Penn State alumna Srividya Ramasubramanian traveled from her place of residence in Texas to State College on Friday to deliver a talk entitled, "Geeks, Dragon Ladies and Perpetual Foreigners: Countering Stereotypes of Asian-Americans in the Media and Beyond," which discussed identity and stereotypes of Asian-Americans in the media.
Stephanie Orme, a graduate student, said she noticed the flyers, which advertised the lecture, hanging on the walls in Carnegie, the on-campus building that represents the College of Communications, and said she was intrigued by the title of the event and attended the lecture to learn more about what was behind the name of the talk.
Ramasubramanian used her experience of moving to the United States from India to attend graduate school at Penn State, as well as her research and knowledge she has acquired from her career as associate professor of communication and the associate dean for climate and inclusion of liberal arts at Texas A&M, to contribute to the talk.
She has her students perform “identity mapping” in her classroom and pick out words that describe themselves such as a “student” or “artist.” Ramasubramanian said some identities can become more prominent than others, such as disabilities.
“Knowing all of these aspects about yourself gives you greater clarity, and it helps you to understand that others are coming from different perspectives too,” Ramasubramanian said. “And understanding yourself gives you greater insight into understanding others.”
Ramasubramanian said there are stages of media portrayals, including non-recognition, ridicule, regulation and respect. She said stereotypical jobs of Asian-Americans are used in the media such as martial artists, laundry workers and doctors or lawyers where the individual is portrayed as the “geek.” She continued to say the race is sometimes viewed as more acceptable when they “act white.”
Ramasubramanian added it is observed that the effects of mediated stereotypes increases ethnic pride but lowers self-esteem.
Joseph Selden, Assistant Dean for Multicultural Affairs, said society should not have to “tolerate” others, but should “respect” each other for who they are.
“You can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines,” Selden said. “You can longer afford to be silent. You must decide the fate of our country.”
Ramasubramanian said we must be aware of the stories that are not being told, avoid bias and engage in inter-ethnic conversations.
“We will get through this time together," Ramasubramanian said, "and if there is any light in these dark times, it is that I look around and see so many people coming together supporting one another like never before."