Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays for the Asian-American community. For Asian immigrant families in particular, it is a day to gather with family and friends, celebrate with good food and drinks, and prepare for an auspicious year going forward. The last thing that anyone would expect on such a joyous day is a mass shooting.
The Asian-American community was rocked by the sudden shooting in Monterey Park, California this past weekend. Ten victims, five men and five women, were shot dead in Star Ballroom Dance Studio, a Chinese-owned ballroom known for being popular with older Chinese-American patrons. This occurred during a local 2-day street festival for Lunar New Year. Ten others were injured, and the gunman fled and tried to re-enact the shooting at a nearby dance club in Alhambra before being disarmed by locals. The Monterey Park shooting marks at least the 36th mass shooting in the United States in January 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive, and the second mass shooting this year in California alone.
Over the 2022 holiday break, the BC Law Impact blog is running a series of some of the most powerful and fascinating admissions essays from first-year students. These personal statements, submitted as part of their admissions applications, tell a variety of compelling stories, but the thread connecting them all is an example of the kind of person who is attracted to a BC Law education: one who is driven to work collaboratively with others, achieve great things and make a real difference in the world.
We want to thank the Office of Admissions, and all of the student essay writers, for agreeing to share their stories with us.For more Admissions tips and other content, check out BC Law’s new TikTok channel.
During the first thirteen years of my life, living in Hungary, I cannot count how many times I felt embarrassed for doing something that was only natural to everyone else at school: talking to my mother. The only difference was that my classmates spoke Hungarian, while I spoke Chinese. The difference is minute, but it was significant for me. As my mother picked me up from school and asked how my day was, I chose either to stay silent or occasionally, say “hao,” which means “fine” and is a short and sweet, one-syllable word, just sufficient to answer my mother’s question and to not embarrass myself in front of my Hungarian classmates. But the source of embarrassment did not stem from being different in general—it rather stemmed from being Chinese, as my classmates made countless “harmless” jokes about eating dog meat, or engaged in “well-intentioned” stereotyping about having “almond eyes.”
In support of the well-being of lawyers across the professional spectrum—from students in the classroom to attorneys in all walks of legal life—we have launched a Mental Health Impact Blog Series, in partnership with alumnus Jim Warner ’92. Comprising deeply personal essays by community members who have struggled with mental health issues, the series provides restorative insights and resources to fellow lawyers in need.Read them all here.
The Mental Health Impact Blog Series coincides with a Law School-wide initiative, which will include lectures and workshops to support and promote mental well-being. To get involved in the activities or to write a guest post, contact email@example.com.
The article below is adapted from alumnus David A. Mill’s full-page editorial published a decade ago on the eve of the first gay pride event in Salem, Massachusetts.
I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on Oct. 9, 1942, but I was nearly 50 years old before I began to deal with the reality that my sexual orientation was principally gay and was the root of my so-called mental illness. That realization was torture for me, a culmination of a half-century of guilt and shame. I still shudder to recall the terrible isolation of that journey.
As a young boy learning to fish in the Danvers Mill Pond, I readily internalized strong feelings of shame into a core belief: I was unacceptably flawed. It crippled my sense of self and prevented me from following the normal, healthy stages of adolescent development. I was consumed with the task of hiding the fundamental truth of myself from others around me—first my family, then my town, then the Prep, my college, my profession … everyone and everything. I pretended all the while to be something I wasn’t. At the time, to me, it was the only way that I could survive. It was really lonely.
We, the Student Directors of LAHANAS, would like to extend a warm welcome to all class years, old and new to start the academic year! For those who are unfamiliar with who we are, LAHANAS is the student-led umbrella organization that supports BC Law’s affinity student groups, including the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), Black Law Students Association (BLSA), Disability Law Students Association (DLSA), Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA), Lambda Law Students Association, Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA), Native American Law Students Association (NALSA), and South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA).
We recognize that being a law school student is hard enough as it is, and to have an intersectional and supportive network that you can rely on is key to your success. We work not only with the above mentioned affinity groups, but other student organizations, the Career Services Office, Academic & Student Services, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs to create an inclusive and supportive community where you feel comfortable and safe being your truest self, even in the chaos that is law school. We believe in the importance of pulling each other up when the going gets tough and celebrating each other’s successes.
In short, LAHANAS is here to provide you with the support needed to transition into and thrive in law school. We are committed to making sure that diversity, equity, inclusion issues always have a place on campus and we invite you to be in touch with us directly via email should you have any questions, including those pertaining to transitioning to law school and the BC Law community. Welcome back again, and we look forward to being a resource for you in the ways that you need.
Elena Kang (3L), Ali Shafi (2L), and Jasmine Lee (2L) LAHANAS Student Directors
Writing an Impact post at the beginning of the semester is never easy. How to recapture the excitement for school after a month’s vacation and a return to campus in the middle of a Boston winter? 1L’s gearing up for round 2, 2L’s grinding away, and 3L’s wondering why we are still on campus. In addition, with the latest Covid surge, another round of “when will this all be over” doesn’t exactly help the cause.
But in this case the answer of what to write about seemed clear to me: my experiences in the Innocence Clinic working for my client. While I am not able to disclose many of the details about his case, I can say that my client had a clean record both before and after the arson he was wrongfully convicted of, and that our clinic recently filed a motion for new trial looking to overturn his conviction using newly discovered evidence that demonstrates his innocence nearly twenty years later.
Earlier this week, I decided to organize my files on my laptop and delete ones that I no longer need. As I came across my folders from 1L, I started skimming through my old outlines and class notes (ew) to figure out which files I could delete. Eventually, I came across my folder titled “1L Summer Applications.” It had 177 files. This folder contains various versions of my resume, some writing samples, and cover letters for all the jobs I’d applied for during my 1L year. I had hoped to secure a prestigious firm position for my 1L summer, but it didn’t happen. Although I don’t technically need those files anymore, I decided to keep them all. They remind me of my journey and growth since 1L. Today, as a 3L, I am grateful for ultimately having secured the position of my 1L dreams. To the outsider, it might appear that it was handed to me or that it came easy. But it’s not so black-and-white.
From the start of my fall semester of 1L, I met with CSO often to strategize how and where to apply for 1L summer positions. I networked with at least 2 alumni a week, hoping to just talk to as many people and learn as much as I could about the industry. I spent hours weekly finding and applying to positions on my own. When my 1L summer goals didn’t quite work out, I was crushed. I was afraid things wouldn’t work out for me, ever (silly, I know). I began working even harder. In October of 2L, I ultimately landed the interview (and subsequent offer) of my dreams. But before I heard the “yes” from my position, I heard over 80 “no’s.”
“By welcoming such a large class of Black students, Boston College Law School has demonstrated that Black education, issues, and lives matter. We are not token students, but rather our voices and experiences are welcomed and sought after by the Law School. This new class of future Black lawyers will enrich our community as a school and as a profession.”
John-Henry Marley, BC Law Class of 2021
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) has dominated conversations in almost every institution in the United States over the past few years. Whether sparked by the cultural backlash to President Obama’s election, or the rise of Black Lives Matter movement, or perhaps simply an overall reckoning of the need to repair past discriminatory harm, many schools and workplaces have adopted DEI into their core values and strategic plans. Unfortunately, that’s usually where the conversation ends. DEI goals often stay just that: goals without action or results.
I want to make it clear that this article is not reflective of every single immigrant student’s story here at BC Law. Every experience is different, but I hope that my fellow immigrant first-gen students who read this article might relate to the internal conflict I feel as a student in law school. I also fully believe that one does not have to be an immigrant to relate to the sentiments here. I hope this can help other students feel heard and not alone.
Whether it’s the sentiment of feeling like I don’t quite belong, or the constant internal turmoil concerning my career path, a big portion of my experience as a law student has been shaped by my immigrant identity–and perhaps not in the healthiest way.
My mother works from 9AM to 7PM, 7 days a week in her small beauty supply store in Brooklyn. She moved here over 20 years ago when the “American Dream” was still a prevalent sentiment that encouraged immigrants to move and seek out better lives for their children, notwithstanding the fact that the “American Dream” is mostly a myth for people who are not on equal footing with those who were already born with qualities that are favored in this country. While she worries about affording the next rent payment on the store or ordering enough products to stock her shelves, my worries mostly lie with struggling to understand the Rule of Perpetuities.
Today I am hosting a guest post from my friend and classmate, Yeram Choi. -Ian Ramsey-North
A vast majority of us have been called by an incorrect name, other than the one assigned to us at birth, for a myriad of reasons.As a Korean American, however, it is a common occurrence for me as I bear “The Cost of Being an ‘Interchangeable Asian.” The weight of this burden ranges from a quick laugh at Starbucks when I see the wrong name on my order, to a deep sense of shame when others call me by an incorrect name in the classroom or at the workplace. In every instance, I am called by the name of another Asian individual in the room.
Growing up, I heard every phonetic variation of “Yeram” you could possibly imagine, but I did not really mind. I unabashedly corrected others when they mispronounced it because I was proud of my unique name. Every day promised a new adventure as I heard yet another version of my name. But, I eventually hit a wall in high school. Fueled by teenage angst on top of years of exacerbation, I assigned myself an “English name” and vowed to live the rest of my life as “Leah.”
Admittedly, this abrupt decision spawned a disjointed approach to my identity. On the one hand, “Yeram” desired to stay loyal to her Korean heritage. This would be the natural thing to do, since she was born and raised in South Korea. On the other hand, “Leah” simply wanted others to get her name right, without unnecessary, emotional exertion. In that moment when I decided to go by an “easier” name, however, my sense of urgency to assimilate as “Leah” trumped my desire to stay true to my cultural roots as “Yeram.”
“Sometimes I wonder if the Asian American experience is what it’s like when you’re thinking about everyone else, but no one is thinking about you.”
Let’s talk about this past week and the hate crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans the last few days in Oakland Let’s talk about this past year and our past period in American history This neglected narrative This invisible experience
While the country does its annual round of capitalizing off of Lunar New Year this weekend, I think about the Asian Americans who will spend what is supposed to be one of the most festive and important holidays in their culture cowering instead of celebrating Let me tell you about the attacks that have been happening because you won’t find them headlining on national news A conversation that is long overdue
An 84 year old Thai man was attacked in bright daylight and died from his injuries Vicha Ratanapakdee Say his name and pronounce all. of. it.
Numerous robberies and assaults in Oakland’s Chinatown A 91 year old man was pushed down It was like watching my own grandfather get slammed into the pavement Look up the video on your own if you want to see it but I refuse to circulate Trauma Porn – my trauma, your porn Non-POC: You cannot fathom how personally traumatizing it is to watch these videos
Faces slashed, grandmothers set on fire The sheer volume of violence is staggering I’m having a hard time grappling with this inhumanity against our elderly Our elders Who are revered and respected in our culture in a way unlike the culture of this country Who rose from the ruins of a broken nation seeking solace Searching for a better life in the Land of Opportunity that only knew them by the word Foreigner
In the wake of these assaults there is one word that comes to mind A word that has been grinded and conditioned into the Asian American experience: Invisible Anti-Asian sentiment since the beginning of this pandemic Targeted hate crimes have surged by almost two thousand percent
Where are you, CNN? Where are you, my fellow activists and leaders of social justice? Deafening silence from the news media and our so-called allies Feigned outrage only when it’s trendy I am traumatized by your apathy
You cannot be anti-racist without acknowledging the Asian American experience.
Enough with the narrative of the Model Minority What is the Model Minority Myth? I guess I’ll save you the self-education And tell you about a nation that only respects you when you keep your head down and talk nice Get good grades and that’s the price of being tolerated in White America But despite staying out of trouble and being quiet equality never comes with being compliant
Because you see, the Model Minority Myth was weaponized by our government back during the Civil Rights movement to say that there is a “correct” way to be a minority The audacity of White Supremacy To give us a pat on the head for being silent To take a diverse race of people and reduce them to a monolith The audacity of White Supremacy To use us as their tools to undermine the Black fight for civil rights To pit minority groups against each other and further the divide
A nation built on the backs of Black people and immigrants Born with this burden that we were doomed to carry as soon as our lungs drew in the first breath The breath that got heavier and heavier with each year of life A life of N*****, Ch*nk, Oriental, “blacks” as a noun with a lower-case B, Dred Scott, Korematsu, Plessy Yellow Peril, Chinese Excluded, For Colored Only A life of imperialism and colonization and cultural appropriation A life of “I think you may have confused me with the other [insert indistinguishable face of color] in this room” and “I’ve never dated a [insert fetishizable object of color] person before” and “But what’s your real name” and “Can I touch your braids” and “Your English is good” and “You don’t sound Black” and “Your lunch smells funny” and “Go back to your country”
No amount of the Model Minority Myth embedded in deep interracial conflict will change the fact that we have always been seen and treated as secondary citizens If citizens at all
From a young age I didn’t know how to take up space It’s having to laugh off microaggressions because we are made to feel that the racism against us isn’t real – is miniscule, is just a joke Gaslit over and over We are told to embrace our “good stereotypes” I mean what exactly is our plight when we’re all just so good at math Right? But this Myth invalidates the reality of the Asian American experience Our internalized racism, our intergenerational traumas Our women the subject of hyper-sexualization Our men the epitome of emasculation It paints us as submissive and void of personality Strips us of our individuality It erases the millions of low income Asian Americans that exist in poverty It ignores the historic underfunding of Chinatowns as people huddle around what little reminders they have of their homeland It silences our struggles and shoves them to the sidelines This repulsive notion of white proximity
I’m tired of being told that we are not Oppressed Enough. Enough.
We are not your model minority.
I’ve said this a hundred times and I’ll say it again: The burden should not fall on people of color to be educators I’m going to be honest and I hope you will be modest enough to listen Because writing this piece was so exhausting So emotionally draining I wanted to swallow my words, swallow my pain To shut off my brain and just mourn in bed I wished I was privileged enough to write about Snow Day instead But instead I opened a Google Doc and my curtains and my wounds
This toxic rhetoric of “Your oppression isn’t as bad as mine” and “Now is not the time” Sorry but I didn’t know that racism had a sign-up sheet A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities We all suffer under the puppetting hand of this systemic oppression The problem is not us and each other and this underlying tension The problem is White Supremacy so pay attention
If your anti-racism isn’t intersectional, are you really anti-racist? Don’t ask us to shrink our space when we have already gone our whole lives feeling small I promise that there is enough space to go around this arena of Oppression Olympics that was designed to be the modern day Hunger Games Designed to point fingers and call names but we are all pawns of the same system So shouldn’t we be asking instead: who designed it? And how do we get out? Unity is not possible with White Supremacy But unity against it is necessary to defeat it The only way out is together Diversify your narratives so we can do and be better So that we can uplift all of our communities and stand in solidarity This struggle for safety This struggle for scraps of space at each other’s expense
But now that I’m here, let me make this clear: Asian Americans cannot find safety in the same institutions that terrorize Black Americans Although we are wounded, the police must still be defunded Increased policing is not the answer Black Lives Matter So we must make good on our promise from last summer To use our privilege and protect the Black community So instead of calling for increased policing that will harm Black bodies Let’s get to the root and provide adequate services and resources for all of our communities Let’s rid this false notion that there is mutual exclusivity in this fight for equality The solution lies in addressing this violence that is rooted in White Supremacy A violence that is not the violence that we see but the violence that is Unemployment, Homelessness, Wealth Hoarding, Redlining, and Poverty
So let’s turn this mentality into a new story One where Asian Americans can take up space unapologetically and speak their truths and shed their invisibility One where our white and POC allies support us openly by condemning anti-Asian violence in their own communities I challenge you to check your own biases and follow through on your commitment to diversity See us, show up for us, and take on responsibility Hold accountability
Marginalized freedoms have always been and will always be intertwined My pain is your pain is our collective pain It is our collective grief and our collective loss And so your fight is my fight and my fight Should be yours, too
Rosa Kim is a second-year student at BC Law. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.