By Olivia Sin–
A Google search of “Asian places in Louisville, KY” yields only a list of Asian restaurants. A second Google search for “Historic Asian places in Louisville, KY,” which should uncover some history of Asian culture in this city, instead populates what food reviewers deem “THE 10 BEST Chinese Restaurants in Louisville.”
Why is it that Asian food is the only identifying characteristic for Asians? And why do Louisvillians think the word “Chinese” is synonymous with the word “Asian”?
The entire continent of Asia is comprised of almost 50 countries and over two thousand languages, yet people continue to muddle Asians together as if they are all the same. The lack of education surrounding Asian cultures coupled with the lack of support for Asian individuals during this alarming increase of anti-Asian violence in the United States is quite heartbreaking and exhausting. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic casting a negative outlook on Asians and with every new Asian hate crime surfacing on the news, the demand for a local Asian community resource center and allyship is urgent.
Racist rhetoric and xenophobia towards Asians is nothing new in the U.S. and will continue to exist unless challenged. The initiative to educate, raise awareness, and stand up for the Asian community is critical if we want to see change in the future…and that change starts at the local level.
We could start with the beige three-story house located near the corner of South 3rd Street and West Ormsby Avenue that sits subtly within the historic Old Louisville district. The house is unexceptional to the average passerby, except perhaps for the bright red double doors that welcome you. Right above those doors reads a white decal that displays the name of the building as “Asia Institute-Crane House.”
The Asia Institute-Crane House (AICH) is an Asian cultural center, here to celebrate and support the many cultures within the continent of Asia. Most Louisvillians have no idea that this building exists. As an Asian American myself, I only discovered this center last year during the height of COVID-19 on my neighborhood runs when outdoor exercise became the new norm. I never put much thought into what this cultural center had to offer…until racially charged Asian hate crimes spiked this year.
The AICH is an under-utilized resource center that has the potential to support the Asian community and help educate both UofL students and the surrounding neighborhood.
Helen Lang, the founder of AICH, originally named this center “Crane House, The China Institute, Inc.” in 1987. Feeling the need to expand the coverage of cultural appreciation to many more Asian countries, Mrs. Lang renamed the center in 1996.
While Mrs. Lang passed away in 2017, her legacy of educating the Louisville community on Asian culture and appreciation will remain forever embedded in the AICH. Over its 34-year history, the Institute has been considered one of the “premier Asian cultural centers” in the central United States. That the AICH continues to elude our attention speaks to how willing—or unwilling—we are as a community to educate ourselves about Asian heritage.
The Asia Institute-Crane House is a promising establishment that can help educate the Louisville community about the experience of being Asian in this country, raise awareness about social issues stemming from anti-Asian racism, and provide solidarity to Asian community members.
Let’s turn our attention to the AICH and become more actively involved in working towards social justice. The AICH has the potential to ignite change and combat Asian hate, bringing about good fortune and happiness—much like what a crane symbolizes.
Photo by Eli Hughes//The Louisville Cardinal