Being Asian in America: A Photo Series from Bowdoin College

In October of 2016, Michael Luo, an editor for the New York Times, wrote an open letter to a woman who yelled at him to “go back to China.” He also tweeted about the experience using the hashtag #thisis2016. Soon, the hashtag caught on, and hundreds of Asian Americans were telling their stories. In response to this, the Asian Students Association and the South Asian Students Association at Bowdoin College created and launched a viral Internet photo series titled #ThisIs2016 with the purpose of exposing misconceptions and stereotypes associated with being Asian American. The campaign was part of the college’s “No Hate November,” and it features 49 photos of students holding signs expressing misconceptions and sterotypes of Asian Americans. First published on the Bowdoin Asian Students Association Facebook page, the photos feature students from many Asian backgrounds, including Vietnam, South India, Pakistan, China, and others.

From the Facebook page:

These are all real statements, quotes and encounters that Bowdoin students have experienced throughout their lives, and while we acknowledge that not all of the things written were intentionally hurtful, they are a product of socially normalized stereotypes and misconceptions. Additionally, the statements are neither isolated, one-time incidents nor are they the worst things we’ve ever heard — we emphasize that these experiences extend across time and space. We ask that you try to understand the participants’ perspectives with an open mind even though their full stories are not posted, and we also encourage productive open dialogue. This is our version of #thisis2016.

The photos include signs with comments such as “I say Hello not Herro,” and “I guess you’re pretty…for an Asian.” Here are a few of the photos:






The photo series aims to humanize Asian Americans and redirect the conversation to the impact of the comments versus the comments themselves. The students hope to raise awareness about racism and that by viewing these photos, non-Asian people will be able to better empathize with them and better recognize and take action against microaggressions we may witness.

You can view all the photos here.

*NOTE* The comments written on the student’s signs in the photographs were not necessarily expressed to the students during their time at Bowdoin College, but throughout their life and upbringing in the United States. All photos used with permission from the students.