It’s crazy how once upon a time, in fact not too long ago (maybe around 10 years ago), it was a pretty common thing in the Asian-American community in my high school to make fun of their parents… whether it was mocking their accents, or how strict they came down on the kid for getting a “B” on their report card, or even my brother performing a mini skit about it in high school. Of course, a part of it is still in good fun, but I think for me, it was more than that. Perhaps partially, we laughed because of the grudge or bitterness of dealing with conservative or harsh parents, or being bitter that we couldn’t spend as much time out with friends or dealing with being self-grounded or physically punished. No doubt, some Asian parents overdid it in my opinion. But as I get older, I start to see their story, their side of it. The script has flipped. And the more research and exposure to other immigrant stories around us in the media, the more awareness and respect I have for it all. Special thanks to people like Aziz Ansari for featuring that theme in “Master of None” the Netflix show, and Hasan Minhaj, “Fresh off the Boat”- these shows really do bring people together in creating more empathy between different ethnicities and generations. It’s the kind of thing that blows my mind that it never existed before. The market was completely dominated to, for, and by white people, where everyone thinks of typical America with a white face when it’s just not true. And even if you were white, your ancestors still made the effort to reach their American dream once upon a time, some of it not that long ago.
To be honest, I did have envious thoughts of other kids that may have helped evolve into resentment in my teen years. I wished I could go out and enjoy time with friends at Sweet Sixteens or not get severely scolded or guilted for not winning a piano competition. No doubt, the pressure to be better and prove my parents made the right choice to move to America was huge and unhealthy. But I never realized the role my mindset played in unconsciously thinking being Asian was something to be ashamed of, as if we weren’t good enough and had to earn our place in society. My parents worked really hard from scratch, first in Asia, then here all over again, with heavy accents, cultural clashes, and financial struggles, saving penny by penny, to integrate us and raise us with a chance here. I used to just remember the times my mom made my brother and me write a letter about all the things we had already and should do more of Christmas day instead of opening presents. But now, I remember the times my parents bought us Nintendo 64, lots of Boxcar Children books, and all the toys we have in our house. Every single thing was a conscious effort to buy that item for us, and I really took it all for granted, only looking at what I didn’t get.
As we become more immersed and integrated into what we believed the face of America to be, we must be careful not to turn it into almost a kind of propaganda, intentional or unintentional. Instead of disgusting people caught being Islamophobic or telling people to “go back to China” or “go back to Africa,” honestly, check yourself. What makes you think you have the right to say that? It’s true that America appears ruled by mostly white old men, just take a picture of the White House meetings. Sea of white, old faces everywhere.
But you know what it means to be a true American? Stick up for each other, no matter what color skin they are. That’s your neighbor. Do not put up a wall and think you are better because you got here a few decades ago. The true America is celebrating how diverse it is, and putting together our best and most talented and dominating in all platforms, whether it is the Olympics, or leading at the United Nations. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Be part of that responsibility. Earn your power by standing up for your neighbor. Whether they’re black or yellow, and especially if they’re brown in this day and age.
I’m proud to be Asian-American. I’m glad I get to experience the intersection of two different kinds of cultures. I’m proud of how I look too, from my petite height, to my almond shaped eyes, to my tinted skin tone.