SAMEAPI fails to acknowledge cultural differences

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April 6, 2009

April has rolled around again which means, for me, a mysterious throbbing below the surface of my temple has been revived. But it isn’t until I stroll into the Student Union and study the fliers and intricately decorated posters fluttering in the breeze that I realize the simple, yet plain cause of this annoying, throbbing pain. Yes, people – it’s SAMEAPI Awareness month.

Google the term “SAMEAPI” and you’ll find this categorization is unique to Mills, and is also relatively new. According to a professor in the ethnic studies department, the term was coined as early as 2000 to recognize the differences within the incredibly broad, and problematic term “Asian.”

While other schools crush the Asian identity generally into the East Asian, ignoring South Asians and the Middle East as a separate entity, Mills is one of few to recognize that there exists a distinct difference between each culture.

As the only Marshall Islander and one of few Pacific Islanders on campus, my headache stems from the fact that the mashup of these cultures shouldn’t exist in the first place. South Asians, Middle Eastern, East Asian and Pacific Islanders are all so incredibly different that the idea it’s acceptable to be thrown together as a last ditch effort to include the leftovers is appalling. Just what happened to the other eight months of the year? Couldn’t Pacific Islanders have gotten October or something? And just who came up with the entire idea of cultural heritage months anyway?

I appreciate recognizing and learning about other cultures – not to mention the dinners at Founders for those months are generally the best out of the year (let’s be real). But, at the same time, why should African Americans and Native Americans and Chicanas only get recognition for that one singular month? Why should we dedicate only 31 out of 365 days of the year to women? And what exactly are the rest of the days of the year? White men days?

However, if not for these cultural heritage months, these identities might go completely ignored in a country which seems to recognize only one shade of skin color.

And so the problem lies in whether or not we want our cultural heritage to be completely ignored or if we want to be pigeon holed into one broad category for an entire month.

It seems we must choose the lesser of two evils and embrace these 31 days. After that, the ignorant masses can go back to completely disregarding our cultural identity for the other 334 days.

Congratulations my fellow SouthAsianMiddleEastern-AsianPacificIslanders. We have arrived.

– Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, junior


SAMEAPI fails to acknowledge cultural differences was published on April 6, 2009 in Opinions

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