The opening of UNC’s (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) Asian American Center is crucial for Asian Americans on campus. It signifies recognition and a step towards garnering support for Asian Americans and other underrepresented groups.
For the past 25 years, Asian American students have advocated for a place on campus. The consistent push from alumni and students in this student-led campaign had finally come to fruition when the UNC’s Board of Trustees approved of the Asian American Center. Without the efforts of alumni and students, this center may have taken many more years to open or not even open at all. As Joseph Jordan, director of Stone Center, says, “In its best days, (student activism) has created some of the most important things that you see in university life.”
Not only will this center advocate for Asian Americans, but it hopes to be a center that can be called an ally to other underrepresented groups. Preeyanka Rao, the co-director of fundraising and development for the campaign, said “A lot of Asian American civil rights we got because of the Black African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. But it is still important to note, we have to acknowledge, that there is still anti-Blackness within the Asian American community and that the only way that we’re going to see growth and change, and a stronger relationship between the two minority groups, is to have a really constructive conversation and discussion.” Not only is Asian American advocacy important to the Asian American Center at UNC, but advocating for the rights of other minority groups is just as important because racism still exists towards each other. In order to move forward and see a collective change, both groups need to learn to be inclusive of communities facing similar oppression. Rao has expressed her desire to see students engage in anti-racism learning through the classes offered, such as African, African American and diaspora studies, women and gender studies, American studies, and Asian and Middle Eastern studies. Educating oneself on the subject of anti-racism is vital to see a change among all marginalized groups as we learn to support each other while fighting the same battle.