By Steven Cong
To my white friends, I’m an Asian American. To my family in China, I’m an American-born Chinese (ABC). These labels somehow make me different to them and will never allow me to fully be either one.
Cultural uniqueness is a quality that Asian Americans need to embrace, and in this day and age, that can only be done through having a strong presence in pop culture.
When the first wave of immigrants arrived from China, they had no voice in society, and they lacked a recognizable face. All Americans thought that immigrants merely took their jobs.
In harsh times, that lack of understanding led to signs that read, “No Chinese or Dogs Allowed,” and eventually, to the Chinese Exclusion Act.
The image we present to others can change how we are treated in our own community. If the image we express is one of diversity, then we can escape connotations that accompany the phrase “Asian American” or “ABC.”
Nowadays, the stereotype of an Asian American in China is of someone who has lost their cultural roots, while an Asian American in the United States is a submissive model minority.
Stereotypes should not encase us into a mold, and the wide range of pop mediums that we excel at is evidence of our diversity as a group. From Manny Pacquiao to Yao Ming, we prove that we are more than just one character, and that, as a group, we are the evolution of the cultures that have influenced us.
We want to be accepted as Americans but still be acknowledged as Asians.
As I sing “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” in church, I can’t help but feel left out from everyone else because I had nothing to do with any pilgrim’s pride.
But this is still the land where my fathers died, and I am hopeful for a day when that can be recognized.
My fathers didn’t come on the Mayflower, but they had the same hopes and dreams at heart. So now, as I am waiting for an Asian American to be the hero of a Hollywood film, I am proud to say that I know I carry in who I am both the land of the free and the land of my culture. ♦
Steven Cong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The stories in this issue are written by SYLP students, not Northwest Asian Weekly staff. Opinions herein do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the newspaper.)