Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Tracy Lachica Buenavista is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies and a core faculty member in the doctoral program in Educational Leadership at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). In her research she uses critical race theory to examine the ways that migration, militarization, and education intersect to shape the academic trajectories for Asian Americans, particularly U.S. Pilipina/os.  She has published articles on U.S. Pilipina/o college access and retention, undocumented Asian student experiences, and the militarization of immigration reform in various journals including AAPI Nexus, Amerasia, and Asian American Policy Review. 

She has also contributed to several book projects focused on Asian American and Pilipina/o American educational experiences, and co-edited with her colleagues, Navigating the Great Recession: Immigrant Families’ Stories of Resilience. She is a Research Fellow with the Asian American and Pacific Islander Research Coalition (ARC) and is involved with the Research on the Education of Asian and Pacific Americans (REAPA) Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Dr. Buenavista received her Ph.D. in Education at the University of California, Los Angeles and M.A. in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. 

As a professor in Asian American Studies and Education, I regularly teach courses that guide students to think through issues of race, equity and social justice.  I have noticed a trend that reoccurs in my classrooms, regardless of the course: the exclusion of Asian Americans, including those who are U.S.-born and particularly those who are international students.  I commonly rely on small group discussion in class and while such a method often facilitates collaborative learning, in many cases Asian American students literally sit on the outside of the discussion circles formed by their classmates and are prompted to join only when I intervene.  The hesitancy for both white students and students of color to work with their Asian American peers is expressed by the body language and aversion to eye contact that physically signal to Asian American students that they are not welcome to the circle, largely based on reciprocal misperceptions that there will be difficulties in communication.  The interactions are awkward, uncomfortable, and laden with racial presumptions of Asian American students.  For example, quite frequently white students and students of color accuse Asian Americans of being too shy or unwilling to participate, without taking responsibility for their part in the inability for critical cross-racial interaction to occur or recognizing the structural factors that shape such behaviors.

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