1. Tell us about you.
I say the word colonialism at least 17 times a day. To put it succinctly, I’m interested in colonialism and its embodiment in indigenous peoples across the Americas, particularly in the highlands of Peru. In connection to this, I’m also interested in osteology and biological archaeology – so that’s looking at human remains, lifestyle, diet, and trauma when studying the colonial project.
I was asked to leave Machu Picchu.
2. How do you feel about feminism? Do you identify as a feminist?
Of course feminism has an incredibly complicated – and by complicated, I mean damaging – history. So, it’s complicated. Women of color, poor women, trans* women, disabled women, and more have always been, and continue to be excluded.
Of course, I agree with feminism in theory. I believe that men should actively work towards gender equality, towards deconstructing the patriarchy – especially gay men, myself included. Gay men invade and commodify womens’ bodies in sometimes much more covert ways than straight men. Misogyny in gay men is the worst-est. We make assumptions about treating women with respect.
I think about the women in my life who have shaped me to believe in justice and equality – and their models and conceptions and bodies were never included in feminism. I thnk about the exclusion of WOC, especially Asian women, from these movements. There’s so much historical exclusion – Asian American Black Panthers were completely removed from history. Our contributions to the Third World Liberation Front have been entirely forgotten.
But identifying with feminism is complex for me. I have a nascent problem with men identifying as feminists – I think allyship and standing in solidarity are really complicated things. Often, men who identify as feminists are looking for a cookie in the same way that white anti-racists are. That’s a common critical issue with allyship, though, I suppose.
3. Who is your feminist role model?
My mom and my dad were both incredibly explicit about race, power, and privilege growing up. They taught me to be critical about issues of identity when I was growing up, particularly about race. It was shocking for me to come to Brown as an 18-year-old to a place that is supposedly “liberal.” I assumed that meant racially liberal, but I was wrong.
I’ve found racism, both in the greater Brown community, as well as communities of color here. Anti-black racism is incredibly ingrained in the Asian community. The model minority myth is a tool of racism, used both to bolster anti-Asian sentiment amongst communities of color, and to further oppress Asian communities.
Of course, I grew up in the United States, so I am a racist, sexist, misogynist, transmisogynist, and more. But my parents tried their best to give me a headstart in unlearning these systems of oppression.
4. Tell us about your work.
I’m a Minority Recruitment Intern at the Admissions Office, which means a lot to me. I do outreach, hold open houses for students of color, and otherwise host a series of events for students of color, especially at ADOCH. Sometimes I travel for the job – so you know, I shake hands, kiss babies, all that fun stuff.
Some of my most salient moments have been talking with parents, who are weary for their child’s safety and happiness, although they never frame it like that. It’s interesting for me, because my parents had zero say in my college decision process and I watch family units send students to Brown University as units.
The work is inherently raced and classed, as it has to do with higher ed access. When I came to Brown, I’d come out about a year before in high school. I thought whatever work I was going to do here would be focused on gender and sexuality. But much of my work here has been about racial justice, which speaks to different priorities that I feel the university has. I have found this university sexually but not racially liberal.
4. What are you proud of in your work? What has been most challenging?
When students of color are admitted to the school, they get a phone call from a Brown student, usually who also identifies as POC. Up until last year, Asian American students weren’t included on that list. When I think about incremental structural change, if that’s the one thing I contributed to the university (which I worked on with Jenny Tsai), I think I’m okay with that.
As for the challenges, I have had an incredibly difficult time at this university. I have filled out applications to transfer. But I worked at the admissions office, and sometimes I felt like I was tricking people to come here. I was struggling, but encouraging kids to come.
The thing is though, that there’s free money all over this university. And if I can use it to get more students of color here, then it’s worth it.
5. Any advice for your freshman self, or to your younger peers?
This is a piece of advice that has finally crystallized, and much of it I credit it to Paul Tran. This university and life as a whole is not a puzzle. People are not puzzles. We are not designed to fit together perfectly and make sense.
The world is a kaleidoscope. Kaleidoscopes are built upon refraction, reflection, and interaction. That’s what it’s all about. Things are beautiful because of the way they interact, not because they interact perfectly. We should look to find meaning and beauty in things, but not to make them all make sense.
A lot of us grew up trying to “get the right answer,” but that doesn’t blend well with Brown’s open curriculum and freedom. You’re not going to find anyone here who matches with you perfectly and that’s kind of the point.
6. If you could be any famous artist, who would it be and why?
I would be Aziz Ansari! He occupies the “racial jester” role but in a conscious way, and I’m really about it. I love his role in Parks & Recreation – how he talks about race pretty explicitly but also takes roles that would normally go to white actors. He plays an interesting model for Asian American masculinity, and just the physical reality of him being an Asian American man but also being somewhat of a sex symbol is important to me.
7. Do you have any must reads / must views?
My friend and I are all going through a phase where we’re revisiting the young adult queer literature and movies, which we used to survive as queer youth.
One of my favorites is Summer Storm, which is a German movie about this kid who’s in love with his best friend, and he goes to crew camp. There’s an emotional sexual adult awakening reflected in a rainstorm. Watch it on Netflix.
As for books – this is weird, and I guess it’s a play and not a book, but I reread Hamlet every year. I love Shakespeare, even though it’s about celebrating classical whiteness. When I first read the play, I was a 16-year-old who had no idea about anything. It spoke to me in a strange way.
8. This might be too much, but – if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and why?
I wish that the way that people learned about American history was framed as an imperial project. American history makes a lot more sense that way and would definitely be more conducive to dialogue.
9. Favorite classes at Brown?
Human Skeleton in Anthropology – I’m going be the TA in the spring so holla at me! The second is no longer offered, but it was about migrant women workers, taught by a grad student (and all-around bad bitch) in American Studies, Maria Hwang. We talked about real ideas and conversations rooted in the readings.
10. Add a question and tag the next person (or people) that you are inspired by!
What’s the best and worst piece of advice that you’ve received? But don’t tell me which is which.
Tagged: Sydney Peak, Leila Blatt, Darian Suratt, Jordan Shaw, Katie Byron, Jamie Marsicano, Krishan Aghi, Paul Tran, Jonathan Cohen