Student Voices

This Michigan Ross BBA Is Reclaiming Her Asian American Identity

By Alexa Tran

I’m at a loss for words for what to say about the rise of anti-Asian violence. All I know is that I am heartbroken. I am tired. I am scared.

I have been struggling to process and articulate my thoughts on the proliferation of Asian hate crimes circulating America. I have been wanting to say something and do something, but I felt unsure of how I could contribute and add meaningful dialogue to the conversation.

However, the recent events of eight people who were murdered in Atlanta, six of whom were women of Asian descent, was the catalyst for me to start taking action.

Being an Asian American female and reading about the horrific events in Atlanta made me think about how those six women could have been my mom, my aunt, relatives, and family friends.

Since those tragedies have occurred, I have been reflecting on what being Asian American means to me.

My experience as an Asian American 

I’ve grown up in Ann Arbor my whole life. Ann Arbor is often referred to as a bubble because it is in some ways. It’s a diverse city that’s home to the University of Michigan and the Ross School of Business. People from all walks of life are here. Because of this, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had limited experiences with racism.

However, a vivid memory comes to mind where my race made a difference in how I was treated. It happened when I was nine years old. I was at a restaurant with my family in Ohio; we were the only Asian people there. People stared at us as if we were aliens, as if they had never seen Asian people before in their entire lives. Maybe some of them hadn’t, but I felt exposed like I was a zoo attraction or something.

I had never experienced anything like that before. After that experience, I became more aware that some people would judge me and look at me differently because of my almond-shaped eyes.

Reclaiming my Asian American identity

I am proud to be an Asian American, but there are parts of my Asian American identity that I haven’t always fully embraced.

Asians are often told to stay silent and not make a fuss about things. We should lay low and put our heads down. This is why it has been particularly difficult for me to express how I am feeling.

With the rise of anti-Asian racism and Asian hate crimes, I no longer want to stay silent. I recognize that I have a voice and can stand up for what I believe in and make a difference.

I am inspired by activists and people who are using their platforms to raise awareness about anti-Asian violence and to educate people on the history of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. I am particularly inspired by actress Olivia Munn, who is of Vietnamese-Chinese descent (like me). She has been at the forefront of urging people to take Asian hate crimes seriously. She has helped to generate awareness about anti-Asian violence and getting these stories covered more in mass media.

A group of friends and I have actually started an Instagram account (@thestopasianhateproject) to connect and engage with our peers in the Ross community for our MO 320: Leading a Good Life class taught by our amazing professor Dave Mayer. Our goal is to raise awareness about anti-Asian racism and provide ways to help and support the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

My hope is that people don’t stay silent and use this time to reflect on how they can make real change happen. Educate yourself. Donate. Speak up. Now is not the time to stay silent. We should aim to support and amplify all voices in BIPOC communities.

I hope you found this column insightful and learned more about my experience as an Asian American. I urge you all to read Michigan Ross’ Asian American Business Association Official Statement and Call to Action to find meaningful ways to support the AAPI community.

This story originally appeared on Poets&Quants.

Featured Faculty

Dave Mayer
  • John H. Mitchell Professor in Business Ethics
  • Professor of Management and Organizations