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What it's like to be an Asian-American, as told through 19 viral photos.

Students at Bowdoin College were hoping to start a conversation about race on their campus with these photos. Their plan worked.

What it's like to be an Asian-American, as told through 19 viral photos.

In October 2016, Asian-American New York Times editor Michael Luo posted on Twitter about being called out, on the streets of New York City, for his race.

Suddenly, hundreds of Asian-American Twitter users were talking about this. What things had people said to them, about the country they were born in?

One of the most poignant responses to Luo's tweet was a viral internet photo series out of Bowdoin College.

Bowdoin’s Asian Students Association (ASA) and South Asian Students Association (SASA) launched the photo exhibit, titled #Thisis2016, to expose the stereotypes and misconceptions associated with being an Asian-American.


All photos from Bowdoin’s Asian Students Association (ASA) and South Asian Students Association (SASA), used with permission.

The series was launched as part of Bowdoin’s No Hate November, a month-long program aimed at encouraging discussions about race and diversity on campus. With the photos, the students hope to show that every experience of being Asian in America looks different. They want to display the variety of experiences among participants too.

“A big takeaway from photo exhibit is this ability to have productive dialogue and have people ask themselves, ‘Why is this hurtful?’” Bowdoin’s ASA president Mitsuki Nishimoto says.

The photo series features 48 students holding signs that address common misconceptions and stereotypes about being Asian-American.

It includes students from China, South India, Pakistan, and Vietnam, among other countries. The photo series was first published to the Asian Students Association of Bowdoin’s Facebook page, and it has since received more than 85,000 shares and 3,000 individual Likes.

“I think the word 'Asian' has been used as a homogenizing term. People tend to think of only East Asians, and the rest of the Asian continent gets left out... It is important to recognize that while a lot of Asians share commonalities, we are also heterogenous,” Nishimoto says.

It also addresses jokes Asian-American students have been told about their race.

“While jokes might be told in a humorous manner and seem lighthearted, they still carry a weight. When you tell me I can use dental floss as a blindfold, you’re referencing a specific body part. No one is going to tell a non-asian person something like this,” Bowdoin’s ASA co-vice president Kevin Ma said. Even though Ma says he wasn’t personally hurt by the comment, he says other Asian Americans may feel differently if told the same.

Here are 18 more photos of students sharing their real experiences:

Overall, this photo series does more than simply display things that were said. It also redirects attention to the impact of our words.

“When people hear the word racism they obviously think negativity, they think, ‘I don’t identify with that term. I’m not racist.’ We need to redefine and rethink the word and what it really means. Though not all of the things that were said to us were intended to be hurtful, they’re still racially insensitive,” Nishimoto says.

The students hope that after viewing the photos people will be able to better empathize with the Asian-American community, keeping an open mind and standing up when microaggressions are enacted in the world around them.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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