Sasha-Ann: So how have you wrapped your head around this recent rise in [AAPI] attacks?
Asna: You know, I guess I’m lucky in that my girls are too young to be on social media and so they themselves are not experiencing it in that way. But there are things at school right? There are students that will say things and then I have to deal with not only my own mental health in trying to navigate this world, but also trying to help my daughter (who’s currently eight, the older one) navigate all this and how does she understand what’s happening? How do I explain it to her? It’s been challenging. It’s not been easy.
Sasha-Ann: Has it affected the way that you raise your children? I know, of course you mentioned they are offline for now, but are you putting practices in place to sort of try to shield them from information?
Asna: Yes and no, I don’t want to shield them from information because I want them to be prepared for the day that they have to go out, you know, online in the world. But I am being very careful with how I word things. They hear their teachers talking at school, they hear the kids talking. There are so many students at her school that are online, and so there are questions that she has. So my goal is not to keep her in the dark. My goal is to educate her so that she can handle everything when it does come.
Sasha-Ann: Asna, what was your experience in high school?
Asna: That was actually the first time that I had people that looked like me. I went to a local high school and there was a very large Asian American community and that was the first time that I really was exposed to it.
Sasha-Ann: Were there Pakistani people like you?
Asna: Yes. There were, there were a lot of Pakistani and Indian students and it was just the first time that I had been around people that looked like me outside of, you know, my own family. And so I started to kind of come into my own. I stopped trying to push away my culture as much and tried to embrace it more. Of course, that didn’t happen fully until I became, you know, more of an adult. But I started to do those things in high school.
Sasha-Ann: Did the significance of your Pakistani identity come later in life?
Asna: Absolutely. I think once you’re around people that look like you, it makes it okay to act that way, it wasn’t (in my mind) okay to act like a Pakistani person when I was in elementary school, middle school. Because if I did, I would become a target.
Sasha-Ann: And what do you mean by that? What is acting like a Pakistani person? Like eating your traditional food, maybe?
Asna: Not just eating but talking about it or talking about, you know, the, the movies or the music or the clothes, things like that. It was always something that I wanted to hide, that was something that was done at home. It was not something that was done at school. And so I really didn’t start to merge that until I was later high school and in college.