By Anum Syed // Asyed55@hotmail.com
May was full of rainy days, college graduations, an extra day off from work in remembrance of Memorial Day, as well as the month in which Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are celebrated for their history, traditions, cultures, achievements and contributions here in the States.
Being an Asian-American, it can be difficult navigating between contrasting cultures. Oftentimes, the focus is primarily on our Asian heritages, excluding the fact that many of us are eating hamburgers, dissecting Beyonce’s Lemonade, and trying to scroll through social media without stumbling upon a Game of Thrones spoiler just like the rest of America. It is this reason that Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month plays such an important role. It is a time that not only embraces a person’s Asian roots, but it also reaffirms our role as Americans.
While there are a countless number of Asian Americans that should be honored every day of the year, listed below are three millennials who are embracing what it means to be an Asian American in contemporary pop culture. Changing the face of the entertainment industry for the better, Hasan Minhaj, Eugene Lee Yang, and Sana Amanat each embody the beauty of being an Asian American today.
Best known for his role as a Senior Correspondent on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning program The Daily Show, Hasan Minhaj’s quick wit and impeccable delivery has garnered him to be a respected, and incredibly well-dressed, comedian and actor. Being a first generation Indian-American Muslim, Minhaj’s charm lies in his ability to find humor in his race, identity, and religion. Other than for the fact that Minhaj is a comical genius, for me personally, Minhaj comes off as exceptionally relatable. While he embraces his Asian heritage, he also reminds us that he’s every bit of an American as that guy with the “Make America Great” bumper sticker. In a field that often overlooks the Asian American community, his talent and confidence is both empowering and humbling.
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BuzzFeed’s Eugene Lee Yang breaks any preconceived notions one may have of Asian stereotypes. One of the most recognized and influential members on BuzzFeed, Yang represents what many Asian Americans aspire to be; a talented producer and actor not defined simply by his Korean features, but for his creativity and skills. Not only does Yang excel in everything he does, just ask the other Try Guys, but he has also made it a mission to redefine what it means to be an Asian American without any barriers. While much of Hollywood continues to dismiss Asian actors in lead roles, that’s a nod to you Ghost in the Shell, Yang refuses to be categorized. He’s a reminder that we shouldn’t limit ourselves based on what others expect us to be.
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Rounding out the list is Marvel Comics’ editor and director, and all around badass, Sana Amanat. As co-creator of Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan, to say Amanat is an inspiration for people everywhere is an understatement. Not only is she one of the few females navigating through the world of comics, she is doing so by being a Pakistani-American Muslim. Growing up, I related most to the X-Men for their diversity and their desire to be accepted. While relating to a mutant can be awesome, Amanat has now given Asian-American Muslims, especially, a voice during a time that our country is filled with political controversy and racial tension. She reminds us that anyone can be a hero, regardless of their race, gender, and beliefs.
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