Nathaniel Hara

What does it mean to be Asian American? Despite growing up in an area with a high concentration of East Asians, Nathaniel “Natie” Hara struggled to understand this question. Similar to his friends, he excelled at school but at home he ate steak, pasta, hamburgers, sandwiches, and traditionally non-Asian cuisine. Additionally, his parents and grandparents spoke English and had graduated from four-year universities; much of his extended family hold Master’s degrees. Thus, in comparison to many of his “Asian” peers, he felt “white-washed,” “not Asian enough,” and struggled in this liminal space of being seen as Asian but feeling cultureless. However, at the University of Virginia, Natie actively sought answers and participated in various Asian organizations and took a class on the history of Asian American activism. Through those experiences, he learned that regardless of upbringing, being Asian is a gift and something to be celebrated. The Asian American experience is not a monolith and cannot be stereotyped into a singular story, but rather being Asian American encompasses a plurality of past and present stories and the communities they create. By serving with AALEAD, Natie hopes to uplift and learn about different Asian American journeys as well as unlearn his own definition of Asian American.

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