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From the Archives: A tribute to Asian lives

, , and | Monday, March 29, 2021

Diane Park | The Observer

Hate crimes against Asian people in the United States have increased exponentially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, conveying the Asian community’s mercurial standing in American society. One day, Asian Americans are upheld as the model minority. The next, they are degraded as spreaders of the “China virus.” 

After the ruthless killings in the Atlanta spa shooting of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng and Paul Andre Michels, there was a public outcry from the Asian community, as six of the victims were women of Asian descent. 

The history of violence against Asians in the U.S. has long been ignored, from the deaths of Chinese railroad workers in the 1800s to the Japanese internment camps during World War II. After the horrific murders in Atlanta, the Asian American community made clear that they would no longer remain silent, organizing “Stop Asian Hate” vigils and protests to denounce the merciless killings and assert their worth.

This week’s From the Archives edition highlights the voices of Asian students here at Notre Dame to emphasize the need for education and encounter of the Asian American community on campus. To properly pay tribute to the Asian lives killed by racism, and to stand with our Asian peers fighting against it, we must first start in our very home, listening to the experiences of our Asian classmates through the years. 

Korean American student reflects on Virginia Tech shooting

April 5, 2012 | Edithstein Cho | Researched by Chris Russo

In her 2012 Viewpoint column for The Observer, Edith Cho (‘14) offers a reflection on the parallels of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the Virginia Tech Massacre. Cho makes specific mention of her Korean American background, offering yet another layer of insight in light of the fatal shootings at three spas in and around Atlanta.

Penned in the wake of Martin’s death, Cho reflects on her mindset nearly five years prior, on April 16, 2007, the day after Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people, including himself. She describes the strong “chord of fear” that struck her and her mother. The dread was so overwhelming she almost did not attend school the day after the shooting. Although she attended high school over 1,000 miles away in the Twin Cities, she was concerned that her race and her last name, “Cho,” would spur misplaced retaliation from grieving classmates.

Cho was not alone in her concerns. Student newspapers voiced concerns of future harassment of Asian American and Korean American students on campuses. The fear also spread through the Korean American communities at large. With over 1.7 million Korean Americans in the U.S., Cho notes that “communities across the nation froze when they learned” about the massacre.

This fear of racial vilification stems from past experiences when Asian Americans have been isolated during times of hardship. Social and political movements have isolated Asian Americans during periods of mass immigration at the turn of the 20th century, World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic. Cho also cites the death of Martin and the 1992 Los Angeles riots as examples of racialized conflicts that have transcended to affect ethnic communities at large. 

Fearing her accumulating makeup work, Cho chose to attend school on April 16, 2007. But she was shocked by her classmates’ general obliviousness regarding the shooting, reflecting “what turned my world around seemed to have affected no one else.” She was disappointed by the response because it seemed repressive rather than constructive. Aware of her shared Korean heritage with the shooter, Cho was prepared to “distance [herself] from the shooter’s identity,” highlighting what she referred to as undermining “my belief in the dignity everyone deserves.”  

She expands this concern to include what she witnessed on campus regarding the Trayvon Martin case. “By not talking about it, we will not learn about how different individuals are affected,” Cho wrote.

This notion has survived in the years since Cho’s column was published. Following the deaths of eight people in the Atlanta spa shooting, including six women of Asian descent, Cho’s concerns remain a powerful reminder. Obliviousness only avoids the discomfort that stems from discussions of race. Without conversation, “we will not know how race plays a role in the workings of our world.”

2002 production of Asian Allure educates, entertains, reaches new heights

Nov. 8, 2002 | Linda Skalski | Researched by Evan McKenna 

On Nov. 8, 2002, News Writer Linda Skalski (‘05) previewed the Asian American Association’s production of Asian Allure, a set of performances dedicated to showcasing the broad range of Asian American culture and tradition through song, dance and fashion. The 2002 production adopted the theme “Generazians: Bridging the Gap,” in hopes of encompassing both traditional and modern Asian culture through its performances.

Observer archives, Nov. 8, 2002
Performers at 2002’s production of Asian Allure strike a pose for cheering audience.

The seventh annual Asian Allure seemed to be continuing a trend of rising popularity — after an overcrowded Washington Hall forced audience members to the floor in previous years, the event’s coordinators in 2002 limited the crowd to saved seats only, and the auditorium sold out days before the event.

Asian Allure 2002 also featured the first guest group in the production’s history: Ma’arte Tribe Productions from Michigan State, who were slated to perform a spoken-word act. The group expressed interest in joining the event’s setlist after seeing the previous year’s production, and their idea was met with enthusiasm from the event’s production staff.

“The Asian American community here is so small that we’re always welcoming opportunities to network and interact with other Asian American communities,” said Elizabeth Tran, president of the Asian American Association.

Sponsored by Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Asian Allure 2002 was to include over 120 performers from a variety of cultural student organizations. The Korean Student Association, for example, performed a contemporary dance routine to a song by Korean pop band High-Five of Teenagers.

“We’re trying to represent Korean and our culture in present day,” said Shawn Park, a performer in the group. “We want to show the new generation of Korean adolescents and other Asian countries.” 

Other headliners included the Filipino American Student Organization and the Indian/Pakistan Association, as well as other ethnic and non-ethnic student groups. Elizabeth Tran commended the show’s commitment to diversity, celebrating the production’s role as an outlet for cultural expression.

“As a student run show, I think it is successful because students are excited about sharing their heritage, not just those with Asian American backgrounds, but all ethnic backgrounds,” Tran said.

Senior and four-year Asian Allure performer Pricilla Ro (‘03) also emphasized the show’s ability to unify — bringing students together, aiding cultural understanding and integrating the past and present.

“Compared to the past, we are really focusing on fusing the past and present together,” Ro said. “In the past, the show wasn’t as united, it was a whole bunch of acts doing individual things, but this year there is a stronger sense of unity.” 

Observer archives, Nov. 8, 2002

Asian American students celebrate their heritage in The Observer

Nov. 4, 2011 | Trixie AmoradoMarch 17, 1994 | Theresa Lie | Researched by Jim Moster

Asian American students at Notre Dame have found many opportunities to celebrate and share their heritage with the community. Prior to the Asian Allure fashion show in 2011, sophomore Trixie Amorado (‘14) wrote to The Observer discussing “[her] Asian home at ND” and what Asian Allure means to her.

Growing up, Amorado had little pride in her Filipino culture. While she “wasn’t ashamed of being Filipino,” Amorado did not think her culture was worth sharing with others. After arriving at Notre Dame, Amorado’s attitude changed. She found herself surrounded by Asians for the first time in her life. Many of her Filipino friends understood her family’s traditions and language. Soon, she was calling her Asian friends her “second family, full of ‘ate’s’ (big sisters) and ‘kuya’s’ (big brothers) and ‘adings’ (little sister/brother).” In light of all the Asian community had given her, Amorado felt a deep joy participating in Asian Allure.

In 1994, another student wrote to The Observer connecting her background to a community event. Junior Theresa Lie (‘95) was born and raised in the United States but was surrounded by Chinese culture her whole life. Although her parents were born in the Philippines, both sets of her grandparents were Chinese. Lie embraced the uniqueness of her background.

“Everyone is different and unique in some way, and I believe that having a background different from ‘the norm’ is something that one should be proud of,” Lie wrote. 

Lie wished to partake in the Asian American Association’s Asian Heritage Week by sharing her story. The purpose of Asian Heritage Week, Lie wrote, was “for AAA members to share our varied and different backgrounds with each other and our fellow non-Asian Domers.”

One piece of Lie’s culture that she shares is a religious ritual performed by her grandparents. Anticipating that the reader might find this strange, Lie asks the reader to think about how strange one’s own culture would sound to an unacquainted party.

Observer archives, March 17, 1994
An illustration depicts the Lie family’s space of worship.

While Lie was growing up, one corner of her family room was dedicated to worship. This corner held “portraits of ancestors, sticks of incense in a holder, and a basket of fresh fruits [for her] ancestors to ‘eat.’” Another corner of the family’s house had the same setup, except for worship of their gods. Lie’s grandparents maintained these sacred spaces, preparing them on holidays and performing a prayer for their ancestors and gods. 

Lie concludes with a call for intercultural dialogue: “Get to know [new] people … In the end you may realize that even though some aspects of yourself may contrast, you in fact are not so different.”

Especially in these divisive times, Lie’s call for engagement with communities different than one’s own is the necessary first step towards ending racially-motivated bigotry, discrimination and violence in the U.S. 

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About Uyen Le

Uyen is a junior at Notre Dame, studying English and Gender Studies. She is currently serving as the Leader of the From the Archives Project.

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About Chris Russo

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About Evan McKenna

Evan is a senior at Notre Dame from Morristown, Tennessee majoring in psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing. He is currently serving as the Managing Editor of The Observer, and believes in the immutable power of a well-placed em dash. Reach him at [email protected] or @evanjmckenna on Twitter.

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About Jim Moster

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