Fresh Off the Boat and Representational Anxiety

After grabbing a syllabus from the top of the pile and passing the stack to my right, I immediately flip to the calendar. Week 4. Week 4 is the one I have to worry about.

I’m sitting in a diversity class in my third year of graduate school. I’m studying clinical psychology, and while cultural competence is supposedly woven into each of our courses, we also have a class specifically dedicated to diversity issues in mental health treatment. The class starts with a few weeks on power and privilege, and then each of the remaining weeks is spent examining clinical issues in various minority populations: African American clients, Native American clients, clients with disabilities, LGBT clients.  The fourth week of the course is the one on Asian American clients. This is the week I’m concerned about.

When that class period rolls around, I’m a giant ball of nerves. I’m not presenting, nor do I plan to contribute much to the discussion; I’m anxious simply because I want us to be represented well. It’s so rare that Asian Americans get the spotlight in any arena, so when we finally get our one hour and 50 minutes in the sun, I really don’t want it to suck. This is our only shot, and for many of my classmates, this is the only hour and 50 minutes of their lives that they’ll ever spend hearing about Asian Americans.

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