Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Group 6

HannahB's picture

Entry Points

I had a wonderful, thoughtful conversation with my friend last night—the one my last post referred to, in regards to his class background. I wanted to be upfront with him about the fact that I wrote about him for my class because I felt that, although my post was vague, he had the right to know that his experience was influencing me and was entering my thoughts and conversations. We ended up talking for close to an hour about what I had written and other related topics. Reflecting back on the openness and honesty of our talk, I have one nagging question that I keep asking myself: Why do I not feel comfortable having these same rich and important conversations with my upper middle class white friends?

In the last year or so, I have started to seek out individuals with whom I can talk through some of my immerging understandings of my own identity, background, etc. These friends are, almost without fail, either students of color, students of a different class background than my own, or other students who study education or who I know to be comparably as aware of their cultural identities, as I am. These conversations and the people I have them with stand, in my mind, in direct opposition to my closest friends who I live with. I live in a dorm with twenty other people, some of my closest friends, and I do not feel comfortable talking explicitly about race, class, culture, our identities—the assumptions we carry, etc. with them. (It should be noted that I primarily live with upper middle class white people).

rlee03's picture


Last Friday my friend and I went to Philadelphia, as we were walking down the main road of China Town we stopped to wait for the red light. It was then when a Chinese man looked at us and turned to the woman next to him; he pointed at us and said in Mandarin “Look, that one’s Japanese and that one’s Korean.” with a very stern tone too. I guess he probably didn’t think I understood Chinese, and I actually thought it was kind of funny and wanted to respond to him in Chinese and ask him why he thought we were Japanese and Korean. But of course, I didn’t. I think sometimes just as people, we are easy to judge and make assumptions based on looks, the way one dresses, and a lot more physical features. 

When I think about it now, it is like we always talk about microaggressions or racism and direct them toward whites. Yet, it happens so often between ethnic groups too. From smaller examples like I’m from the South and you’re from the North so we’re different, to issues more related to one’s “color.” This also reminded me of what we focused a lot on in my Asian American Community class, how we say Asians, but a lot of us naturally refer to East Asians, and sometimes don’t consider others as part of the “Asian” group.

jayah's picture

Damage Continues

In a casual conversation at lunch, a friend of mine, who is also African American, and I were talking about where were planning to study abroad. She was planning on taking a program where she studied at Spelman College for one semester. I told her that I was considering going there, but I decided to come to Bryn Mawr College instead. She made a face, which looked to be disgusted. I asked why she made that face, and she responded by saying, “I do not mind studying there for a semester, but to actually attend that school! You have to dress up everyday and I like here where I can wear whatever I want.” I immediately began thinking of another conversation I saw two of my friends having on Twitter. One went to an HBCU and another went to a different, very liberal school. The girl who went to the liberal school stated, “HBCU’s are party schools. When jobs see applications, they are not going to take you serious for attending an HBCU. It is a joke.”  The girl who went to the HBCU responded by saying, “all schools party, but they seem to publicize it more at HBCU’s. I love my school, and if you do not attend it, your opinion does not matter.” 

rlee03's picture

Where are you from?

One of my favorite meetings of ASA was when we were helping make posters for the ASA Culture Show. We all wrote quotes on papers referring to something memorable that happened to us or a stereotype that we wanted to disprove. When we were sharing these quotes that we made, someone talked about something that happens a lot. It’s when people ask us “where are you from?”

It's a difficult question to answer, and my answers vary depending on where I am and who I'm talking to. At Bryn Mawr, I always answer this question by saying “I’m from Taiwan,” just because it’s simpler than explaining how I’m American but moved around a lot growing up. But it’s also funny when people say “wait, but you don’t have an accent when you speak English…” 

My friends who is Japanese American grew up her whole life in California. She’s never been doubted for being from California until she came to Bryn Mawr. It’s happened multiple times where people ask her “where are you from?” And once she answers “I’m from SoCal.” They say, “no, where are you really from?” It always frustrates her when people doubt that she’s American, or when the question isn’t clear enough.

Are you asking where I grew up in? Or are you asking what’s my ethnicity? It sometimes feels like being denied of our own identity.

jayah's picture

Making Race A Campus-Wide Topic

My freshman year at Bryn Mawr, there was a large controversy within the African American and Latino community. Bryn Mawr College decided not to renovate Perry House, which is home to three of the infinity groups on campus. Sisterhood, Mujeres, and BaCaSO decided to form a Perry House coalition and speak out about the issue that deeply affected them, us. We tried to involve the whole community, however there was resistance.

One day, I was in the room with two of my roommates, both were white. They must have forgotten that I was in the room or a part of Sisterhood infinity group, for they spoke about the issue. One roommate said, “So what do you think about the whole Perry House thing?” My other roommate responded by saying, “ well, there isn’t a Turkish house, so why should there be a house for them, they aren’t special.” They both laughed. My other roommate responded saying it didn’t really relate to her so she had no opinion, and when they finally noticed that I was I the room, they said, “but it is sad they are closing it down.” I then laughed, but only because of their facial expressions when they finally noticed me sitting at my desk.

HannahB's picture

Recognizing, Valuing, Supporting

Since the beginning of my sophomore year, I have worked extensively in Haverford’s Office of Admissions. My experience in these various roles and, in particular, my understanding of Haverford’s desire to attract and create a diverse student body—has led me to think much more critically about the types of supports we provide to students who actually enroll at Haverford. It is one thing to attract a diverse student body; it is another to support and cultivate that diversity.  

In particular, one thing that really concerns me is Haverford’s lack of explicit support for first-generation college students and students coming from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Haverford has clear support systems in place for students of color, regardless of class background, including special weekends for prospective students, affinity clubs, etc. But I worry that a comparable system of support is lacking for low-income white students.

This issue first really came to the forefront for me when I learned that one of my friends was a first-generation college student. He and I had been casually playing tennis over the summer, talking about our families, when I first learned about his background and his journey to Haverford. I’m embarrassed to say that because of the way he dressed and acted, I had always just assumed he came from a comparable class background to my own.

Kma's picture

Gee, thanks for reminding me.

I'm never used to seeing too much extra money in my bank account, especially at the beginning of the semester with tuition payments, books, and supplies needing to be purchased. Because of this, I was very surprised to check my balance one day and see that I had over $5,000 dollars in it. I looked to see where it came from and it said "Bryn Mawr Direct Deposit" It wasn't payday, and even though I do work a lot on campus, there was still no way that it was a paycheck. My next guess was that it was somehow related to financial aid. I went to their office the next business day and learned that some people just don't have too much empathy or sensitivity.

jayah's picture

A Need to Shift: Damage to Desire

           I attended my neighborhood high school, which is located in an urban area. The high school is not in the best condition. The ceilings were peeling and leaked often when it rained, it had asbestos in the auditorium, the lights were dim, and many other things were wrong with the building; however many of the teachers were superior. Many students, teachers, and parents complained about the school building, even going on strike at City Hall. Governor Christie refused to visit the school to see the bad conditions of the high school so that maybe he can give money for it to be fixed or rebuilt.

            Although I found it disheartening that the governor refused to visit the school, what I found even worse is the comments that I read on the local newspaper website. People referred to the students as “animals in a jungle,” and others, who may have never even been to the school, commented, “why should Christie give the school money when many of the students do not want to learn?” I note that they may have never been to the school because there is obviously learning occurring if they walked through a classroom. 

rlee03's picture

Accents? Where does my "Asianness" belong?

Throughout the time I lived in Beijing, my mandarin has always been known to have a Taiwanese accent, and I sure thought so myself too. Yet, when I moved back to Taiwan for high school, I’ve had multiple times experiencing people asking me where I come from by the way I speak. I remember the very first time it happened was when I bought something at a shop and just happened to talk to the cashier for a bit. In between our conversation she asked me “you’re not from Taiwan aren’t you?” I paused for a bit and said “well, no I grew up in America and I learned most of my mandarin in China.” And she commented “Oh that explains why.”

That was actually the first time I have had someone ask me that, and this made me wonder myself what “accent” do I actually have? People in China say that I have a Taiwanese accent, and people in Taiwan doubt my mandarin accent. Where does my “Asianness” belong? I guess I would consider myself more Taiwanese since my parents are Taiwanese, yet the time I’ve stayed in China influenced me a lot too. It’s interesting to me how people can just tell that from my accent.

Kma's picture

A special meal, but an even more important lesson

     There’s a restaurant in El Paso called “Delicious” that over the generations has become a family tradition. When aunts and uncles who live out of town, and even when I go home for breaks, it is always a must to eat there. The event that took place I would like to discuss in this post happened right outside of this place, our favorite restaurant. When I was in third grade, an elderly lady began appearing outside the building, and would beg. Each time my parents and I went, there she was. It didn’t matter the time of day, how hot or cold it was… it seemed like she was always there. My mom would always give her a little something, and one visit when I was in high school, another lady saw my mom give her money and she muttered, “how disgusting!” Now, I’m not sure if she was referring to my mom giving her money, or to the woman herself, but no matter how she meant it was and is equally haunting to me.

Syndicate content