Chef, writer speaks on minority stereotypes amid controversy
Famed chef and writer Eddie Huang spoke about his personal experiences as an Asian-American in the United States at Graham Chapel on Monday, specifically addressing minority stereotypes and how they manifested within the context of his childhood.
The Washington University Chinese Student Association (CSA) opted to bring Huang to campus after the success of his memoir “Fresh Off the Boat,” which focused on his Chinese-Taiwanese-American family living in the U.S. The book has since been adopted into a TV series of the same name by ABC.
Huang spoke on issues of cultural diversity in America during his talk, specifically the difficulties he faced growing up due to his race. Some, however, opposed bringing Huang to campus due to comments he made equating the struggles of Asian men with those of black women.
According to CSA’s public statement on Facebook, Huang made “misogynistic and racist comments towards black women under the problematic guise of ‘reclaiming’ Asian-American masculinity.” Some took this to mean that instead of uniting different minority groups, Huang was trying to pit these groups against each other.
In response, CSA partnered with the Diversity Affairs Committee (DAC) to co-host a roundtable discussion last month about the comments and resulting backlash and to hear from people across the entire spectrum of debate.
“CSA would like to clarify that propagating anti-blackness is not, and never will be, our intent. Our original aim in choosing Huang was to combat the apathy in the Asian-American community towards social justice, and we believe that Huang’s visibility as the public face of Asian-American activism will enable us to achieve this,” CSA’s public statement reads.
In his talk, Huang emphasized the importance of individuality in the context of minority groups. He said that people tend to view minority groups as a whole, and one individual as representative of the entire group.
Huang talked about the woman he proposed to and the way he dealt with the differences between their cultural backgrounds. He also described some of the pressures he and others faced from the Asian-American culture. Complying with his parents’ wishes, he attended law school and practiced law for six months before ultimately changing career paths.
“Let’s say you switched a major, or you went to a college and you transferred, or you did something that didn’t work out—it’s not a waste of time. You have to think about what it taught you as a person, and who you become because of those situations,” Huang said.
After hearing the talk, freshman Ashley Tsai said that it made her feel more connected to her Asian identity.
“I’m from California, and my area’s like 70 percent Asian, so I’m not used to being a minority. Coming to Wash. U., I thought I was disconnected from my Asian-ness, and I really liked the talk because of the reconnection,” Tsai said.
CSA Exec member and junior Kaleena Zhang talked about the choice of bringing Eddie Huang to campus.
“We think there’s a culture of apathy on our campus, especially the Asian-American community regarding Asian-American issues,” she said. “We really want to hear what Eddie Huang has to say, with his success and his visible face in the Asian-American community.”