About 30 years ago, my parents emigrated from Taiwan to the States in search of fulfilling the American Dream: a new life of opportunity, excitement and freedom. Following my uncle’s footsteps to where he opened the family restaurant, my Mama and Baba landed in the suburbs of Ventura County. My parents took residence in a lovely town surrounded by the natural beauty of mountains, charm of small shopping centers as well as gardens and the pleasure of minimal traffic ― a perfect place to raise a family.
The majority of the population in my hometown was (and still is) upper middle class white families ― a major contrast to my lower middle class class parents. I had my first encounter with racism in elementary school when my classmates would make fun of my “Asian-ness” by pulling up the corners of their eyes and screaming “Ching Chong, Ching Chong!”
My best friend in first grade brought me candy, only to steal the sweet treat straight from my fingers to present them to the socially-identified ‘cool’ white girl in class. At age 8, after suffering relentless mocking, my school forced me to take a weekly speech class to correct my accent: my inability to properly pronounce R’s.
I grew up hating every millimeter of my outer Asian appearance. I hated my golden skin, my black hair and my nonexistent nose bridge. For the next few years, I witnessed white kids poke fun at my race. I heard other kids making fun of a boy for crushing on the other Asian girl in my class. “You like GRACE? The CHINESEEEE girl!? Ewww!”
I felt uncomfortable being Taiwanese-American for a long time, removing myself as far as possible from my family’s culture. My cultural rebellion took various forms: during dinner time, I would eat with forks. When my parents spoke to me in Mandarin, I responded in English.
Our country was built on equality and freedom. The recent attacks and the surplus of negativity in the news proves that our fight is not over.
This cultural resistance continued into my adolescence and early 20s until I reflected on my intentions and decided to passionately confront the insecurities brought on by my race. Genuine friendships entered my life and taught me that I didn’t need to be white-washed to have friends; my Caucasian friends actually admired my ethnicity. I learned to love my roots, my culture, my family, even my bridge-less nose. Turning my negative experiences into empathetic passion, I strive to be a safe haven for others to confide in.
I advocate to others to listen whole-heartedly to the stories of our sisters and brothers of all ethnic backgrounds. Our country was built on equality and freedom. The recent attacks and the surplus of negativity in the news proves that our fight is not over. It wounds me how others feel unsafe in their own skin. We need to keep striving. We need to keep pushing. We need to keep fighting.
In music, we’ve heard progressive sounds from Nina Simone to M.I.A. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech is still widely quoted. We recognize civil rights photographs of Danny Lyon, and the “WE CAN DO IT!” Poster of World War II. In recent times, we’ve all re-posted the beautifully minimalist “Pray for Paris” illustration by Jean Jullien. As designers, artists, creatives, even as human beings, we have the power of creating images to initiate the change we want to happen. We are all born with the innate gift of creativity. We all have the power to contribute to the causes we are passionate about. What change do you wish to see? What can you do about it? How are you going to make that happen?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
I stand strong as an Asian American for Equality. Will you stand with me?