by Helen Cui, Guest Writer, March 2021. Coordinated by Jacob Casper, Staff Writer
The Lunar New Year in China is punctuated by the distinct crackling fireworks, the low hum of chatter around a dinner table as everybody folds dumplings, and the shuffling of kids counting their money from red envelopes like tiny bank tellers. This year looks quite different:, the annual familial gatherings around food and drink are not compatible with the social distancing requirements. Despite these changes, there has been an outpouring of support and excitement for the New Year on social media. In fact, Instagram even included a nifty little icon for stories that will gather all of your ‘YearOfTtheOx’ content into one place. Furthermore, video games like Overwatch introduced new game features and skins this year as well. Yet, there has been one institution that has been decidedly quiet about the Lunar New Year: Nobles.
Aside from Ms. Lee’s email and an assembly announcement this year, the Year of the Ox has received little to no recognition on campus. Although the email was incredibly informative and thoughtful, it did not voice the significance of Lunar New Year for many Nobles students.
The Lunar New Year is a holiday on par with Christmas, arguably, more important than Christmas for East Asians. In Chinese, it’s called “Chunjie,”, in Tibetan “Losar,”, in Korean “Solnan,” although the Lunar New Year may differ in name, the basic focus of bringing the family together remains the same. Each of these words refers to the celebration on the first day of the new year that can consume at least four hours of a student’s schedule, often more because the Lunar New Year celebration usually lasts 15 days.
I was disappointed, but not surprised, at the limited information presented to students. In general, Nobles lacks multicultural spaces where students can be presented with information about other cultural practices or traditions. Aside from Hanukkah and Christmas, almost no other cultural holidays are recognized by the administration. Because of that lack of recognition, few platforms and events exist for students to share their traditions or practices and inform their fellow students of the importance of upcoming holidays. As holidays go undiscussed and unvalidated, ethnic minorities at Nobles are overlooked. Since the percentage of people of color at Nobles is increasing, having reached about 40% in the school year 2020-21, it is a shortcoming that needs to be addressed.
But, some may challenge my earlier claim of the lack of multicultural spaces;, after all, affinity groups like Asian To Asian (A2A,) Sister To Sister (S2S,) and Brother To Brother (B2B) exist to discuss issues surrounding multiculturalism, and isolation students of color feel. Clubs like Asian Culture Club (ACC) too, are offer another forum in which all places where Lunar New Year could be celebrated. However, these organizations are not meant to fix the problems around awareness of practices and other cultural heritages in the general student population.
In affinity groups, students meet in a space where they can feel supported through any shared situationsexperiences they hold about their cultural experiences like discrimination or heritage. In cultural-based clubs, members share customs and information educationally with other people who choose to be present and learn. Both of these models play important roles in the Nobles community, but neither of them are responsible for educating the Nobles population at large about multiculturalism. For example, after an A2A meeting ends, the whole student body is not expected to know about what was discussed, only the people who went.
The Nobles administration should show respect for significant cultural dates and uphold the interests of the entire Nobles community, the same way administration ensures there are assembly announcements and performances to celebrate the winter holidays or commemorate historical moments. By not including the Lunar New Year or other holidays like Diwali or Ramadan, it begs the question of why the school has not treated these festivities the same as their counterparts?. Although more people celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, there is still time to at least thoroughly acknowledgeshout out important holidays from the other cultures at Nobles.
Most importantly, when the higher echelon of authority at Nobles acknowledges a topic, there provides a sense of officiality. Cultural identity in high school is centered around small contained environments, this may help some students feel supported, but it can also reinforce an idea that the expression of one’s cultural identity needs to be isolated from the rest of the students at Nobles. If the school does not address lesser-known traditions during assembly or provide a place for students to share their personal practices, how are students meant to feel comfortable expressing their heritage to their peers? The recognition given to minority cultures should not be treated like a privilege that is earned but rather an execution on the promise of diversity, equity, and inclusion.