The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Nathan Hwang '22 RGLP Reflection:

Article Type 

Assumption-making is a very common practice today. Even though at times it can be helpful (such as saving time), it is often hurtful and discriminatory. It is human to have assumptions, but it is important to recognize them when they arise and reflect on why you made the assumption and what you can do to have a more accurate and inclusive perspective in the future.  

A common assumption that is made about many Asian American’s including myself is that we were born in an Asian country and identify more with that Asian country than any other country. The interaction usually happens like this: someone meets me for the first time and will enter the conversation with all good intentions and genuinely wanting to be nice and friendly but may create an awkward moment with the assumption they make on my Asian appearance. They will ask the question that anyone asks in a conversation: “so where are you from.” I then respond with: “Rochester, NY.” What they ask next is what is important: “No… where are you from from??” Here, they are either assuming that I was born in an Asian country or identify with an Asian country even though someone’s cultural identity is not necessarily tied to race. Even though I am Korean, I am also 25% Greek and 25% Irish and for the most part identify with the culture of the US.  

Interactions like this can be very uncomfortable, so it is useful to think of ways this can be avoided. Something I learned to be good is writing out different assumptions you have, especially about people who are different than you. This makes you more aware of assumptions and allows you to keep track of them more easily. It is also good to make an effort to talk to more people with different backgrounds, appearances, cultures, etc. and begin looking for similarities with these people. Lastly, I think it is important to remember that it is not likely that you will someday be assumption-making free and 100% interculturally aware, but it is important to get better and begin creating a mindset that is more inclusive to all.  


The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences