This collection from the group options members of the SAPAAC (Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Membership) Asian American Research Coalition from totally different generations sharing their first-hand experiences as Asian People on campus. Go to www.sapaac.org to seek out out extra concerning the coalition’s efforts to advocate for Asian American Research at Stanford. Learn earlier entries: Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022 and Summer season 2022.
Through the fall of 1973, as a freshman dwelling in Arroyo Home in Wilbur Corridor, I obtained a type searching for enter about actions which may curiosity me. The survey ended with a request to “price my Asian consciousness.” This try to gauge new college students’ curiosity in Asian American-themed actions was utterly misplaced on me, as a result of I used to be not but in tune with my ethnic and cultural identification.
Rising up in New Jersey, my childhood mates had been descendants of Ellis Island immigrants who got here from Europe. I used to be aware of the challenges their grannies and papaws had overcome to study English, set up abilities and supply for his or her households. Nonetheless, I had no appreciation for the expertise of tens of 1000’s of Japanese People who had been pressured to go away their properties, mates, land, companies and belongings in early 1942. I solely vaguely recalled tales from my very own cousins about dwelling in horse stalls on the Santa Anita Racetrack or celebrating a brand new child sister in barracks amid sagebrush and cactus.
Sadly, Stanford College within the Seventies didn’t present a lot educational schooling in these issues. Past an occasional “research break bao” on the student-run Folks’s Teahouse in Junipero — later renamed Okada Home in 1979 — I remained solely vaguely conscious of our group’s footprint. Whereas I used to be at Stanford, Asian People represented simply 4.9 p.c of the undergraduate scholar physique.
Solely later did I come to understand the enormity of the injustice towards Japanese People, via researching my very own dad’s story. He sought to keep away from incarceration with roughly 5,000 different “voluntary evacuees,” escaping from Pasadena to Utah in early 1942, solely to be arrested twice and held on the Alien Detention Middle in Missoula, Montana. He was finally paroled and allowed to return to his life and career as a photographer.
Extra broadly, the circumstances Japanese People confronted had been absurd, and the frustration they endured in internment camps and alien detention facilities was unimaginable. I can’t fathom leaving my house and job with solely a few suitcases, after which returning years later to start out over — and even journeying someplace completely new to create a life for my household.
In uncovering the Japanese American story, I encountered two people with deep Stanford ties who bolstered institutional racism via actions that appear loopy and loathsome at this time.
A number of of our establishment’s early thought leaders, together with Stanford presidents David Starr Jordan and Ray Lyman Wilbur, promulgated the tenets of eugenics. So did Dr. Edward Alsworth Ross, a professor of economics and sociology from 1893-1900. Fanning a concern that Asian immigration would spoil the “Anglo-Saxon character of American society,” Ross reportedly recommended that “ought to the worst come to the worst, it will be higher for us to coach our weapons on each vessel bringing Japanese to our shores than allow them to land.” He was finally fired, partly for his advocacy of eugenics.
A proud Stanford alumnus, Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen ’29 L.L.B. ’32 — who, apparently, denied his Jewish religion to hitch the Theta Delts, and altered the spelling of his final identify from “Bendetson” in 1942 in an try to seem Danish — additionally spearheaded virulent anti-Asian efforts. He’s described because the chief architect behind President Franklin Roosevelt’s Government Order 9066, which licensed the exclusion of 120,000 Japanese People from the West Coast. The sweeping motion ordered any individual, irrespective of their age, who had “one drop of Japanese blood” to be confined.
All this was unknown to me after I was on campus within the Seventies: there have been no Asian American Research programs. I want I had been invited to class discussions about America slamming the door on immigrants from China and stopping Japanese from turning into naturalized residents. I want I had been in a position to find out about Colonel Bendetsen’s function within the mass incarceration of a whole era dwelling on our West Coast. As a substitute, I waltzed via a lot of my life with out appreciating these gorgeous injustices.
In 2023, Asian People make up greater than one-quarter of undergraduates and 19.6% of our total scholar physique. Our group acknowledges the complicated historical past of the Asian American expertise, even with out being prompted by a scholar survey. However does Stanford consider the identical?
College students should study concerning the unjust, exclusionist and politically motivated actions — together with these initiated by Stanford alumni and school — which have impacted Asian American lives and our collective tradition.
It has been gradual going because the founding of the Asian American-theme dorm in 1971, greater than 50 years in the past — and over 25 years because the institution of an Asian American Research program at Stanford. This system was habitually underfunded and uncared for, and there have been years when probably the most primary “Introduction to Asian American Research” course was not even supplied. Let’s not power college students to go elsewhere for Asian American Research when Stanford has the potential to create these studying experiences.
This college 12 months, we now have a brand new Affiliate Director of Asian American Research. And due largely to the passion and generosity of the Stanford Asian American Research Endowment Initiative (SAASEI), we lastly see the College administration, the Workplace of Growth and the College of Humanities and Science collaborating to assist a brand new Asian American analysis middle. That is a tremendous begin, with the potential to develop into a strong schooling and analysis program — and hopefully an indication that the College now considers Asian American Research an instructional precedence.
There’s way more to be carried out — and we will likely be watching intently to see that the College follows via on these efforts and extra. Might the Class of 2026 and all future college students be capable of select from a big selection of Asian American Research courses, reflecting our group’s range!
Risa Shimoda ’77
Asian American Research Working Group
Stanford Asian Pacific American Alumni Membership