Asian Americans Redefine Race and Racism: A Groundbreaking Program at Queens College

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The Asian-American community has endured hate for years. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened Asian American hate crimes which Queens College (QC) students have expressed concern and fear toward. The Asian-American Center at Queens College has developed a timely program titled “Asian Americans Redefine Race and Racism” to provide a platform for QC students to share their experience and to better understand Asian American history. 

The groundbreaking program is the first of its kind at QC. It serves to explore the roots of anti-Asian hate in America and the prejudices that portray Asian-Americans as “Eternal Foreigners” as the brochure explains. Behind this program is the esteemed Professor Hong Wu, the Director of Student and Community Programs at the A/AC at QC, and Dr. Madhulika Khandelwal, Director of the Asian/American Center and Associate Professor in Urban Studies Department at QC. Professor Wu emphasizes that “the current situation is not an exceptional moment.

The program consists of fourteen sessions that include many topics, from 9/11 to the rise of hate following COVID-19. Professor Wu is steadfast in her commitment to educate students and the general public about the issues Asian-Americans have faced regarding racism. She explains: “It is one of the first times for QC to have such a series of discussions on this specific topic…the fact that the program has been received so warmly by our students also tells me that our students really need such discussions. I am also delighted to see a number of faculty who have heard about the program and wanted to audit the workshop sessions.” 

In an emotional reflection, Professor Wu reflected on stories shared to her by many Asian-American students. One story reflected on the fear a student feels about whether their parents would come home safe everyday and whether they were on the right subway. Over the years at the A/AC at QC many students have told their stories/shared their experiences, many hold the grim reality of what racism entails for Asian-Americans. Professor Wu further stated that, “It is a right program at the right time and in the right higher education institution, like QC, where Asian-American students comprise the second largest body in terms of race and ethnicity.”  Dr. Khandelwal further summed up major points brought up in the wake of more hate-crimes against the Asian-American community. She added that, “Asian-Americans are taken for granted, they are treated like aliens. How can you treat a group of people like this”. 

The workshops have inspired Dr. Khandelwal to bring more Asian-American studies courses to QC. She emphasized how important it is to consider the historic nuances of these issues and why people need to be informed following this series. Anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. It is our responsibility to get integrated and start educating ourselves on why these issues matter; without this, we all get hurt.

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