My Immigrant Parents / Islamophobic America

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.

May 2, 2017 Update and Thoughts on Identity

I finished watching “Sing” last night and I have to say, even though it was more enjoyable than not, I couldn’t help but compare it side by side to the other Pixar films and feel that it fell a bit flat.  First of all, maybe there were just too many characters with subplots that the overall arch had a little struggle in transition and screenplay… my favorite was probably Johnny and his father’s relationship and how it reconciled towards the end, that was touching.  But the rest felt a bit disconnected and the emotion didn’t feel translated well, particularly with Buster Moon and Meena’s story.  It was lacking a bit of a magical, more in-depth touch that Pixar movies like Toy Story, Up and Finding Nemo/Finding Dory has.  That said, I will refrain from judging the whole of Sony vs. Pixar animations since Pixar’s had a few apparently lackluster ones recently, such as “The Good Dinosaur” and “Cars 2”.


 

On the days when I wallow in depression or pity for myself, whatever mood or situation that brought me down tends to lead to other thoughts that bring more negativity.  I noticed that in a lot of the issues regarding inequality in America, I don’t necessarily have it the worst – for example, I am not a black woman,  I am not a refugee, and I am not living in poverty.  However, there are many other parts of my identity that I am discriminated against, and I start to sit back and count all the ways in which I am “losing out” in our society.  Asian, a woman, and also dealing with chronic illness and anxiety/depression issues.

But you know what?  I don’t particularly concentrate on that every moment of my life- most of the time, I’m just, me.  And in another perspective, I have one foot in in multiple kinds of discriminative causes and conditions, and that gives me a firsthand look into other people’s eyes and experiences.  I have greater empathy and understanding because of it, and I can use this as a strength in life.

Why “Aw” Responses are Unacceptable | On Racism in the Workplace

I’ve met up with a few friendquaintances from the past just cause, why not?  Most of my high school phase left me with friendquaintances, and I felt I never had the chance to properly get to know people and who they really were, although I had a vague idea by the way they treated me or handled my extenuating circumstances… I used to think they were just all jerks, but then the more forgiving part of me knew it was sometimes due more to immaturity and ignorance.  To be honest,  I wasn’t sure if it was due more to my willingness to be as spontaneous as I could be when possible, or whether it was my insecurities that questioned why people would ask to meet up out of the blue when they had never bothered to get to know me before.  Sometimes, my inklings were correct and I felt there were ulterior motives, but who really knows at the end of the day.  My paranoia has I suppose, in many ways been both a blessing and a hindrance to what could’ve been.

That said, some people, four years later, may still not have had the chance to learn how to handle with respect more dark matters.  When one hears of the passing of someone’s father or mother, for example, one automatically says “I’m sorry.”  I always feel awkward getting those words out of my mouth, because it feels so utterly futile in what pain they must be going through, but it’s the least I can offer in the moment.  But at least it’s a consistent fallback to what people say to display their empathy.

The other day, I met up with a friendquaintance who asked me to chill and catch up, and I thought why not.  Suddenly, out of the blue from small conversation of “What have you been up to,” he followed up with, “Weren’t you always sick or something?  What is that?” It caught me off guard because I hadn’t realized he was one of the people who were even vaguely aware of what I had gone through back then, and I awkwardly tried to give an elevator explanation of what I had.  In response, he stared at me and gave me a pouty face.  How the fuck was I supposed to answer a pouty face?

Let me go on a momentary rant here, and tell you why I get so fired up by people’s responses sometimes.  Let’s put aside for a couple minutes the goal to forgive, and understanding that they don’t know shit about your life so you have to let it go.  When someone tries to explain to you an illness or a condition that wreaks havoc in their lives on a daily basis, from the minuscule to the grander schemes in life, it takes bravery just to try to bother telling you about it.  If someone asks you for some assistance sometimes as simple as a lack of judgment when they use the elevator or ask you to wait with them, you do it.  People of chronic conditions in society are marginalized, disregarded, and misunderstood just as people of color or ethnicity or gender are.  At least have the decency to study or look up on situations that you yourself don’t experience so that you don’t go spouting ignorant things.  So the next time you happen to interact with someone who has an illness or struggle with issues you don’t have, particularly ones you can’t see, don’t go pitying them, particularly slapping them in the face with an “Aww,” or saying something like “At least you don’t live in a third world country.”

Listen, if someone blind were trying to explain to you what they deal with as a blind man, would you respond to that with any of this?  Then why is it so difficult to apply that to other varying conditions as well?  

Do:  Ask them more questions to understand if they seem willing, or just be there for them and be chill about it without making them feel like they owe you a favor or that it’s a big deal.  They are people, just like you.  We are people, just like you.

I think part of me is a quiet Asian girl, and that’s okay that that is part of my personality and identity.  But it’s really frustrating when people seem to pigeonhole you into expecting you to act a certain way, submissively, for example, when you aren’t meant to just roll over for them.


This leads to my second point of discussion, and I wanted to share this story my best friend told me today about racism in her workplace.  Besides tolerating her co-workers’ often inappropriate comments that are borderline, or far past borderline sexist, she has a double whammy in which she also has to endure racist comments, particularly from white co-workers.  Today, she told me that her and another co-worker were talking to one of the company’s managers,  trying to remember what some Asian guy’s name was that they had met.  When they were at a loss, the manager actually said,  “Well, maybe it was something like Ching Chong Ding Dong eh?”  When my friend failed to laugh, he pressed on,”Well, I think it’s hilarious.”  My friend finally snapped and said, “I think you should leave before you make a bigger fool of yourself.”  Apparently, he just left after she said that.  Zero tolerance for that kind of behavior is right, even if it means standing up to someone of a greater authority than you, but I don’t know if I’d have the cajones to do it.