As a part of Asian-Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, Generation Progress is highlighting young Asian-Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs) who are working to make a difference in their communities. This week, we’re excited to highlight Aysha Khan, Co-Editor in Chief of PublicAsian, a news site that aims to be the voice of the APIA community on the University of Maryland campus.
A student of multi-platform journalism with a minor in Middle Eastern studies at the University, Khan was inspired combine her passion for editing with her desire to promote diversity in the journalism community. She’s Pakistani-Canadian, and sees plenty of opportunities for the media to be more representative of the global population.
“As someone who looks at the professional media world and cringes at the proportion of white men to…well, anything else, it’s a real opportunity to force some diversity and sensitivity training upon these students,” she explains. “Why say “jihadist group” instead of “terrorist group”? Why perpetuate model minority stereotypes in reporting on Asian Americans?”
However, it’s not always easy to break down gender and racial barriers while you’re still grappling with your own professional identity, a struggle many Millennials face as they enter the workforce. Khan admits that she “can’t tell you the number of times I’ve kicked myself because I hesitated or felt embarrassed or decided I wasn’t qualified enough for an opportunity and ended up closing doors for myself.”
She encourages young people interested in getting involved to do what she did and take action despite hesitations. “Just go for it…Apply for that scholarship. Go to that free training workshop, even if you have zero experience in what they’re teaching. In high school and college, you need to be prying every door you can. Heck, break the windows too, while you’re at it. Climb in through the fire escape. Especially for young people of color – sometimes people won’t take you seriously, or you’ll look at a sea of white faces and not take yourself seriously, but you can’t give anyone a choice. Let the cream rise to the top.”
In the future, Aysha hopes to follow her dreams and work in a newsroom. “I love the setting and it’s a great environment: fueled by adrenaline and truth, tempered by careful editorial judgment.” Though her plans aren’t set in stone, “I’ve sort of fallen into web development and design, which I realized a few years ago is a massive job market in the journalism world. Who knew?”
Keep an eye on our Instagram page throughout the month of May for more stories on inspiring Asian-Pacific Islander Americans like Aysha Khan who are making a difference.