Hunting for Asians | The Daily Pennsylvanian | Dephanie Jao | 11/1/12

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The following is an excerpt of Ms. Jao’s column on what it’s like to be seen as nothing more than an item on a scavenger hunt list:

On Sept. 28, when I saw two of my friends walking down Locust Walk, all I was expecting was an hour, perhaps two, when we could casually talk… around 9:40 p.m., we found ourselves approached by a group of five people. There were three women and two men — all white. They introduced themselves, explaining that they were part of a Drexel sorority event. Some sort of relay. A scavenger hunt. In order to complete this event, they needed our help. The prize for completion was $300 and they wanted to win.

“We need to hook up with three Asians.”…

After that, things happened fast. Without asking for our permission, the group tried to separate my friends and me from each other. One woman had a camera. There was a flash…

One woman tried to instruct one of my friends to make poses…

Suddenly, I found myself alone with somebody’s arm curled painfully around my neck, forcing me to face sideways. It took a second before I realized that the arm belonged to a man and while he forced my head closer to his, he slowly bent his head toward mine, mouth open, ready for a kiss. I could smell the beer on his breath…

“No,” I said. “No, we’re not doing this. No.”

The group tried arguing with us for a bit. The man who had tried to kiss me even tried to grab another passing woman. But in the end, they finally left us alone.

Of all the possible things that could be said about what happened to us, one thing was certain: it should not have happened. Not just the fact that the group approached us, but the whole event itself. It was horribly dehumanizing. All of us felt like we had been treated like animals, like convenient pieces to be picked up as a part of a collection. Asians are not Pokémon to be collected.

Asians are stereotypically perceived to be less likely to fight back when faced with incidents of racism. That still doesn’t make it OK.

Even though what happened may not have been the result of racial hatred, it was still racism. Racism occurs whenever people are viewed as less than full persons because of their race. The group that night did not see us as people or as students — but as items who fit a convenient category on their scavenger hunt: three Asians.

It took us two days to gather enough courage to report the incident to the police…

The perpetrators will probably never be caught. Though cameras caught parts of what happened, they only caught silhouettes. So where do we go from here? What will the Penn community do in response?

Dephanie Jao is a second-year Graduate School of Education student from Detroit, Mich. Her email address is

For full article see: The Daily Pennsylvanian :: Dephanie Jao | Hunting for Asians.

Special thanks to Joan May Cordova for bringing this information to my attention. You may find her on twitter @ForCommunities


About vinhsu

Center City Philadelphia General Practice Law Firm with emphasis on Criminal Defense, Family Law, Immigration, Real Property, and Wills/Trusts/ Estate Planning. Licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
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