The candidate recently joined former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara on his podcast “Stay Tuned With Preet” and recalled being bullied because of his heritage.
Yang said that, during his childhood, the prevailing cultural references to Asians were limited to “Long Duk Dong” of “Sixteen Candles” and the line from the movie “Platoon”: “That’s the way the gook laughs.”
“There’s this one kid who’d just say that to me all the time,” Yang explained. “As the skinny Asian kid getting picked on, I felt like my choices are to either take it or fight back.”
The candidate admitted that he often lost the fights. And while the disputes happened sporadically throughout his elementary school and junior high school years, Yang doesn’t recall teachers getting involved much. Bharara, who said he had similar experiences with bullying, also felt little support from teachers and staff.
The pair agreed that the experiences shaped how they operate within the world today.
“I felt myself to be that marginalized Asian kid throughout my entire life,” Yang said. “Whenever there’s a gathering of people, when I notice someone who’s out of place, I would naturally gravitate towards them.”
Yang previously told HuffPost that as a first-generation Asian American without much “representation in my neighborhood, or prominently in the public sphere,” he struggled to carve out his own identity.
“I think that’s what gave me a drive to relate to and help the underdog,” he said.
The candidate also revealed his campaign has been well-received by fellow Asian Americans.
“They’re very willing to give me a platform to promote my ideas,” he said, “and they’re excited to see a role model for their children that shares their Asian heritage.”