultures, and histories. However, this can be improved in many different ways. Adler mentioned two ways implicit bias could be addressed. The first is through

11 | FALL 2020

The Rise of Rina

A profile on British-Japanese artist Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama is a British Asian pop singer-songwriter and model. She was born in Niigata, Japan and raised in London, England since the age of five. Prior to her first EP release in 2017, Sawayama was a political science, psychology and sociology student at the Magdalene College of the University of Cambridge, and graduated with a degree in political science. In college, she was a member of the hip hop group Lazy Lion and began her solo career in 2013.

In her 2017 EP, “RINA”, Sawayama explores the way social relationships are affected by the digital age and the simultaneous hypervisibility and isolation that comes with it. In an

12 | FALL 2020

Sawayama’s debut studio album, “SAWAYAMA”, takes on a more personal form, experimenting with both artistic styles and reconciling pieces of her identity with who she has become. Both as a model and as a student, Sawayama faced racial discrimination from the industry and her peers alike. Many of the songs in “SAWAYAMA” take on the discrimination and indentity conflicts she faced throughout her life and respond with fire. Her song “STFU!” draws from the racial fetishization and microaggressions she faced throughout her career as a model and responds with a bold rejection of such objectification through both the combined nu-metal and pop styles and the lyrics. “How come you don’t respect me? / Expecting fantasies to be my reality,” she addresses the aggressors, calling out the dehumanizing nature of the way they treat her. In re-

Photos from Rina Sawayama YouTube

Sawayama’s main stylistic influences come from ‘90s and early 2000s acts, though her music spans multiple genres, even melding multiple genres in a single song. Her single “STFU!” brings together nu metal, heavy metal, pop and avant-pop while “Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)” draws influence from early 2000s dance music. In “Snakeskin,” Sawayama brings together Beethoven’s Sonata no. 8 and Final Fantasy’s “Fanfare” by using samples of each in the song’s instrumentals. While her music draws inspiration from a range of places, much of her inspiration comes from her background and upbringing. She brings out topics such as navigating the Digital Age as it rapidly develops, political and social issues, and her own experiences growing up British Asian.

Design / Angelika Suansing

ma struggling through a one-sided conversation with an British man as he runs through cliche after cliche about Asian women over sushi. He then uses chopsticks to slant the corners of his eyes upwards and narrows them. Rina has had enough. Bells go off, she erupts with rage, and her song “STFU!” begins.

interview with C-Heads Magazine, Sawayama states, “Online you can present your best edited self [and] your overheating phone substitutes human warmth. Weirdest of all—you’re together, but also very alone.” The highlight of her EP is “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome,” which addresses the way human interaction begins to feel completely foreign as people become increasingly dependent on online social relationships and the escapism online platforms bring. The song narrates the contrasting forms of isolation the speaker experiences as she keeps to herself in real life but “parties” on her phone to compensate, eventually growing dependent on online interactions as social interactions in real life leave her feeling alone. In an interview with The FADER, she talks about the meaning behind the song: “...The digital world can offer vital support networks, voices of solidarity, refuge, escape. That’s what ‘Cyber Stockholm Syndrome’ is about: pessimism, optimism, anxiety and freedom.”

By: Asma Ahmed

“So, you’re a singer... I was quite surprised you sang in English.” The scene opens up with Rina Sawaya-

lation to the song, Sawayama collaborated with Taiwanese visual artist John Yuyi on a visual series critiquing Asian, particularly Japanese, beauty standards, stating that “for a lot of women in Japan, these are the expectations people put on them, from anime culture, kawaii culture... that can really put women at a disadvantage, objectifying and infantilizing them.” While “RINA” explored the external struggles regarding her racial identity, “SAWAYAMA” addresses the internal struggles she faced growing up such as the identity conflict that comes with her immigrant status. In “Akasaka Sad” Sawayama uses her staying at Akasaka Hotel instead of going home as a metaphor for her feelings of alienation in both London and Tokyo and the depression that follows her wherever she goes. As a Japanese immigrant, she feels out of place in England, but as someone who grew up in England, she is unable to feel truly Japanese despite being born there. Even today, Sawayama faces discrimination for being a Japanese immigrant living in the UK. The rules for eligibility for both awards state that solo artists must

In 2020, Sawayama was deemed ineligible for the The Brit Awards and The Mercury Prize as she was, in her words, “not British enough to even be eligible for the 2 biggest UK music awards” despite living in England for over 25 years.

have British or Irish citizenship, therefore making Sawayama, who has retained her Japanese citizenship (due to the country’s laws prohibiting dual citizenship), ineligible despite having an indefinite leave to remain (ILR) status that gives her the right to permanent residence and to work. As it is her only connection to her family in Japan, Sawayama chose to retain her Japanese citizenship. In regards to being barred from the awards, Sawayama stated in an interview with Vice that “[As an immigrant], you get to a level when you don’t have to worry about your nationality and your status and whether you fit into this country. Things like that bring into sharp focus, like, whether I am even British. It’s just very upsetting.” Another theme “SAWAYAMA” centers around is the generational trauma that burdens the Asian diaspora. “Dynasty,” addresses the “dynasty” that is generational trauma and the struggle towards overcoming and healing from it. On Apple Music, Sawayama breaks down her thought process on the writing of the song: “I guess I come from a bit of an academic background, so I always approach things like a dissertation. The title of the essay would be ‘Won’t you break the chain with me?’ It’s about intergenerational pain, and I’m asking the listener to figure out this whole

world with me. It’s an invitation. I’d say ‘Dynasty’ is one of the craziest in terms of production. I think we had 250 tracks in Logic at one point.” Sawayama likens trauma to inheritance, stating, “I’m a dynasty / The pain in my vein is hereditary,” and insists on rejecting and overcoming this unwanted inheritance, asking the listener “Won’t you break the chain with me?” and declaring, “I’m gonna take the throne this time.” However, despite the bold statements she makes, Sawayama acknowledges the difficulty of breaking generational chains due to the reluctance of older generations as they “hide it in the walls / Sweep it under marble floors.” She also admits to her own hesitation and how she tried to run away from it in the past (“Mother and father, you gave me life / I nearly gave it away for the sake of my sanity”), and admits that she can still have a role in continuing on the trauma if she doesn’t heal from it (“And if I fail, then I am my dynasty”). This theme is also highlighted in “Akasaka Sad” where throughout the chorus of the song, she references her parents and the sadness she feels as “Just like my mother / Just like my father,” referencing her familial roots of depression and mental health issues. One of Sawayama’s personal singles highlight her identity as a Bisexual and Pansexual woman, accepting both identities in her interview with Vice, and stating that “I’ve always written songs about girls. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned a guy in my songs, and that’s why I wanted to talk about it.” Her single “Cherry” is carefully written in the perspective of a woman realizing her feelings for another woman and highlights the journey towards self-realization of being queer while being mindful of avoiding further stigmatizing bisexuality and pansexuality. In the song, Sawayama discovers new feelings and the female gaze writing: “Down the subway, you looked my way/ With your girl gaze (with your girl gaze)/ That was the day everything changed/ Couldn’t stay the same.” At the same time, her internalized bi/pan-phobia, the inner conflict that arises with being attracted to more than one gender is highlighted: “Even though I’m satisfied/ I lead my life within a lie/ Holding onto feelings I’m not used to feeling,” and “Telling myself that it’s cheating / But it’s something else.“ After grappling with her own emotions, Sawayama then addresses newer feelings, such as yearning and wanting to know the feelings of the other woman, asking her, “Won’t you be my cherry now?” Other topics Rina Sawayama addresses in her discography stem from the work she had done as a student in Cambridge. Her song “XS” plays on the phonics of the word “excess” and criticizes capitalism and overconsumption. The song highlights the ridiculous nature of overconsumption and the impact it has on people and the environment due to exploitation and how people justify these acts to themselves. Sawayama also targets sexism in her music. In “XS”, she writes: “Make me less so I want more (More)”

13 | FALL 2020

Photo by Hendrik Schneider

“’XS’ is a song that mocks capitalism in a sinking world. Given that we all know global climate change is accelerating and human extinction is a very real possibility within our lifetime it seemed hilarious to me that brands were still coming out with new makeup palettes every month and public figures were doing a gigantic house tour of their gated property in Calabasas in the same week as doing a ‘sad about Australian wildfires’ Instagram post.” -Rina Sawayma for Pitchfork and explains on Apple music that “Women earn less than women, yet are marketed more aggressively than men,” addressing the way capitalism preys on and exploits women. In “Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)” the common occurrence of women adopting masculine personas in order to be successful are exemplified in the narrator. Over the course of the song, the narrator discusses how she wakes up every day to put on a false ego in order to avoid being erased by the media, while also justifying herself to the listener. On Pitchfork, Sawayama states: “When I was writing this song I lyrically explore the idea of people having to adopt negative male tropes to appear confident.... The idea that the socially acceptable version of confidence is in acting ‘like the boys’” Rina Sawayama’s music is a fresh and bold voice in pop culture, one that is unapologetic and unafraid of experimentation. By blending together her insecurities and her strengths, she creates an atmosphere that is both energetic and comforting. For the Asian diaspora living in the West, she’s a voice that we’ve all been searching for, both lyrically and as someone who is one of us. As an artist, Sawayama brings back the influences that made the early 2000s iconic and adds her own twists to them through genre bends, cinematic instrumentals and shifting perspectives, taking her anger and pain and turning them into works of art.

14 | FALL 2020

Take Back the Swastika


THE SWASTIKA IN HINDUISM The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit words “su,” meaning “good,” and “asti,” meaning “to exist.” It is revered as an auspicious symbol of good luck and prosperity in Hinduism and is often drawn to signify new beginnings, such as at weddings or after purchasing a new car.

“I grew up in South Florida and regularly attended a Hindu temple from a young age, and always associated the swastika

“They were not necessarily due to ignorance, but rather a lack of education, a product of cultural misappropriation.” with prosperity and positivity,” says Kiran Rajkumar, the president of the Hindu Students Council at the University of South Florida. “I would see the swastika used annually on Diwali, created through rangoli. This is a traditional Hindu art form that uses colored powder, rice, and flowers to decorate courtyards during auspicious occasions,” she adds. The swastika is auspicious because it represents the guiding principles one should follow on their spiritual journey. Each part of the swastika symbolizes a value or quality one should possess to reach Brahma, which is the ultimate, transcendent force of reality and is represented as the center of the swastika. All of the arms of the swastika are drawn to point towards the center to symbolize their unity in achieving this ultimate spiritual

goal. The outermost four arms represent aspects of the human being: mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego. The next four arms represent four mokshas, or forms of liberation. They are Salokya (living in the sphere of God), Samipya (living close to God), Sarupya (having a form similar to god), and Sayujya (being one with God). The innermost four arms represent the goals or values one has in life: Dharma (righteousness or moral values), Artha (prosperity or economic values), Kama (pleasure or psychological values), and Moksha (liberation or spiritual values). In order to attain these goals and the ultimate goal of reaching Brahma, one must have love, faith, trust, and dedication, which are represented by the four dots. These guiding principles can be used by anyone on their spiritual path and are not confined to only Hindus. Hindus draw the swastika either clockwise or counterclockwise, although the clockwise version is more prevalent. The direction of the swastika also has a symbolic meaning. The clockwise swastika represents the path of the sun, rising in the east and setting in the west. The counterclockwise swastika, called the sauvastika, symbolizes nighttime and is associated with Kali, a fierce form of the Hindu goddess Durga. The use of the swastika dates back thousands of years. According to the Hindu American Foundation, it was written about in the Vedas, a Hindu scripture, back in around 2500 BCE. The word “swasti” was found often in the Vedas, meaning health, luck, success, and prosperity. It was also used as a greeting. The endurance of the symbol signifies its importance in Hindu rituals and practices.

15 | FALL 2020

design/Trianna Nguyen

Misunderstand it as a symbol of hate. A symbol of anti-Semitism. A symbol marking a dark period in human history. When discussing this article idea with a friend of mine, at first, she raised her eyebrows at hearing the word swastika. I realized she has never known about the significance of the swastika in other cultures and only recognizes it as the misappropriated symbol of the Nazi party. This experience emphasized the importance of discussing this issue, to correct these misunderstandings. They were not necessarily due to ignorance, but rather a lack of education, a product of cultural misappropriation.

When I got my first car a little over a year ago, I remember drawing a red swastika above the Toyota symbol, with glee rising in my cheeks. Many people also draw swastikas at the entrance of their homes. Personal experiences with the swastika form unique meanings for different people.

by Isha Harshe

anapati bappa moraya! Mangal murti moraya!” we chanted as we brought our beloved Ganesha idol into the house. The night before, we stayed up creating the mandap, or the table setting for the idol to sit on during the five days of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. In the midst of cutting up paper flowers, stringing together lights, and rummaging through decorations, I pulled out a beautiful red swastika, bejeweled with colorful gems. I turned to my mother, surprised to find it in our house. She smiled and told me it was given as a gift. “It would be so beautiful to hang on the front door of the house, but you know people here might misunderstand it.”

Although swastikas are quite prevalent in Hinduism, their use was actually quite common across the world. I was surprised to learn about how widely used the symbol was in different cultures—yet, it was always used in good meaning. Buddhists see

Outside of South Asia, the swastika was used as a symbol of good luck and fortune

in North America, according to the Hindu American Foundation. It appeared in CocaCola advertisements. The Boy Scouts had a badge for it, and the Girls Club named its magazine The Swastika. Even the US 45th Infantry Division wore the swastika on their armbands to honor its use as a good luck symbol in Native American cultures. People all around the world loved and revered the swastika as a symbol of good luck.

M d in





In te lle ct


the swastika as Buddha’s footprints, and Jains see it as the seventh tirthankara, a guiding soul to lead Jains on their spiritual path. Jains also see the four arms of the swastika as the four places a soul can be reborn in their cycle of birth and death before attaining moksha. They are heaven, hell, humanity, and flora or fauna.


Artha Brahma

cio ns Co


o Eg









These are the qualities one should have and control in order to reach Moksha and be a part of Brahma with God, as described by Hinduism.

16 | FALL 2020

THE SWASTIKA AS A NAZI SYMBOL Swastikas were a part of European culture prior to the 20th century. In fact, the first trace of the swastika was found in Ukraine on a bird statue and dates back to 10,000 BCE. According to the Smithsonian museum, in the 1870s, archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann went to Greece, where he excavated the remains of Troy. There, he discovered variations of the swastika engraved in pottery and sculptures. He then found the swastika in cultures spanning the rest of Europe and Asia. The Aryan Invasion Theory states that the Aryans invaded India. Both the swastika and the word “Aryan” were found in Indian and European cultures, and this led Hitler and the Nazis to believe that the swastika was an “Aryan” symbol. In Sanskrit, the word “Aryan” means noble in reference to character and conduct. For Hitler and the Nazis, the “Aryan” race meant the “superior” race. The Aryan Invasion Theory became the basis on which Nazis adopted the swastika as propaganda. The prevalence of the swastika across Europe and Asia made European scholars believe that the Aryan culture spanned across Europe and Asia. Despite no genetic evidence being uncovered to support the Aryan Invasion Theory, the Nazis used it to justify their use of the swastika. German nationalist groups called it the Hakenkreuz or the “hooked cross” as they stitched it onto the Nazi banner, disregarding and effectively erasing its pure meaning across cultures in the eyes of the Western world.

MODERN DAY IMPLICATIONS Although the Nazi regime ended over six decades ago, the negative connotations associated with the swastika, as a result, have not faded. White supremacists in the United States continue to use the misappropriated symbol to spread their ideology, as demonstrated in

Charlottesville in 2017. “The Nazi regime completely took the symbol out of its cultural context. The swastika has existed as a symbol of peace for 5,000 years in dharmic religions and various ancient cultures, and it was heartbreaking to learn that there are so many misunderstandings surrounding the swastika due to misappropriation beginning only in the 20th century,” reflects Rajkumar. As a result, there has been pushback from governmental institutions to censor the swastika. In Germany, the symbol is banned. It was also attempted to be banned in the European Union until Hindu groups fought back. More recently, this summer, the New York state senators passed a bill to require education of swastikas and nooses as hate symbols for students in grades 6-12. It is currently in the Assembly for Education Committee.

“It is important to include both sides of the story—its use and abuse.” The intent of the bill is clear: it is an attempt to reduce the surging hate crimes by educating students about it. And I appreciate that intent. However, if this bill is signed into law, it has the potential to target hate towards groups that have an entirely different meaning for the swastika. The bill deems the swastika as a hate symbol, but does not mention its use in other cultures as a symbol of good luck. This had led to a pushback from many Hindu groups, including the Coalition of Hindus in North America, which proposed some changes that can be made to the bill to acknowledge its wide use. These recommendations include referring to the symbol as the “Hakenkreuz” or the “Naziinspired use of the swastika” instead of just “the swastika,” and including education on how the swastika is used for good in other cultures.

as a symbol of fear and suppression due to the atrocities that occurred under fascist control, but this hooked cross is not the same symbol that Hindus have held sacred for millennia, long before misappropriation,” says Rajkumar.

WHY “TAKE BACK THE SWASTIKA” The Nazi use of the swastika overshadowed its rich history. Still, I have hope that we can spread its good meaning through education in forums like these. It is important to include both sides of the story—its use and abuse. However, what hurts is that much of the Western world focuses on its abuse. As a Hindu-American, trying to balance my perspective of the swastika with that of the society I am living in is quite difficult when there is a limited understanding of the symbol. Including context is vital when discussing the swastika. Interfaith dialogue is one important step in facilitating these discussions. Religious leaders from both Hindu and Jewish communities held a summit in 2008 where they agreed and accepted the long heritage of the swastika years before its misuse. This conversation now needs to spread across the public. Rajkumar states on her own mission as president of the Hindu Students Council at USF: “Through HSC, I want students to understand that the swastika comes in many other forms, which have been used only for peaceful and auspicious occasions.” The story of the swastika teaches us about cultural misappropriation. In an increasingly globalized world, we are bound to see cultural practices and symbols cross borders—and this can have many positive implications. However, we must not forget that we should take the time to learn about a culture before we adopt it for ourselves—or else it can lead to devastating consequences for years to come.

“I understand that many see the swastika

17 | FALL 2020

Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Mobilizing the Asian American Vote As the fastest growing racial group, the Asian American electorate is a sleeping giant that must be awakened.

Historically, Asian Americans have experienced low voter turnout for a multitude of cultural, social, and political reasons. In fact, according to Griffin in 2017, Asian Americans only comprised seven percent of the 2016 presidential election voting electorate, the lowest of any other ethnic group. Low voter turnout in the Asian community is generally attributed to voter apathy; however, there are many factors involved.

The majority of Asian Americans are foreign-born and immigrated to the United States. This plays a large role in their political participation as it is not the norm in most Asian countries. Voting is

18 | FALL 2020

“Voting is considered a luxury that is only afforded to the elites in some Asian countries...In America, voting is a right.”

However, even if Asian Americans want to vote, there are many hurdles in their way. Language barriers and clerical errors in voter registration make it difficult for Asian Americans to vote. Asian American voters must navigate voting even with a lack of multilingual voting materials. This is a significant barrier to the Asian community as a third of the Asian community have limited English proficiency. There are many discriminatory voter policies that suppress the Asian American vote. The

Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is employed by more than half of the states and is used to generate lists of possible double voters based on first and last names. According to Uprety in 2018, Asian Americans have a “1 in 7 chance of showing up on a Crosscheck list.” Asian Americans tend to have common last names and are likely to be purged. Additionally, according to Kambhampaty in 2020, discrepancies in signatures could serve as a block to Asian American voting as many immigrants did not have a signature until they arrived in the United States. This can be due to differences in transliterated names or their signature not matching across all necessary documents. In fact, Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization reports that Asian Americans have high rejection rates when using vote-by-mail mainly because of “signature mismatch.” This is incredibly worrisome, especially for this year’s election. With many Asian American voters casting mail-in ballots, the language barrier or their signature could prevent their vote from being counted.

The Sleeping Asian Giant

Kamala Harris. Andrew Yang. Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth. Bobby Scott, Doris Matsui, Judy Chu, Ami Bera, Tulsi Gabbard, Grace Meng, Mark Takano, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Stephanie Murphy, TJ Cox, and Andy Kim. In this year alone, we have seen the first Asian American Vice-Presidential

design/Dencie Devora

Roots of Asian American Voting Rates

considered a luxury that is only afforded to the elites in some Asian countries, which is in stark contrast to the American mentality. In America, voting is a right. For example, in Hmong culture, most of the population does not have the opportunity to vote. Furthermore, many Asian countries are not truly democratic; for example, China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, and Vietnam is a one-party socialist republic. Since voting was not a major part of their lives in their homeland, Asian immigrants may lack the inclination to vote. When they immigrate to the United States, they may pass this mentality down to their children leading to low Asian American voting rates.

by Amy Pham


nly a month ago, reaching over each other to grab bean sprouts or Hoisin sauce for our pho, my parents proudly declared that they had officially mailed in their voting ballots for this 2020 Presidential Election. Nearly forty years ago, my father and mother left Vietnam with their families and immigrated to the United States. Like many Asian Americans, my family underwent the years-long process of completing forms, paying fees, interviewing, and passing the naturalization exam before they could finally call themselves American citizens. As naturalized citizens, they acquired the important right and responsibility of voting in our representatives. And yet, many Asian Americans do not exercise this right.

candidate, three Democratic Presidential Primary candidates, three senators, and fourteen congressmen and women. Not only has there been a rise of Asian American Pacific Islander representation at the federal level, but an increasing number of Asian American candidates are also running for election in state legislatures. According to Do in 2018, “70 percent of Asian American candidates won state legislative office.” Andrew Yang’s #YANGGANG represented a major shift in Asian American participation in politics and brought Asian Americans into the national view as political actors. In fact, according to Do, in 2020, “158 Asian Americans are running for state legislatures,” which is an increase in the number of Asian Americans that ran in the 2018 midterms. Seeing other Asian Americans active in politics and running for office empowers more Asian Americans to participate in the civic process. As the fastest growing racial group, the Asian American electorate is a sleeping giant that must be awakened. According to Yu in 2020, “six out of 10 Asians in the US will be able to vote in November’s presidential election.” Kambhampaty in 2020 explains further that in the upcoming election, more than 11 million Asian Americans will be eligible to vote, comprising about five percent of the voting population. Yet, even as a key voting demographic, Asian Americans are not receiving engagement that could mobilize their vote in the upcoming election. In comparison to other voting blocs, Asian American voters receive very little outreach from political parties and candidates. According to a 2020 Asian American Voter survey, only 30% of Asian voters were contacted by the Democratic Party and 24% had some contact with the Republican Party. Even in the current election, political parties fail to connect with Asian American voters. Candidates put themselves at a disadvantage by not reaching out to Asian communities and


engaging them on important voting issues. COVID-19 represents an opportunity to address issues that are vital to Asian American voters because they have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 response. In the last half-year, there has been an increase in anti-Asian sentiment from the community in the form of discrimination and attacks. Asian businesses in areas affected by COVID-19 have lost a significant amount of business. Additionally, according to Le and Tarloy in 2020, as the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community comprises 8.5% of essential health care workers, they have been working the front lines of the COVID-19 hospital response. In fact, Georgian health care workers have been greatly affected with a 36% increase in AAPI fatalities. If political candidates address some of these major concerns for the Asian American community, it is very likely that they can garner support from the Asian American Pacific Islander voting bloc.

Mobilizing Our Vote

Recently, Asian American leaders and youth have begun mobilizing the Asian community through the development of several non-profit organizations and initiatives. #TheNew is a campaign organized by RUN AAPI to empower AAPI youth to vote this November. Endorsed by several Asian American celebrities, Chloe Bennet, Lulu Wang, Brenda Song, Harry Shum Jr., The New seeks to engage the invisible minority through the first political opinion poll targeting young Asian Americans and spreading awareness through social media. This is one of several campaigns that are forming to increase voter registration and voting in the Asian American community. Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) is another organization that aids Asian Americans



in exercising their right to vote. They have developed a voter hotline to help break the language barrier for many Asian voters and provide training to end barriers to Asian American voting. In this year’s election, Asian American voters will be vital in determining the victor in some swing states. As Gandhi in 2020 explains, New American Economy discovered that nearly “305,000 currently unregistered Asian Americans liv[ed] across the seven states in question.” However, if these voters take advantage of same-day registration in states like Michigan and Minnesota, they will have a large influence on the November 3rd outcome. In North Carolina, where President Trump and former Vice President Biden are going head to head, Marston in 2020 reports that Asian Americans comprise 3.5 percent of the electorate. Additionally, according to Marston in 2020, in Pennsylvania, another swing state, about 4 percent of the voting population are Asian American. Thus, awakening the Asian American vote is more important than ever. A change in mentality regarding voting in the Asian American community and in political parties is necessary to mobilize the Asian American electorate. The sparks have already been brought to life. It is now time to feed the fire. Asian American should no longer be treated as invisible. We are a growing voting block that is now being awakened.



+103% +126%


19 | FALL 2020

Being Religious and Asian American You can’t really understand a country’s culture without learning its religious history. Parents want to teach their children about their homelands. Religion is going to be a big part of that, and it should be. –Jonathan Edelmann


As a racial group originating from over twenty different countries, the religions Asian Americans practice are just as wide ranging as their ethnic backgrounds and can play an integral role in guiding Asian Americans towards their heritage. Jonathan Edelmann, a religion professor at the University of Florida, explained the important role that religion plays within cultures.

20 | FALL 2020

Not only did church give Zhai something to do on Sunday mornings, it was also an opportunity for her to spend time with people who looked like her. She grew up in a majority-White suburban area, so eating moon cakes to celebrate the MidAutumn Festival and making dumplings in the fellowship hall were just a few activities that solidified awareness in her that she was Chinese. Church remains a focal point for her and her parent’s spiritual and social lives to this day. Many Asian Americans simultaneously develop their religious and ethnic identities in houses of worship. But growing up is not that simple. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by a seemingly judgmental world. Zhai remembered being uncomfortable discussing her religion with her friends at school. Although she went to a diverse IB school, many of her classmates did not know of her religious affiliation and she recalled not wanting her religion to be known as her sole identifier. During high school, even going to a church where Asians were the minority felt off-kilter.

Ever since she started college, Zhai has been learning how to separate herself from our parents’ values. For her, this includes establishing her own political views and morals. “I believe conservatism doesn’t have to be associated with Christian ideas,” Zhai said. “I believe that Christianity is emphasizing a life of gratitude, and being humble for the good parts. It has also helped me weather other [not so good] parts of life.” Like Zhai, Zach Raad grew up in a religious household. Raad, a student at the University of Florida, is Lebanese and Polish. He and his family identify as Shia Muslims. While his hometown of Sarasota did not have a huge Muslim community, Raad still enjoyed spending time at the mosque. With Arabic being the liturgical language of Islam,

design /Maggie Dungey

ou are five years old. Your parents stand next to you, singing hymns in a language rarely heard beyond the walls of your church. During the sermon, you squirm around in your seat. Bible stories are interesting. But all you can think about is eating the Taiwanese popcorn chicken being served after service. Service ends, and your parents send you to Chinese dance class upstairs while they play ping-pong with peers on the first floor. You are part of two worlds. When you leave church, you exit one exciting world and enter another world bound by a different language, music, and people.

Although 65% of Americans identify as Christian according to the Pew Research Center, the “perpetual foreigner” status of Asian-Americans has resulted in a struggle for Asian American Christians to decipher their role in the greater American Christian community. These differences may also explain why so many Asian Americans congregate with those of shared ethnicity. In fact, there are an estimated 7,123 Asian American churches in the United States.

photography /Josie Cruz

Arianna Zhai is a freshman at the University of Florida. Going to her Chinese church in Orlando was a formative part of her emotional and spiritual development.

Zhai recalled going to a friend’s youth group gatherings at an “American” church, and noticed conspicuous differences. Beyond that fact that Chinese food was not offered after service, worship felt like a “pop concert,” and the sermon was less scripture-heavy.

by Glenna Li

Joining a religious community can give immigrants a sweet, cozy feeling of home. In addition to being venues for spiritual growth, houses of worship often serve as centers for social engagement.

Zach was able to learn Arabic and further delve into his culture when celebrating religious holidays at his mosque. Before his parents explained to him what his religion was, Raad explained that they would indirectly justify certain rules he had to follow. One day, his parents told him not to eat something with pork in it when he was at school, saying “Oh, it’s too spicy.” Raad believes that they did this out of protection, as they were undoubtedly aware of the stigma that can accompany being Muslim in America. For many Muslim Americans, growing up in a post-9/11 America does not come without tribulation. After 9/11, Raad remembered that his mosque was vandalized, so his family had to switch to a different one. Once, when Raad was at a Model United Nations Conference, a girl in a hijab asked a question about US-Palestine relations. Although Raad recalled thinking to himself that the question had a point, the rest of the students did not agree and explicitly showed their disapproval by booing her. This moment taught him about the importance of solidarity. In America, young Muslims struggle to fit into a society that is unaccepting of their religion, finding themselves straddling the line between being too Muslim to their American peers and not Muslim enough to the “haram police,” as Raad put it. Haram policing is where Muslims shame other Muslims for engaging in behaviors forbidden in their religion. Within the Western community, [someone may] palatable. But within the Muslim

community, they may be seen as not upholding certain conventions,” said Raad. Many Muslim Americans consider how they present as individuals in both the Muslim community and the outside world

Faith is not something for me to show off. – Zach Raad

For Raad, faith has always been personal. Growing up, most of his classmates “Religion is a larger subset of history, were Christian and only his close friends culture, arts; religion is a connector of knew he was Muslim. However, this so many areas of a civilization,” said wasn’t because Raad viewed his faith in Edelmann. a negative light. Entering high school, he felt that it was “cool” to have a separate As the origin of cultural identity for millions identity from everyone else. of Asian Americans, religion makes it possible for us to understand, and even “[Faith] is not something for me to show embrace, their vibrant heritages. off,” he said. In college, Raad has not been attending a mosque as frequently as he would like, but he tries to go to services when he can. Whenever Zach needs help with mental health, turning to faith has been very helpful and resourceful. Being Shia Muslim has given Raad values that he tries to exercise in his everyday life, like practicing compassion. For example, during the Black Lives Matter protests, he felt it was a religious duty for him to uplift other marginalized communities. Religion has shaped the lives of millions of Asian Americans. People who practice the same religion do not all think the same way, but religion does influence one’s outlook on life and teaches us more about ourselves. The nuances embodying each religion and its followers are too vast to define. It is important that we remember the greater impact religion has on preserving Asian American culture, establishing vibrant social communities, and guiding self-exploration.

21 | FALL 2020

source: Chris Redan/Shutterstock

by Zahra Saba

22 | FALL 2020

design/Denise Ferioli


The Mass Internment of Uyghurs


2014 2017

Newly elected party secretary Wang Lequan replaces the Uyghur language with standard Mandarin in primary schools and bans government members from wearing hijabs, growing beards, fasting, and praying. “People’s war on terror” begins. A widespread ban on beards, headscarves, and Islamic names is enacted. Over the last year, 90,000 police officers are recruited to Xinjiang, and 7,300 heavily guarded checkpoints are set up. A satellite photo of previously empty land shows a giant high-security compound.

AUG 2018

Chinese delegation at the UN convention denies the purpose of the detainment camps and that they ethnically profile Uyghurs.

OCT 2018

China legalizes reeducation camps in Xinjiang.

NOV 2018

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists releases the China Cables.

JAN 2020

US Congressional-Executive Commission on China releases a report stating that China is guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

FEB 2020

The Financial Times publishes the Karakax List.

MAR 2020

ASPI prints a report on Uyghur forced labor programs. programs.

NOV 2020

A whistleblower report states, “the UN is actively passing names of Uyghur dissidents to China.”

source: Google Maps

APR 2018

23 | FALL 2020



yghurs are the oldest Turkic speaking group in Central Asia, and records of the Uyghur peoples can be found as early as the third century. Historically they have inhabited oases in the Tarim basin, a region that has been controlled by the Mongols, China, the Tibetians, and several Turkish dynasties. Their rich history is reflected in their clothing, cuisine, language, and architecture. Today, there are approximately 11 million Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim, living in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. As part of a political agenda to create a homogenous Chinese identity, between the 1950s and the 1970s, the government facilitated the migration of millions of Han Chinese into Xinjiang. The Han became economically and politically dominant in the region. Economic and political inequality, as well as religious oppression, provoked civil unrest. Harsh retaliation by the Chinese government led to instability and terrorist attacks. The Chinese Communist Party has come to see extremism and separatism as an inherent trait of Islam and Uyghur culture. They are currently persecuting, detaining, and exploiting people based on their religion and ethnicity.


24 | FALL 2020


Haaretz interviewed former camp instructor Sayrugal Sauytbay where she said that prisoners were punished for the slightest infractions or dissent. On several different occasions, the BBC has reported that detainees were tortured and beaten for things as benign as not running fast enough during morning exercise. As described by Sauytbay, punishment included food deprivation, public humiliation, beatings, and having one’s nails pulled out. Sauytbay describes an incident where a woman was punished by gang rape, and anyone who expressed distress or anger at the scene vanished.

Forced Labor

According to the ASPI, between 2017 and 2019, the Chinese government transferred upwards of 80,000 Uyghurs from Xinjiang to “factories across the country.” The government forces them to work without pay, keeps them under constant surveillance, and prohibits any religious practice. These factories provide material to “at least 82 wellknown global brands,” including Apple, Samsung, and Nike. A report from the US Customs and Border Protection also reveals that many so-called vocational training camps may be forced labor camps where Uyghurs are used to manufacture hair care products, produce cotton, and harvest tomatoes.

Forced Medical Procedures

The Associated Press investigated forced birth control procedures in the camps using “government statistics, state documents, and interviews with ex-detainees, family members, and a former camp instructor.” They found that within the centers, women are routinely obligated to take pregnancy tests. If they are positive, women are subjected to forced abortions. Many women are unwillingly fitted with IUDs. There are also multiple reports of women being force-fed birth control pills and given pregnancy prevention shots. Others are subjected to unsolicited tubal ligation, an irreversible sterilization procedure. In 2019, a lawyer from the China Tribunal addressed the UN Human Rights Council accusing the Chinese government of “widespread harvesting of human organs from religious and ethnic minorities.” There is evidence that prisoners are harvested for organs while conscious, which are then used for transplant procedures in Chinese hospitals.

WHAT EVIDENCE DO WE HAVE? The Chinese government had denied these camps’ existence on several different occasions, but the release of multiple satellite photos forced them to admit otherwise. Now, China insists that these high-security detention facilities are simply vocational

source: Azamat Imanaliev/Shutterstock

Government supervised tours of reeducation camps have shown that prisoners are coerced to renounce their religious beliefs and espouse support for the Chinese communist government instead. They are forbidden from practicing religion in any aspect. Several ex-detainees’ reports reveal they were forced to eat pork and drink alcohol; both are prohibited in Islam. Prisoners must take classes on Mandarin and Chinese Law and must sing Communist Chinese propaganda songs. They are regularly evaluated on their ideological

and behavioral transformation and are detained until their alternation is deemed satisfactory.

“The government has effectively employed strict surveillance and horrific internment camps to scare people into silence.“ source: Christian Ader/Shutterstock

training centers attended by violent extremists. However, two government document leaks provide insurmountable evidence that China is detaining innocent people on an enormous scale with the intent to destroy the Uyghurs’ ethnic identity.

China Cables

Also known as the Xinjiang Papers, the China Cables are a 400-page collection of internal government documents that serve as an “operation manual” for running the camps. According to the document, detainees, including Uyghur foreign nationals, receive ideological and behavioral instruction for at least a year. They are then evaluated on their ideological transformation and transferred to different facilities accordingly. The China Cables contain guidelines on how officials should talk to students returning home to find their entire family gone. They were told that their relatives had not committed a crime, but “their thinking had been infected by unhealthy thoughts.” Students were threatened that their behavior could affect the length of their family members’ detainment. The documents also provide instructions on preventing escapes by restricting unsupervised communication with people outside the camps and employing guard towers, continuous video surveillance, and regular room inspections. The last part of the telegram emphasizes that these camps are secret, and the staff must practice discretion.

Karakax List

The Karakax List is surveillance records of over 3000 Uyghurs and describes the rationale behind the detainment of 311 Uyghurs. Some of the reasons listed for internment are: growing a beard, wearing a headscarf years ago, donating to a mosque, praying at home, owning a passport, calling someone overseas, having family overseas, and being related to a detainee. According to the documents, some people are simply detained for appearing “untrustworthy” with no further explanation. The Karakax List demonstrates the people are imprisoned despite having committed no crime, are targeted because of peaceful and mundane religious practices, and are presumed guilty by association.

LIFE OUTSIDE CAMP Life within the camps is brutal, and its repercussions are felt throughout the Xinjiang province. Kashgar was an ancient and once lively city at the crossroads of cultures. The town is now desolate. According to John Sudworth of the BBC, no one frequents the mosque; it merely stands as a prop for Chinese tourists to take pictures. Uyghurs are afraid to practice their religion even within the confines of their own homes. By punishing people for teaching the Quran and the Hadith and restricting access to Islamic information, the government is slowly eradicating its teaching and traditions.

According to several reporters, Xinjiang residents are afraid to talk to journalists. Uyghurs living abroad say news from family or friends in China is rare. International communication, especially on the topic of suppression, can result in detainment. The government has effectively employed strict surveillance and horrific internment camps to scare people into silence.

THIS IS GENOCIDE. According to Adrian Zenz, the internment of more than 1.5 million Uyghurs is the “largest incarceration of an ethnoreligious minority since the Holocaust.” China’s actions against Uyghurs are often referred to as cultural genocide. There are several reports that children are placed in state orphanages due to the detainment of entire extended families. State orphanages and mandatory boarding schools are used to indoctrinate kids and erase their ethnic identities. The Chinese Communist Party has replaced the Uyghur language with Mandarin, suppressed religion, eroded cultural practices, destroyed cultural monuments, and supported the mass migration of and domination by Han Chinese in Xinjiang. China is committing cultural genocide by eradicating the Uyghur identity to create a homogeneous Han Chinese identity. The situation continues to digress. This is no longer a cultural genocide; it is a literal genocide. According to the current UN Genocide Convention guidelines, China is committing genocide by forcibly preventing Uyghur births. However, according to whistleblower Emma Riley, instead of protecting the oppressed, “the UN is actively passing names of Uyghur dissidents to China.” The Chinese government uses the information they receive to harass and intimidate witnesses participating in human rights trials and their families. Riley has been trying to report this crime since 2013. The UN internal court dismissed her case to maintain a favorable relationship with China. Reports on the issue, such as the one written by The Guardian, have been blocked by the UN. The United Nations Human Rights Council is “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights,” but they are aiding and abetting genocide.

25 | FALL 2020

Multiracial Identities Asian

Pacific Islander




Native American

ox Which b k? e do I ch c

Exploring the stereotype and struggles of Multiracial Asian Americans

The conversation becomes even more complicated when pared down to multiracial Asian Americans.

Through these kinds of interactions, Greenwald feels people often want to overly categorize his racial identity.

With interracial marriage only becoming legalized federally in 1967, the multiracial population in the U.S. is fairly young. This phenomenon correlates to a societal lack of understanding of how multiracial people’s identities function.

A study conducted by Chen found that Asian Americans who perceive discrimination against Asians are more likely to question the racial loyalty of biracials than Black Americans are to question the loyalty of Black-White biracials. Chen believes this trend has an effect on multiracial Asian Americans.

“A lot of people think it’s very black and white. They don’t understand it’s a mix between the two and that you can appreciate both races equally,” Greenwald said.

The Greenwald Family

“What most people think of as ‘identity’ doesn’t account for multiracials’ complex “Discrimination has an impact on multiracials’ identities because they often report well-being, especially identity denial: the people saying things like, ‘What are you?’ idea that I could deny you an identity by

26 | FALL 2020

Alec Arreche, a 21-year-old statistics major at UF, feels similarly about his cultural upbringing, as well as his peers’ treatment of his multiracial identity. Alec’s mother is from the Philippines and his father is halfSpanish and half-Ukrainian.

design /Maggie Dungey

Chen said her professor, who has been in the social psychology field since the 1970s, paused for a second and responded, “I’ve never thought about that. I don’t know.”

or, ‘Oh, you’re this and that? Which one do you choose? Come on, what do you identify more as?’” Chen said.

“There have been several times where I get stereotyped as a creepy White dude when I’m just there to learn more about my culture,” Greenwald said. “Especially growing up in a biracial family, it’s hard to learn about your culture, because my parents are the type of parents who wanted to assimilate into American culture.”

photography/ Josie Cruz

Questions like this are how Jacqueline M. Chen, an assistant professor in social psychology at the University of Utah, became interested in her work. In Chen’s first year of graduate school, her professor explained how people form impressions: they first categorize someone by race, gender, and age. Chen remembers asking, “What happens if you can’t choose someone’s race, if you don’t know what they are, because they’re racially ambiguous?”

Michael Greenwald, a 22-year-old graduate journalism student at UF, has been subjected to this sort of rhetoric before. Greenwald, who is half-Chinese and halfJewish, specifically remembers one event at a Chinese student organization where a girl came up to him and bluntly asked him why he was there. Greenwald responded by going over to the whiteboard and writing in Chinese.

by Amanda Hoffman


saying, ‘You’re not really Asian.’” Chen said. “That’s painful and stressful, and those interactions definitely have a detrimental impact on multiracials’ well-being.”

very year, a select group is asked to perform the same impossible task. It is the bane of every multiracial person’s existence: the dreaded race question on standardized tests. They can be found on AP exams, the SAT, and even at the doctor’s office. It seems a simple request at first glance, but when someone is multiracial, the question always becomes, “Which box do I check?”

“My mom immigrated to the U.S. when she was nine, so she didn’t really live with her parents and didn’t have that traditional Filipino upbringing,” Arreche said. “When it came to me, there wasn’t that much culture passed down because a lot of it was basically washed out. It makes it hard to identify with the same things my Filipino friends are identifying with, because I didn’t grow up with that.” Because of the racial ambiguity and mixed cultural upbringing many multiracial people experience, it becomes much more difficult to feel fully part of any one group. In Arreche’s case, he says he’s treated as more Asian with his White friends, but more White when he’s with his Filipino friends. His multiracial identity is never fully taken into consideration; it always has to be one or the other. Multiracial contentions are also playing out on the political field in America today. Kamala Harris, Vice President elect, is a mixed-race Indian and Black woman who has faced criticism from Indian Americans for what they see as shying away from her Indian identity. On the other side, Harris has been accused of not being “Black enough” to effectively represent the Black community. Dr. Lance Gravlee, an associate professor at UF who has taught the Race and Racism course more times than he can recall, has a possible explanation for the discourse around Harris’s multiracial identity. “There’s already a place in the American racial worldview for people who have one Black and one White parent, and traditionally that’s been to categorize people as Black,” Gravlee said. “There isn’t a place in the American racial worldview

The Arreche Family that is ready to pigeonhole people who have one Indian and one Jamaican parent. That particular multiracial identity challenges some of the census box categories that people are used to thinking about in ways that shift the conversation and allow people to recognize some of the complexity a little bit easier.” While one’s race may be viewed as a given for most, many multiracial people don’t have the luxury of (1) having a large community that understands their racial struggles and can offer support and (2) having their view of their racial identity match how others view them. In a society where race is such an integral part of one’s identity, how are multiracial people supposed to navigate these issues

without facing criticism from one side or another? How do they become “enough”? Do they have to pick one race to identify with? Do they have to remove themselves from their other racial and cultural backgrounds in order to show they are loyal to one in particular? As the multiracial population grows and the conversations about these unique identities continue, there will hopefully be a shift in the tendency to treat multiracial Asian Americans as a monolith. But until then, Greenwald has one piece of advice: “I know it’s harder for different people, and I’m pretty fortunate, but... Everyone should just try to accept who they are and just be happy.”

"His multiracial identity is never fully taken into consideration; it always has to be one or the other." 27 | FALL 2020

We Bare Bears & Discrimination in America: A Personal Essay


he sweet aroma of phở wafted my face. I placed the steaming bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup onto my dining table as I waited for my little sister to join me. I passed her the Hoisin sauce, squeezing a generous amount of Sriracha into my bowl. “What do you wanna watch?” I asked preoccupied.

“We Bare Bears,” she retorted. “You can pick the episode.”


While the show was famous for its endearing nature, it introduced a wide range of cultures to its younger audience. Episodes were devoted to the bears meeting the show’s side characters from all over the globe. What resonated with me was the unapologetic, untranslated dialogue between these multicultural characters and their families. The audience was left with context clues to decipher the Korean, Japanese, or Spanish dialogue. Representation meant

28 | FALL 2020

THE BEARS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION After running on air from 2015 to 2020, the series ended with the feature film We Bare Bears: The Movie. I was disappointed to see one of my favorite animated shows ending. While watching the finale film of the franchise, I noticed a clear distinction between its TV show counterpart. The TV show prioritized cultural representation and brought awareness to the different backgrounds of its characters. The movie, running an hourlong, was more explicit in its anti-discriminatory message. It encouraged its viewers to not fear those who look “different” but to welcome them with open arms, criticizing current antiimmigration sentiments. Current events have made this message vital to teach to the younger generation. We Bare Bears serves as

design/Trianna Nguyen

We Bare Bears, an animated TV series premiering on Cartoon Network, followed three gregarious bears on their journey to fit into human society. The bears consisted of Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear, adopted brothers living in modern-day America. Each 15 minute episode centered around their cute antics, often accompanied by human and animal side characters. Even watching casually, I picked up on the show’s diverse characters. It was astonishing to see Asian American representation on an influential platform for children. This influence came from creator Daniel Chong, a Singaporean Chinese American animator devoted to spreading a message of love and positivity. The show rose to fame in Asia, cementing the bears as lovable household names. Mass production of merchandise called for a demand of the three bears. Special appearances from K-pop idol group Monsta X and Leslie Odom Jr. only heightened the excitement for the cute brothers.

These glimpses of Chloe’s family gave the show’s audience insight into the Asian American experience. The juxtaposition between Chloe’s school life at her American college and her family life at home was very familiar to me. The double life I lived as a Vietnamese American was being validated on screen. Though the long hours of science lectures wore me out, I knew I’d always return home to red New Year’s calendars and the smell of cooked rice noodles. I went from telling niche jokes with my college friends to stumbling over my parents’ mother tongue. The Vietglish sat in my mouth like an after mint. Like Chloe Park, having friends over meant introducing new dishes and telling them to remove their shoes before entering. Having this unique experience reinforced as a child would have meant the world to my eight-year-old self. I always experienced identity crises living in a country where the typical “American” family never included an experience like mine. Even though We Bare Bears premiered 12 years too late for me, I was happy to see my little sister and other Asian American youth get the representation they deserved.

art/Amy Nguyen, Daniel Chong

I nodded and opened my laptop up to see the three familiar cartoon bears appear on my screen. It was our dinner ritual. The only thing more comforting than the hot bowl of phở was the three cuddly bears on Cartoon Network. We finished dinner, bursting into fits of laughter between loud slurps of noodles.

Introduced as a ten-year-old prodigy studying Organic Chemistry in college, Chloe befriended the three bears after observing them from afar. The audience was able to follow her family life as the bears visited and interacted with them. They respected and followed her family’s cultural traditions, making sure to bow and greet her parents in Korean before coming inside their house. Through clumsy trials, they learned and adapted to Korean culture for the sake of their young friend. Although the bears were unfamiliar with several aspects of Chloe’s culture, they were willing to respect and accept the traditions introduced to them.

by Amy Nguyen

She paused abruptly, taking in my question. Her hand gripped Hoisin sauce mid-air.

that these characters did not have to sacrifice their native tongue. This was most prevalent in the case of Chloe Park.

a reminder to parents that it is never too early to educate children on important issues. Relaying messages of empathy, humanity, and acceptance is necessary to teach younger children how to respect their peers.

who were uncomfortable with my existence. There will always be people who are scared of things that seem “foreign” to them. For other people of color, this meant enduring racial profiling, police brutality, family separation, and inhuman detention facilities.

In an exclusive interview, the creator Chong expressed his desire to properly explore the intricacies behind the franchise. With the time allotted, he was able to dive into the allegory he spent four years cultivating. The bears were more than adorable characters to him. They were a culmination of his experiences in America.

We Bare Bears: The Movie highlighted the struggles of assimilating into America as an immigrant and learning to deal with bigotry as a citizen. Though the bears received their happy ending, there are still over 500,000 immigrants detained in ICE camps over the country. These camps are conducted under inhumane and severe conditions. Family separation occurs daily, with many of them unable to reunite with their loved ones. This was a direct parallel to the three bears being deported at the end of the film. Similarly, people who have resided in America their entire lives are deported to lands they’ve never known. The movie’s heavy themes of family separation, deportation, and discrimination were all addressed and criticized. Chong executed this in a way that made it digestible for his younger audience. Though my sister did not register the parallels between the movie’s detainment camps to ICE detention centers, she understood enough to know the bears were wrongfully imprisoned.

“ has always been evident to me, as an Asian American, that sometimes individuals are treated unfairly for no other reason than looking different,” Chong stated on his Twitter. “And although the premise of three Bears trying to fit into human society is largely a comic one, it is to me an allegory for what it feels like to be a minority in America,” he added. The film followed the three bears on their adventure to Canada as they escaped persecution from Agent Trout. Trout was the main antagonist from the National Wildlife Control, who was hellbent on getting the three bears deported. After one of their silly antics went array, they faced the fear of leaving the only place they’d ever considered home. In an adventure consisting of poutine, cute animals, and anti-discrimination, the three bears fought for their right to exist on American soil. In the climax of the film, Agent Trout apprehended the brothers. The audience was forced to watch as the bears were trapped in cages, ready to be sent to distant, foreign lands.

Though things may be rough, the film reassured that there will always be people who welcome those in need with open arms. This franchise allowed for cultural representation and shedded light on anti-racist and anti-discriminatory messages, all without seeming overly didactic. Following creator Chong’s messages of love and positivity, the three bears and their silly antics have taught a new generation that being “different” is okay. Being different, in this case, was not as uncommon as some people make it out to be. I’ll definitely be tuning in for the spinoff.

The movie flashed a chilling image of dozens of lethargic bears trapped in cages at a detainment camp. Void of life, most of the bears accepted the cruel conditions their oppressors placed upon them. Fearing the separation of his family, Grizz, the eldest brother, broke free of his restraints and incited an escape. In an epic turn of events, the three bears were able to burn down the detainment camps for good. The ending scene followed the aftermath of the movie’s chaotic climax. The bears previously trapped in the camps were depicted shopping, eating lunch, and interacting with humans. They were no longer void of life and defeated. As Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear looked around their city, they realized their bear counterparts were able to integrate into human society just as they did. “We may be fitting in a little better these days,” Panda happily noted.

THE BEARS AS MINORITIES IN AMERICA In between tears of joy and realization, I paused the movie to explain to my sister why I was sobbing. Chong’s allegory was evident in the last ten minutes of the movie. As Grizz faced Agent Trout during his escape, he yelled that Trout was only scared of things that he wasn’t used to. This statement rang clear in my head. Living in America as a minority meant dealing with people

29 | FALL 2020

Asia’s Diverse Musical Traditions and Instruments

China Thousands of unique musical instruments originated in ancient China, especially during the Tang dynasty. Chinese folk music is elegant and meticulously performed, with great detail given to the style of expression, and is predominantly on the pentatonic scale, which consists of five notes per octave. Throughout China, each region has folk instruments important to the local culture. Traditionally, Chinese musical instruments were categorized into eight groups called bayin: silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd and skin. Silk instruments have strings made of twisted silk and are bowed, plucked or struck. The guzheng, a

30 | FALL 2020

Another popular silk instrument is the erhu, a two-stringed spike fiddle with a long wooden neck connected to a snakeskin-covered soundbox. Bamboo instruments consist of flute and reed pipe varieties. Notably, there are several kinds of Chinese transverse flutes, meaning they are held horizontally when played. The wood category is made up of ancient percussion instruments, like wooden boxes and clappers, which were used in rituals. Instruments in the stone category encompass different kinds of metal chimes one could strike with a mallet. For example, the bianqing is a set of flat stone chimes hung on a wooden frame and used in court music. Metal instruments include gongs, cymbals and bells of all sizes. Like the bianqing, the bianzhong, a set of bronze bells hung on a rack, was important in Chinese court and ritual music. Making up the clay category are instruments like the xun, an ocarina, and the fou, a percussion pot, jar or vessel. Lastly, the skin category consists of a variety of drums, including a zhangu (war drum), huagu (flower drum) and pellet drum.

For people who love listening to different genres of music, I think traditional Chinese music has a lot to offer. People should listen to traditional Chinese music because by doing so they learn about the culture and broaden their world view from a musical perspective. -Weiqing Han (19)

Turkey The folk music of Turkey, a nation straddling Europe and Asia, is as diverse as its multiethnic and multi-confessional population. Greek, Armenian, Balkan, Arab and Jewish influences have shaped Turkish music throughout the ages.

Today, ensembles of traditional instruments accompany weddings, funerals, dances and Chinese opera. After the fall of Imperial “Istanbul is a proud and hospitable home China, traditional Chinese music underwent of every musical genre today,” Professor changes due to Western influences. example, Emrah Şahin, a Global Islamic Studies senior notation and orchestration of music was lecturer and Turkish language instructor, altered. However, the essence and values of said. “What makes Turkish music unique is Chinese folk music have endured the passing that it is contagious and inclusive of flavors

design/Kaela Marie Varias

This article explores the diverse musical traditions of Asia and highlights the unique musical instruments of China, Turkey and India. To truly connect or reconnect with a culture, listening to tunes beloved for generations can foster indelible insight.

Second-year Weiqing (Angel) Han had the opportunity to try out different musical instruments when she was young, but felt a special connection to the guzheng. “I really enjoy playing the guzheng because the sound is unique and beautiful,” Han said.

of centuries. Each year during the famed CCTV New Year’s Gala, which is certified by the Guinness World Records as the world’s most watched television program, musicians and singers perform folk songs to celebrate Chinese New Year. One such song, “Mòlìhuā,” meaning “jasmine flower,” was one of the first Chinese folk songs to become popular abroad, and is now widely recognized.

photography/Daniyah Sheikh

The forces of globalization and technological advancement have quickly led to the popularization of today’s top musical styles in countries eager to consume Western music. Though trends have come and gone, traditional and folk music have stood the test of time, enjoyed by listeners of all ages.

plucked zither popular during the Tang Dynasty, is one of the most well-known silk instruments. Often, guzheng players wear fingerpicks to more easily pluck the instrument.

by Eileen Calub


n 2019, the most popular musical genre based on streamed music consumption worldwide was hiphop and rap. With consistent Billboard chart hits, artists like Drake and Post Malone have amassed legions of fans both in the United States and abroad. Unsurprisingly, by the end of 2020, hip-hop is expected to claim the global musical throne once again.

everybody. It knows no boundaries - it is a potpourri of contrasts and harmonies all in the same breadth.” Turkish traditional music can be classified as Ottoman court music or Anatolian folk music. The two utilize different modal systems, which are musical scales associated with distinct melodic behaviors. Namely, Ottoman court music compositions use makam while Anatolian folk songs use ayak. Ottoman court music, also called ‘classical Turkish music,’ was traditionally performed by a small instrumental ensemble accompanying a singer. Nobles, regularly entertained by distinguished musicians in their circles, fostered the growth and development of Ottoman music. In contrast to the romantic and grandiose songs of Ottoman court music, folk songs told the joys and troubles of daily life and recounted Turkish folk tales. Within the folk music category, each region of Turkey boasts its own unique musical style. For example, in southeastern Turkey, the halay is performed at ceremonies and festivals. In the Aegean provinces of western Turkey, the zeybek is most popular. Zeybek melodies can be slow or fast, and the music accompanies dancers who raise their arms and make slow, sweeping motions to simulate a hawk. Traditional Turkish instruments, some utilized for both classical and folk styles, include the zurna, a woodwind instrument and relative of the oboe, and the davul, a double-headed drum. The zurna and davul,

are also played, along with the bağlama, a seven-stringed instrument similar to the lute. The bağlama plays a large role in Turkish folk music and is the most commonly used string folk instrument in Turkey. Traditionally, troubadours and traveling musicians played the bağlama. Although the dominance of traditional music has given way to genres such as rap and rock, no traditional Turkish wedding would be complete without folk music and dance bringing family and friends together. “People should listen to traditional Turkish music as it echoes coexistence in its finest form, connects heart and feet in the same tone and speaks through the past to the present,” Şahin said.


People should listen to traditional Turkish music as it echoes coexistence in its finest form, connects heart and feet in the same tone and speaks through the past to the present. -Emrah Sahin (40)

more complex and varied than songs in the Hindustani style. Typical instruments included in the ensemble are the mridangam and tanpura. The mridangam is a wooden percussion instrument, producing the rhythm of Carnatic songs, and the tanpura is a plucked string instrument that produces a harmonic drone sound rather than a melody.

Like Turkish music, traditional Indian music can be divided into classical and folk. Indian classical music is believed to be a divine art form originating from Hindu deities and evolved based on the Vedas, sacred Hindu chants. Within the category of Indian classical Two years ago, third-year UF student music, there are two main schools: the Carnatic Aaminah Hussain received a tanpura style of the South and the Hindustani style of as a gift. the North. While there are stylistic differences between the two, four basic elements are “I’ve always had a huge fascination common in both: śruti (relative musical pitch), with all of the Indian instruments swara ( musical sound of a single note), rāga growing up, to the point where I told (the mode) and tala (rhythmic cycles). These myself when I’m older, I’d get a few elements are the foundation of Carnatic and Indian instruments of my own and Hindustani composition. start embracing my culture,” Hussain said. “However, when I was given the Carnatic music is performed in a small tanpura, I decided I would learn to play instrumental ensemble along with a vocalist. that instrument first before I learn the Generally, songs in the Carnatic style are more advanced Indian instruments.”

31 | FALL 2020

Starting in the 12th century, the Hindustani style was influenced by Turko-Persian music. While these influences are absent in the Carnatic style, these differences solidified the divergence in classical music between the North and South. Within the category of Hindustani music, there are several genres, such as dhrupad, Hindustani’s oldest major vocal style, and dhamar, usually played on the pakhawaj, a barrel-shaped drum. Amir Khusrau, a Sufi mystic, singer and poet, is considered the father of Hindustani music. He is also credited for the invention of the sitar, a plucked string instrument which was popularized worldwide in the 1960’s. “The sounds of each instrument are unique,” Hussain said. “It tells a story if you truly listen to the melody.” As for folk music, there are numerous styles and genres that have been developed throughout history, thanks to India’s cultural diversity. One genre is Tamang Selo of the Nepali-speaking population in northeast India. Musicians play the damphu, a tambourine-like percussion instrument, and tugna, a fourstringed instrument, to tell the stories of daily life through song. Another popular genre of Indian folk music is Bhavageethe, meaning “emotion poetry,” which consists of poems that have been set to music. Subjects in Bhavageethe range from love to philosophy. Each form of folk music in India reflects the way of life of its performers and the special qualities of each originating region. “Traditional music is something that a lot of people of my generation are losing their connection with,” Hussain said. “It’s good to listen to traditional music as it allows one to connect back with their culture and learn about the different elements that makes us, well, us.” Though trends will continue to come and go, traditional and folk music have stood the test of time and will continue to be enjoyed by listeners of all ages. Traditional music and instruments provide an intimate experience to each listener, with each melody grounded in a rich culture and history. This music can help us connect with our ancestry and heritage, and allows us to find a familiar comfort in these old melodies and harmonies.

32 | FALL 2020

Traditional music is something that a lot of people of my generation are losing their connection with. It allows one to connect back with their culture and learn about the different elements that makes us... well, us. - Aaminah Hussain (21)

The Tears of India’s Daughters The Indian Rape Culture and Crisis

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about sexual assault and violence which may be triggering to survivors.

“There is no creature more sinful, than a woman. She is poison, she is a snake.”

rape is prevalent in India due to the patriarchy that creates a secondclass status for women


Violence towards women is also commonplace in India. Domestic violence against women is accepted, and there are no legitimate laws against rape within a marriage. The national narrative

Other texts have also been known for quotes such as “Women are living lies.” When Modi, a Hindu nationalist striving to make India an all Hindu country, came into power, so did the Hindutva ideology. This placed a renewed emphasis on India’s epics, historical stories, and mythologies, at the heart of which lies tales that glorify rape. In the story of the god Vishnu, he raped Tulsi by transforming into her husband. This was justified because Tulsi’s husband, Jalandhar was invincible and the only way to defeat him

33 | FALL 2020

design/ Zohra Qazi

First and foremost, rape is prevalent in India due to the patriarchy that creates a second-class status for women. Men are prioritized, while the opinions and wishes of girls are dismissed. They learn to be subservient at an early age. Both males and females internalize this difference in societal importance. This has fueled a lack of respect towards women throughout the nation, with women viewed as objects to have sex with, bear children, and be submissive to men. Many religious texts also promote a sheer disdain for women, as illustrated in book 13 section 40 of the Mahabharata.

Many families in India base marriages on the dowry system, which is a transactional process where the bride’s family pays the groom’s family in durable goods, money, and/or property as a condition of marriage. Hence, having a daughter means a financial burden on the family. The dowry system especially hurts poor families as it would keep them in a cycle of poverty. India also has a low female to male ratio due to selective abortion or female infanticide. There’s a saying in India that raising a daughter is like watering a neighbors plant.

by Neha Sajan


was to steal his wife’s chastity. Thus, Vishnu was praised as a hero. According to Khans 2017 article, God Brihaspati, the guru of all Indian gods, is another example of a God in India that is celebrated and revered despite raping his pregnant sister-in-law. This disrespect towards women is not only seen within the Hindu community, but it has bled through to every single religion, sect, and class.


n many third-world countries, rape has an almost epidemiclike status and it is especially devastating in India. Not only has the rate of this crime increased, but also the viciousness and cruelty with which it is conducted. Data reported by the Ministry of Home Affairs in India revealed that one rape was reported every fifteen minutes in 2018 alone, an average of 34,000 occurrences in just that one year. While this is the reported number, it must be recognized that many communities in India consider it a taboo to report rape; therefore it is not an accurate estimation of the real amount of incidents. Even more horrifying is that according to an article by Caruzo in 2020, the report found that although 85% of reported assault result in charges, only 27% of cases end in convictions. A survey conducted by the Thomas Reuters Foundation found that India is the most dangerous place to be a woman.

conditions people to think there are no real consequences to rape, as many of the sitting politicians themselves have been charged with crimes against women or have pending charges. In the 2009 parliamentary election, 6 of the candidates were charged with rape and 34 candidates were awaiting trials for crimes against women. At the time of the election, 42 state assembly members had rape or associated charges against them. In a recent report by the Association for Democratic Reforms, India has 300 such politicians in power. It is not so hard to see why conviction rates for rape cases in the past 40 years have dropped from 46% to 27%. Authority figures also try to cover up rape cases across the country by tampering with evidence and accusing the woman of provoking men. This is seen in the case of the 19-year-old Dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh, who was gang-raped and tortured. Dalits sit at the bottom of this hierarchy called the “untouchables,” and according to Amnesty International, Dalit women are especially vulnerable to caste-based violence and discrimination. The girl was discovered by her mother the next morning in the field half-naked, bleeding from the face, unable to move her neck, arms, and legs. Her attackers, four upper-caste boys, had tried to strangle her and broke her spinal cord. She was taken to the hospital, not upon discovery, but after police questioning. She died two weeks later from her injuries. Later the police came out and blatantly lied that the victim never stated she was raped. However, a video of her statement soon surfaced, clearly proving otherwise. Furthermore, her sexual assault exams

34 | FALL 2020

were also not conducted until 11 days after the event. Exams that are done after 4 days are considered non viable as all semen and other evidence would be gone. The final repulsive action occurred when her body was forcibly seized by the Uttar Pradesh police and cremated without the family’s consent to keep the incident quiet. This case sheds light on the targeting of lower caste women and girls in India. The caste system is a 2,000-year-old social hierarchy imposed upon Hindus at birth defining their position in society, the jobs they can hold, and who they can marry. The lower-class women are often singled out for thousands of sexual attacks a year because caste dynamics usually determines if the case receives justice or media attention. Kapur, a criminal psychologist in New Delhi, stated that even though rape is a nonbailable offense, people still get bailed out from a lack of evidence. They are often protected by the police, lawyers, or politicians. Members of India’s ruling party, the BJP, are known to side with perpetrators, even in cases where the

defendants have been charged. The brutal 2012 New Delhi bus gangrape of a 23-year-old student Jyoti Singh on a moving bus brought this systemic problem of sexual violence to the forefront. Thousands marched to demand action for the victim and the civil unrest prompted more severe sentences for rapists and murders. Unfortunately, this had an unintended effect according to Caruzo. The number of females raped and murdered increased by 35% and the number of rape victims doubled between 2012 and 2016. Since then, a myriad of brutal rape cases have left the nation in turmoil. In 2019, an eight-yearold Kashmiri girl was abducted, confined in a temple, drugged with sedatives, gangraped by 8 men for days, and murdered. This is just one of the thousands of cases as more than 40% of the country’s victims were minors.

REVENGE RAPE Rape is also used as a weapon known as revenge rape in India. According to Waraichs 2017 article, it is believed that a woman’s virginity until marriage is directly tied to her family’s honor. If a girl’s family has a conflict with someone or another family, she knows she must brace herself for rape as honor is what one will attack to harm the enemy. This horrendous idea can be seen in such cases as the gangrape of

a 16-year-old girl by the rivals of her mother who had just won a local election. When she tried to report it, the police turned her away and she ended up committing suicide.


What can be done to mitigate this issue? The first and foremost issue that needs to be dealt with is the discrimination of women “The devastation that such an attack is supposed to trigger doesn’t and their second-class status. As everything is internalized from come from any sort of love or emotional attachment towards the a young age, respect for women should be taught from the crib. victim of sexual assault. It comes from the hurt ego of a man Putting an end to the acceptance of domestic violence is key, whose possession – the honour embedded in a woman’s vagina because when the majority of the nation thinks wife-beating – is taken away from him.” is justified, violence against women will continue. Blaming girls’ clothing and behavior does not indicate the reasons why Victim blaming is a driving force in why there has not been minors as young as 6 and 8 are being raped. Instead of blaming much change in the situation. Girls get blamed for the way they provocative clothing and putting forth efforts to ban skirts and dress; specifically western clothing such as jeans are considered uniforms for girls, teach boys about consent and mutual respect. provocative. Women are also blamed for being out late, which has A great example of this is the program run by the become more common due to later work hours. Pune based Equal Community Foundation. This Antiquated laws let evidence of “immoral” program provides a platform for boys to learn character (alcohol consumption, phone use, they should also be held about the experiences of girls in their community. smoking, having male friends, going out for fun, responsible for corrupting It hopes to bring awareness to topics such as etc.) in the victim be deemed a reason to drop sexuality, consent, and mutual respect between evidence, not taking their cases. These are some of the factors that genders, as these topics are often neglected in reports, and blaming the people use to determine if the girl was deserving Indian schools. woman while she reports of the rape. There is also this idea that rape is the incident consensual. People accuse the girl and guy of Hiring more female police officers is another being equally guilty, but believe the boys are option. Studies show that victims are more likely treated harsher. This is echoed by many male to report a case if a female officer is present, politicians, but when a woman victim blames it highlights the as male officers often refuse to take the report or ridicule the indoctrination of female oppression in society as a whole. Ms. woman in the process. A nationwide police reform is also critical Mirje of the Maharashtra Sates Women’s Commision was quoted as many police officers are complicit in crimes by shaking down blaming women for getting raped and asked “why was she out at motorists, looking the other way when crimes occur, and much night to watch a film” in reference to Jyoti Singh from the 2012 more. As well as of the 84,000 officers in metropolitan Delhi, only bus rape case. It feels like a slap in the face and a turn in the wrong one third perform any actual police work while the rest protect direction as to where the conversation should be heading. politicians, bureaucrats, and other elites. There are not many Even when girls report cases, they are not taken seriously and many cases are poorly investigated. If they proceed on the case, the court system is heavily backed up due to taking an unnecessary amount of cases, and the process can take years to reach a conclusion. It is unfortunate that this is the reality for girls in India. Many commit suicide as they are blamed and even ostracized from society. They are viewed as damaged goods, as they are no longer virgins, and in many places, victims are urged to compromise and drop the charges and even marry their rapists. Indian Americans are not exempt from these risks as this mindset is not left in India. Victim blaming and all other factors are brought over to the United States and have controlling effects on Indian women and girls in America. The topic is also taboo in Indian communities in America and thus most likely not to be reported even though there are better resources to achieve justice. Additionally, it could also pose a threat when Indian Americans visit India as they are more likely to wear western clothes and looked upon as having loose morals and seen worthy of sexual abuse.

officers protecting ordinary citizens, and available officers often lack evidence gathering and investigative training and equipment. They should also be held responsible for corrupting evidence, not taking reports, and blaming the woman while she reports the incident.

Wiping out the repulsive idea that a family’s honor is bound in their daughter’s virginity is a way to stop revenge rape. The sluggish courts need to be reformed by adding more judges so victims get justice and antiquated laws regarding the victim’s character are eliminated. Elections need to be run on more issues for womens rights and protection. Politician figures who have been charged with rape must be removed from office; it makes a joke of victims who live by the laws these rapists make. Finally, education must be the core of the change that needs to occur in India as many members of the older generation are already indoctrinated into the patriarchal society and ideology. The youth must be taught about all these topics no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Indian society needs to learn that there is no freedom if all the nation’s citizens do not have freedom. India, the country with the second largest population in the world should not have a whole group of its population fearing for their lives, their sisters’, mothers’, children’s, friends’ or wives’ lives every day. Just as Rome was not built in a day, progress will take time, but it will not occur without holding people accountable and establishing institutions that seek justice.

35 | FALL 2020

Not-So Subtle Asian Traits button that says accept. The first post that greeted you was the iconic Pikachu meme followed by a post about Asian parents making their children the dishwasher of the house. You find yourself scrolling through the page for hours laughing at the relatable content posted.

“It’s a very interesting place to share their memes and videos [and] relate to each other on the scale usually referring to Asian American daily lives and overseas Asians,” Jerry Phi said, a student at the University of North Florida. “There is a very focused majority on posts about East Asians.”

“It’s a good way for us Asians to get together to find a community and friends,” said a University of Central Florida student, Kett Potte. “There are a good amount of posts that I definitely relate to, especially growing up.” Though the posts on the group intend

“It’s a good way for us Asians to get together to find a community and friends” - Kett Potte

36 | FALL 2020

design/ Ilise McAteer

The posts on the page often centers around Asian culture in the eyes of the children of migrants. Albeit mostly considered a meme group, some Asians claim Subtle Asian Traits to be a space where they feel a sense of belonging. It has become some sort of springboard that forms friendships virtually and recognizing others and their very own culture, especially those that struggle with their cultural identity.

photography/ Tim Nguyen

Subtle Asian Traits is a Facebook group started by a group of friends from Australia that has garnered over 1.8 million members all over the world. It strives to “connect Asian individuals globally” to build “a community that celebrates the similarities and differences within the subtle traits of Asian culture.” Today, it is a place where Asians from all over the

world can bond over relatable memes from their experiences growing up in an Asian household, boba tea and struggles with their cultural identity.

by Chelsea Della Caringal


t was a rough day at school, tons of homework, and you only had five hours of sleep. You get home and open your Facebook account that you haven’t visited in ages. You’ve recently gotten an invite to join a group called Subtle Asian Traits. Thinking of no harm to it, you click the blue

to be lighthearted and harmless, there have been some issues about it that have been raising eyebrows. Ever since it’s rise in popularity, Subtle Asian Traits seem to have gotten more out of touch with inclusion. It has also built an idea of Asians being a monolith that does not exist in real life.

from Penn State. “I kinda feel dumb and I feel bad because [my] parents never put that pressure on me. Does that make me less [of an Asian] because my parents never pressured me and I didn’t get high grades? What your parents do doesn’t define your race. If you’re Asian, you’re Asian.”

One of the major issues for Asian Americans growing up in a state where Asians are a minority is fitting in. Being rarely represented in the media and having a hard time finding someone who can understand your culture is quite tough. And now there’s a Facebook group that’s all about people that had the same experience as you: people who grew up with the same tiger balm that cured all kinds of illnesses. But this group is suddenly turning into the middle school where only certain people fit in. It became a group where you have to be at some specific level of Asian in order to be considered a “true” Asian, in which being a true Asian means that you have to relate to a specific set of criteria to be considered one. You have to drink boba, your parents have to act cold towards you and people in your school thought you were weird for having an “exotic” last name. Subtle Asian Traits became a group where if you didn’t drink boba then you’re not a “true” Asian. It has made some Asians in the group feel inferior to others because they do not fit the set criteria.

Most of the posts have numerous influences of East Asian culture and accommodate those who are in the middle-class with doctor or lawyer aspirations. Subtle Asian Traits tend to overlook the fact that not all Asians have the luxury to enroll in a piano class, have the finances to have an option to go to medical school or even be able to have a skin care routine; it forgets that there are Asians beyond boba and straight A’s. However, most memes and other posts tend to revolve around these things that are obviously overarching the real Asian culture.

“It happens especially with people getting higher grades because of their parents pressuring them,” said Lin Zou, a student

Photo: Facebook

“It’s a whole different experience looking from my perspective,” said Brian Diaz. Diaz is a student currently studying at University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines. “I can relate to some things mostly because of the Asian parents memes but most of the things posted are a lot about experiencing a specific thing in order to fit in.” In her article, “Why I Hate Subtle Asian Traits,” Sarah Mae Dizon tackles the problems growing inside the Facebook group. She mentions that though it is harmless on the surface, “the Facebook group offers very little community for Asians be-

yond consumerism.” Most of the posts on the group heavily rely on the common stereotypes of being Asian and mostly feeds into these ideas that generalizes a whole diverse culture into one. Boba and other means of consumerism have become the face of Asian identity. The group itself has become so mono-dimensional that it prompted page branches like Subtle Filipino Traits or Subtle Curry Traits to open. Subtle Asian Traits is too broad for the real essence of what being an Asian is all about. The traditions and ethics have been covered by a false identity that has been validated because everyone can relate to it. But it forgets the deeper layers of being Asian. “Everyone has different ways of growing up. It just can’t be grouped into a single identity,” said Potte. Being Asian cannot just be crunched up into one cultural identity about straight A’s and boba. In fact, that is the beauty of being Asian: It’s so diverse that it cannot just be generalized into one identity. As we enjoy the content presented by our own experiences, we must be critical of just how much they limit our own unique identities. It’s good to relate our own experiences with other people especially with our parents but being Asian shouldn’t just be limited to that. Being Asian shouldn’t be defined by how our parents treated us or if we like boba or not. Being Asian is not consumerism.

37 | FALL 2020

by Mayumi Porto by Mayumi Porto illustration + design/ Ilise McAteer illustration + design/ Ilise McAteer

Spilling the Tea on Tea O

ver the past several years, there’s been an observable boom in the popularity of tea within the Western world with the emerging obsession many Gen Z and Millenials have of boba tea. Just about all of today’s young people, of Asian descent or not, seem to be familiar with boba tea; going to a boba tea shop has become one of the main places people go to socialize now. However, tea, of course, has been a popular beverage in the West for hundreds of years before this. Most commonly associated with the British, who dominated the tea trade of the West throughout the 18th century, tea has long symbolized wealth, class and an overall sense of poshness. Yet, with the rising popularity of boba tea (whose shops are typically owned by Asians), this notion of tea being for the high class is dissolving. Tea has an extensive history which can be used to analyze just how it grew to be a symbol of the colonial powers that came to dominate the East. There are various stories and fables that explain the origins of tea, with many scholars continuing to debate the location of the origin of tea. According to Joseph M. Walsh, a tea dealer who wrote the 1892 book that provides a complete history of tea until the mid-19th century “Tea, Its History and Meaning,” one origin story is that tea was created in 2737 B.C.E., when a leaf fell into scholar, philosopher and emperor Shen Nong’s boiling water

38 | FALL 2020

while he was replenishing the fire. Peet’s Coffee, a world-famous coffee and tea company, goes further and accredits the origin of tea to a leaf that fell from an overhanging tree into Emperor Nong’s boiling water. Regardless of how the leaf landed in Emperor Nong’s water, the Emperor greatly enjoyed drinking the leaf-infused water and felt the need to research the medicinal properties of the plant further. Another origin story, according to Peet’s Coffee and Beatrice Hohenegger, author of “Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West,” cites the origin of tea as having been when Indian Prince Bodhi-Dharma, who founded the Zen school of Buddhism, traveled to China in 520 A.D. to preach Buddhism. One day, during a seven year meditation where he vowed to not sleep, Bodhi-Dharma fell asleep. When he woke up, he cut his eyelids off in order to never shut his eyes again and threw them to the ground. A tea plant sprung up on the ground where his eyelids landed, and thus

meditating monks have since been blessed with the gift of tea to aid them in meditation. Despite the fact that the origins of tea are still disputed, tea consumption only became widespread upon the Tang dynasty (618907) in China, according to Peet’s Coffee. This was observed as a tea tax was imposed and tea became China’s national drink. Furthermore, it was in this time when Chinese Buddhist monk Lu Yu wrote the Cha Jing, the first known monograph on tea in the world. In his writing, he integrated explanations of different types of teas with notions that reflected Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian schools of thought. It was also in the Tang dynasty when tea began to spread to other nations as well. Tea was introduced to Japan in around 828 A.D., as noted by Walsh, when Japanese Buddhist monk Saicho brought back tea seeds to plant after studying in China. However, tea was not popular in Japan until around the 13th century, as it was only previously grown in monasteries. According to Peet’s Coffee, one of the most popular ways of preparing tea was by crushing up green tea leaves into a fine powder, which we now know as Matcha. Tea as we know it today, which involves steeping dried tea leaves in hot water, did not emerge until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Before then, tea was prepared by compressing tea leaves into bricks or grinding them in a stone mill. However, it was in this era in which the practice of drying, rolling and heating tea leaves in iron woks began to emerge as tea leaves prepared this way were easier to brew tea with as they did not require the use of a whisk. Interestingly, tea reached the West by traders much earlier than the Ming dynasty. According to Walsh, an Arabian merchant named Soleiman mentioned tea as the official drink of China around 850 A.D.. Several centuries passed before tea began to have a presence in Europe around the 17th century. Some Europeans, such as Marco Polo (1254-1324) who wrote about tea during his travels around the world, encountered tea in their travels prior to this. Regardless, it was in 1610 when the first known ship brought tea to Europe from Macao, according to the University of Minnesota. Tea secured its foothold in Europe around this time as the Dutch East India company dominated the tea trade and brought in tea shipments from Japan and China. Tea was brought into countries in Eastern Europe, such as Russia, by camel trains on the famous Silk Road as well. However, because of the fact that importing tea into Europe at the time was so time-consuming and required a great deal of capital and effort, the tea had a high price which limited its consumption to royals and aristocrats, who regarded tea as a novelty and as a means to connect with the adventure involved in exploring the unfamiliar East.

royal Catherine of Braganza, who loved tea and introduced the idea of tea time to the English court. Shortly thereafter, the British East India Trade Company, who grew to hold a monopoly over tea and acted as the imperial arm of England until around 1763, established a tea factory in Macao that allowed them to secure their first foothold in the East. Although the origin of tea has a distinctly Asian story, with connections to various Asian schools of thought such as Confucianism and Buddhism, it has since become a symbol of the wealth of the empires that colonized much of Asia. Drinking tea is a great way for people of all cultures to directly experience one of the most culturally significant beverages throughout various Asian countries. However, it is important for people to understand and respect its origins, despite the fact that it may seem like such a trivial thing. Tea has become so Westernized that many people have forgotten or simply do not recognize that it is something deeply important to most Asian cultures. When approaching anything of a culture that is not directly one’s own, it should be done with respect and of an understanding of its origin or cultural significance. The Westernization of tea provides a valuable lesson on the importance of experiencing seemingly trivial aspects of cultures different to our own with a respectful and informed lens. Learning from and enjoying aspects of different cultures are some of the best ways for people to become better global citizens; however, it is important that in doing so, we are not erasing their history and the significance behind such acts. With the emergence of the popularity of Asian-owned boba tea shops, tea is once again becoming a distinctly Asian beverage. Hopefully, this movement is one step of many that will lead Asians to reclaim the Westernized aspects of their cultures.

Within Europe, tea tends to be most commonly identified with the English, with customs such as tea time and tea stores such as Fortnum & Mason having amassed global recognition. Despite this, the English were not immediately drawn towards tea, according to Peet’s Coffee. Tea slowly caught on in England by women who viewed it as a genteel beverage, and it was in 1657 when the first shop that sold tea opened in the country. Tea also gained more traction when King Charles II married Portuguese

Drinking tea is a great way for people of all cultures to directly experience one of the most culturally significant beverages throughout various Asian countries.

39 | FALL 2020

Fresh Off the Boat: The Prejudice Against South Asian International Students

Somehow, growing up without Western culture and values, having an accent or a certain type of vernacular, or being too desi is grounds to be labeled, isolated, avoided, and teased.

“I noticed a lack of American-born desi attendance, despite our many advertising strategies of posting on Instagram, Facebook class pages, and handing out flyers. Many people have told me that they avoid SIA events because we cater too much to International students,” the former president recalled.

According to the National Communication Association, 40% The president then went onto further details about how they of international students from various backgrounds report not were unsure about how an organization like SIA can “cater to international students.” SIA is founded purely having close American friends. The trend is seen in many ethnic groups. Matthew Those who grew up in India, on the intentions to showcase Indian culture Stifler is a professor of Arab American Bangladesh, or Pakistan to everyone on campus and openly invites studies at the University of Michigan and are considered, by some any student, whether they are international, is featured in the article “Boater:” a term American-born desis, to American-born, black, white, latinx, or anyone of endearment or an insult?” written by Ali have too much of South Asian else who is interested. SIA throws riveting and entertaining events such as Diwali and Holi Harb. This article raises awareness about values or mannerisms. that welcome everyone with delicious food how the term “boater” is prevalent in the Arab community and it “likely evolved from the term “fob” (fresh and good music. It appears as if some American-desi students off the boat). The Asian American community started using the are avoiding SIA events because of the presence of international word “fob” in the mid-1900s to refer to recent immigrants from students. China and other Asian countries. The article emphasizes how terms relating to boats such as “fob” and “boater” are derogatory. American-born students may choose to disassociate from An interviewee of this article, Saher, mentions how “Every time I international students for many reasons. American-born desi was referred to as a “boater,” “it felt like an attempt to nullify my individuals are minorities in America, and thus can feel the urge struggle, experience and name and replace them with a tag that to belong and fit in with the majority group. In the article “ABCD: dubbed me as inferior to those who hurled the insult.” The term Who Are You Calling Confused?” Abhishek Tripathi, who is the coboater is quite literally derived from the term “fob,” and both the founder of an Indian discussion forum “Sepia Mutiny,” suggests terms have a similar intention of debasing and humiliating those that “racism or stereotyping against Indian Americans was pretty common and the last thing many wanted was to be lumped who come from their native country. together with someone even more foreign than themselves. Those who grew up in India, Bangladesh, or Pakistan are ‘FOB’ was an easy way to separate yourself, even if only in your

40 | FALL 2020

design/Dencie Devora

The Word “Fob” and Its Impact

considered, by some American-born desis, to have too much of South Asian values or mannerisms. International students may be made fun of for their accent or fashion-sense. Former president of the Students of India Association at USF recollects that when they used to advertise SIA events to certain American- born desi students, they would receive condescending questions such as “isn’t that organization filled with fobs?” The former president spoke about how SIA events mostly had international students.

by Raisa Zaman


here are South Asians in every corner of the world, from the UK, to America, to Australia, to any country on the map. Due to the rise of emigration from their homelands, two groups of South Asians exist in America. On one hand, there are the American-born and raised South-Asians, and on the other there are those who grew up in their native land and immigrated to the US for work or school. Within the millennial and Gen-Z generations, each group experiences different environments and upbringings that cause an increasingly large culture gap. This disparity exposes itself especially in college where there is a population of international students who come here for their studies.

own head.” Thus, in order to deter any possibility of seeming foreign or different, American-born desis detach themselves from international students. However, this behavior comes at the expense of international students and they feel this prejudice. Meet Ghevariya is a second-year USF student from India. He is an eboard member in SIA and active in the international desi community. “A lot of American-born South Asian students think they are supreme. Of course, not everyone is like that.” Ghevaria conveys. “But I typically don’t associate with American-born students because I have a hard time connecting with them. Ironically, I have an easier time connecting with white students than Americanborn desi students.” He makes it clear that this prejudice is not overt, but rather microaggressions. The microaggression can include him not being taken seriously and his comments being ignored, an experience Ghevariya has faced when in a Physics lab with a American-born desi student. Ghevariya speculates that this behavior may be due to Americandesi people trying to “convince them that they are just as white as they are.” Ghevariya was being isolated and undermined because of his international status. As he points out, there is an identity crisis that some American-born desis go through. Americandesis are caught between two cultures. One is the culture that is followed in the country they live in, and the other is the culture that is in their roots and possibly practiced only at home. Clearly, one of these cultures are dominant and followed by the majority, so it is not hard to be vulnerable to try to fit into Western culture by suppressing the culture from home. Ghevariya concludes the interview with this powerful statement. “International students want to befriend American-born students. However, sometimes they get turned off by the attitude that some of the American-born students have.” International students are not the only ones being labelled. Sometimes, even American-born students can be told they are “fobby” for unknowingly falling into certain stereotypes. Veenadhari Kollipara, a third year student at the University of Pennsylvania, shares her experience. “I have been told that I have an immigrant mentality because I am school and academic-oriented,” Kollipara states. “This person deems that I do not spend enough time being social and therefore I am like an immigrant. These kinds of comments generalize all immigrants as having one kind of personality.”

The first appropriate step would be to stigmatize the use of the word “fob.” “fobby” for acting or dressing a certain way. “These kinds of jokes normalize that stereotypical picture of an international student,” Kollipara concludes. Somehow, growing up without Western culture and values, having an accent or a certain type of vernacular, or being too desi is grounds to be labeled, isolated, avoided, and teased. Social media is a great indicator of the current social climate. Upon researching hashtags, such as #indianfobs or #desifobs, one will notice that this term is normalized. American-born individuals will call themselves fobs even when they are just participating in their cultural activities, such as going to a wedding or wearing cultural clothes. A picture of a girl wearing beautiful and colorful Indian clothing will be followed by a caption that says “Wedding szn #fobstatus.” There is a sort of shame in participating in culture, and thus one justifies or compensates by calling themselves a fob. This online behavior goes back to the identity crisis mentioned earlier. We want to blend into the majority culture, and add in terms like “fob” when we are perceived as different in order to mitigate feelings of alienation.

Building Bridges How could we mitigate the discrepancy between international students and domestic students? The first appropriate step would be to stigmatize the use of the word “fob.” No one should use it, and people should raise awareness of social media platforms of this issue. Befriending international students is another great step. Going to events or hanging out is a good medium through which one can understand others’ perspectives and values in a friendly and social setting. Many of us are first-generation Americans. Our parents were immigrants. We should welcome any international student and help them feel at home, just like how we would want our parents to feel welcomed back when they immigrated. On top of adapting to a new campus and college life, international students have to deal with coming to a new country and coping with the culture shock, and as South-Asians, we have to support one another.

Kollipara also goes on to talk about how someone commented on her wearing a turtleneck as being too “fobby,” perhaps because she was dressed conservatively. Dressing modestly or being academic-oriented are stereotypes that are tied with international students. Though there is nothing wrong with these lifestyle choices, no one should automatically generalize international students to these ideations or joke about how one seems

41 | FALL 2020


Why are Asian accents seen as inherently “bad,” and how does this stigma affect Asian educators?


ccents indicate where a person is from and whom they are. Similar to a physical appearance, accents are one of the most defining features of a first impression. Through different inflections and pronunciation, a person can catch a glimpse into the life of another. Growing up in Northern India and then going to college in the UK, Dr. Sujata Krishna – a physics professor at the University of Florida – is an example of how accents act as a reflection of a person’s background. However, something she has realized over the years is that her accent changes depending on who she is speaking to. “I’ve noticed that if I’m talking to a group of Indians my accent will slightly change, and if I’m talking to a group of British people my accent and use of words will change,” Krishna said. “I don’t think I felt very proud about doing that though. I wish I could hold my own and speak with one voice.” In many cases, there is a bias that people with accents are uneducated.

42 | FALL 2020

However, in America, this excludes most Western European countries. “It’s not a linguistics issue; it’s a political issue. Those countries that have had, historically, a position of power globally are the ones whose languages are revered,” said Dr. Diana Boxer, a linguistics professor at the University of Florida.

English is English, everyone understands. Maybe I can fix my pronunciation, but if I can communicate with a student I don’t have a need to change my accent. — Ryosuke Sano Boxer continued to explain how countries such as Britain, America, and France are well-known imperial powers, which is why their accents are respected. Those with a Japanese accent, even if they come from a country that gained an imperial status during World War II, are still looked down

upon because of how they speak. This is inferred to be because a majority of the countries Japan conquered were Eastern countries, and aren’t focused on in Western history. Dr. Alex Baratta, a senior lecturer of language, pragmatics and intercultural communication at the University of Manchester, offered another view. “Language in any form functions as a proxy for larger categories, such as race, ethnicity and class,” Baratta said. “If any of these categories are negatively perceived by others in society, then so is the language the people use. So accent is not really about sounds and judgements about the sounds – it’s all about what the sounds mean to the interlocutors [those in conversation with each other].” This might not make sense in terms of Asian immigrants at first glance, considering that the stereotype against Asians is that they are hardworking and intelligent. However, the stigma against Asians isn’t necessarily against them working their way up in America.

Rather, it is where they come from. There is a large gap in America’s perceptions between the Asia that leads in technological advancements and the Asia that is considered poor and dirty – the Asia that uses “sweatshop workers.” Those with Asian accents are automatically associated with the latter and, in turn, stigmatized. What does this mean for Asian teachers? Teachers with Asian accents, or accents in general, tend to be discriminated against. The general idea is “if you can’t communicate with your students, it does not matter how smart you are – you can’t teach.” While many might agree, the truth is not so black and white. English might be the most common language of the world, but in an attempt to become ‘global citizens,’ all individuals should learn to understand those whose native language is not English.

“We’re going to have a lot of students who have professors or TAs from other countries,” Boxer said. “It’s important to understand what they’re saying, but you also need to make an effort to understand that they’re from another place and not be overly critical.” Ryosuke Sano is a professor of Japanese at the University of Florida. Sano has found his accent to be less of a barrier than he originally expected it to be. “My English is not that strong, and my students understand that,” Sano said. “Maybe they feel sometimes uncomfortable, but most of the time I think they understand.”

by Marium Abdulhussein

Sano echoed a similar sentiment to Boxer, saying, “When I was in undergrad I thought I should change my accent, but as I grew older I realized everyone has an accent. English is English, everyone understands. Maybe I can fix my pronunciation, but if I can communicate with a student I don’t have any need to change my accent.”

photography/Tejasvi Dudipalla

Vandana Bakshi Haller, a language arts teacher at Allen D. Nease High School, is originally from India. Haller embraces her past, her background, and her accent, saying that those aspects are what make her a better teacher.

I find it my special outlook that I bring to the language,” Haller said. “I teach experiences, I teach analysis, I teach insight, and perspective, and that is elevated by my unique background.” For others, like Krishna, there are double the obstacles. She is not only an Indian educator, but also a woman in STEM. “When the students first see me there’s probably a little bit of ‘Oh, does she know her stuff?’ I am sure this is the same for many teachers to an extent, but being of a different race and culture from the typical American just makes it that much harder. You have to work that much harder.” As students continue to learn through Zoom and other online platforms, being understanding of professors with accents is all the more crucial, especially with audio being more difficult to decipher online than it would be in person. Accepting the educator’s knowledge, accent, and cultural ties will lead to a successful and well-rounded student body.

“Whenever I meet people, I make sure they understand that I have an accent and where I come from.

ठेठ अमेरिकी से एक ॳलग दौड़ दौड़ ॴेर संरक्षित हाेने के नाते बस यह है कि बहुत कठिन आप काम कि बहु कठिन बनाता है

design/Mercy Tsay

Being a different race and culture from the typical American just makes it that much harder. You have to work that much harder. — Sujata Krishna

Blackboard texture designed by Kjpargeter / Freepik.

43 | FALL 2020

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.