Amerasia Week champions diversity with ‘kindness’

In celebration of Amerasia Week, Fresno State guest lecturer Dr. Patrick Hayashi, former associate president of the University of California system, spoke Wednesday on issues of racism, homophobia and gave an account of his life as a Japanese-American.

Reflecting on his life experiences and encounters with racism, Hayashi focused his lecture on how he learned to work with non-accepting individuals and how his weaknesses helped him grow into the person he is today.

“I found out about the history of Amerasia Week, and I’m really impressed with what the students have done,” Hayashi said. “With terrible things happening in the world, I think it’s extremely important to talk to people you don’t know much about.”

Amerasia Week is a celebration of Asian-American culture through events, lectures and other activities offered on campus through various Fresno State clubs and organizations.

Hayashi’s audience included students, faculty and staff of different Asian cultures as well as Fresno State President Joseph Castro, a friend of Hayashi.

“He is an amazing leader and mentor,” Castro said while introducing Hayashi to the audience. “He taught me so much about higher education.”

Hayashi said that he was honored to be a part of Amerasia Week, promoting equality and highlighting the importance of getting to know other people.

“I think this is a great university,” Hayashi said. “It’s very cultural and very accepting of diversity.”

Growing up as a Japanese-American, Hayashi recalled the first time he experienced discrimination. At the age of 6 one of Hayashi’s classmates, Mary, asked Hayashi not to play with her anymore, because her mother said Hayashi had yellow skin.

“I put my arm up to her dress and I said, ‘Your dress is yellow. I’m not yellow,’” Hayashi said. “I felt rejected, ashamed and completely alone. Only kindness could pierce my loneliness. Kindness is the most precious of human qualities.”

Looking back on that day, Hayashi said, when he first became exposed to discrimination was when racism both damaged and helped him.

“It helped me grow intellectually, emotionally and spiritually — it’s strange but true,” Hayashi said. “Because of racism, I feel a deep kinship with anyone else who has been hurt by prejudice.”

Fresno State sociology major Korio Masumoto said it was his first time attending an Amerasia lecture.

“I can relate to Patrick, because I’m Japanese too,” Masumoto said. “Being a mixed race, I’ve also experience discrimination. It’s cool to stand your ground no matter what subject it is.”

Christina Vang, a Fresno State senior and organizer of Amerasia week, said she didn’t expect Castro to attend.

“It was amazing that he was here,” Vang said. “It’s an honor.”

On Saturday, Amerasia Week will end with Festival Night, a mixture of all Fresno State Asian-cultural clubs that will come together to perform dances and other activities that happened throughout the week. The event will run from 7-9 p.m. at the Satellite Student Union.

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