“Come on, Meimei,” my mom said in Mandarin, “we’re going to Trader Joe’s.” We were walking through the plaza parking lot when a white woman loudly shouted, “speak English!” at us. Sadly, this wasn’t the first or last time we—my family and the AANHPI community—have faced this and other forms of discrimination. Many do not recognize the prevalence of xenophobia and racism toward the AANHPI community until they witness it firsthand, like how I did. As a Taiwanese American girl with immigrant parents, I grew up with one foot rooted in my heritage and the other in my American upbringing. I would speak Chinese with my parents at home but strictly spoke English outside of the house. As a young child, I learned that speaking Mandarin was discouraged in public. Until I understood the context of our political climate, I accepted this as a societal norm without question. My family had a French acquaintance who was proud of speaking her native language loudly in public claiming, “Americans found it hot,” yet when my mother exchanged a few Mandarin words in public, we were met with a hateful insult, which begs the question: how can two equally “foreign” languages in a predominantly English-speaking country be view upon so differently? Clearly, the answer lies in bias toward the languages’ country of origin; French is seen as an elegant and educated language from Europe, while Chinese and other Asian languages are viewed as alien, strange, and even ugly. Chinese, like many other East Asian languages, have elegant pictographic characters—every written word is a piece of art. For example, 加油, jiāyóu, is made of simple shapes that form a complex message that cannot be easily translated into English. It is an exclamation showing one’s support for the person they are cheering for. My knowledge of Chinese words provides multiple facets of expression and communication. By maintaining our native tongues, we celebrate our culture and keep a part of our identities that can be lost in American life. Culture organizes our experiences, as it can bring a sense of community through shared history and traditions. Asian Americans like me are granted the gift of bilingualism, allowing me to see the world through more than one lens; my bilingualism should be celebrated, not looked down upon. America’s values are built on freedom and equality, but many people are unaccepting of our country’s growing diversity. In this “free” country, people lost their freedom to speak their native tongues without being discriminated against, insulted, or even beaten. We are not free to celebrate our heritage, free to be Asian American, free to express our identities. Instead, we are oppressed for using non-“American” languages, spat at for our proud Asian descent, losing a part of ourselves and our community for conformity. What kind of “free” country do we live in if we are not truly free to be ourselves?
Category Archives: op-ed
Mini Pill, Macro Problem
I had my first period when I was in 4th grade at only 10 years old. It was incredibly painful. Almost all the women in my family have had hysterectomies before menopause due to Uterine Fibroids, which are essentially dormant tumors that form in your uterus causing pressure, pain, bloating and other issues. In addition to this, almost all the women on both sides of my family have endometriosis, which makes periods much more painful. I lived with those symptoms for 6 days a month until 7th grade, when I was 13. My periods started to last for months at a time without stopping. My iron levels started to dip, and I was losing weight because I was constantly nauseous from the pain. So I went to the doctor, to see what could be done. They gave me prescription ibuprofen and left it at that. I went to another doctor, and they said this was normal. I went to another and they agreed with the prior doctor. Another one said there was nothing to do since I was so young. One more had the audacity and disrespect to say I was faking it to get birth control so I could be sexually active. I lost 15 lbs, fainted twice, and missed a week of school before one doctor finally gave me a prescription for progestin based birth control pills, called mini pills, that would help to regulate my period. It worked. Finally. My past situation demonstrates how incredibly difficult it is to obtain preventative birth control. The need for a prescription in so many places to obtain birth control, especially for minors, is a huge roadblock. Some people can’t afford doctors, others can go because of parents. Some people don’t have the time to go to the doctor, others have language barriers that make it difficult, and even more are just afraid of being judged or written off like I was. We need change in the medical field. Women and girls need more respect and trust when they seek treatment, and anything else in dangerous neglect.
Model Minorities on Asian Americans
Sarah was in school when her teacher was passing out their test scores from last week’s math test. One of her friends told her that there was nothing for her to worry about because they automatically assumed she’ll pass the test with no barriers. When the teacher came to Sarah’s desk, she scored an average of 65/100, indicating the grade of a C. Sarah’s friend shouted, “I thought all Asians were good at math.” That’s when Sarah realized that Asian Americans are still depicted as a model minority.
Spartan strong, student strong
My story today isn’t AAPI oriented, but youth oriented. For context, I live in south west Michigan. Last night, the night of 2/13/23, I got a text from one of my friends saying ‘i love you so take care no matter what okay.’ This friend is a student at Michigan State University, (where there was a deadly shooting killing 3 people, not including the gunman, and injuring 5 others *as of 2/14/23) and texted me because they heard gunshots and wanted to say goodbye ‘just in case.’ Another friend messaged to tell me he was across the street from the active shooting, on an upper floor, and that he could see the police cars and hear the sirens and he wished he went to community college instead. Told me he wished he was at home, or anywhere else, and that he was terrified. 4 more of my friends who attend MSU messaged/called me that night either checking in or seeking comfort. This all happened the night before the 5 year anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. This happened about 2 years after the Oxford high school shooting. There were students at MSU last night who were at Oxford high school on November 30, 2021. There are US students less than 21 years old who have lived through more than 1 school shooting. 15-year-olds should not be able to access firearms. Individuals previously convicted on gun related crimes should not have access to firearms. Civilians should not have access to military grade automatic weapons. Students shouldn’t have to worry about dying at school. 18-year-olds shouldn’t have to text their friends ‘goodbye’ just in case. Yet all of these things keep happening, and America needs to do better.
Anna H. – Our Diverse Youth Voices
I think learning about diversity is important because it can prevent xenophobia. the more people know about something, the less likely it will be to say something potentially hurtful on accident.
Breaking Stereotypes: “38 At The Garden”
“38 At The Garden” is a 2022 HBO documentary short that discusses the 2011-12 NBA season and its star, Jeremy Lin. Lin is an Asian American basketball player who formerly played for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and is now a player for the Chinese Basketball Association. The documentary includes testimonies from several Asian…
Gilroy Chow: Holding Heritage Close
Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 11th, 1970. The wind blew as smoke began to billow at the bottom of the launch area. The Saturn V SA-508 began to take off from the ground, bringing the three Apollo 13 crew members: Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert into space. Gilroy Chow, one of the engineers…
The Sides to Affirmative Action and the Impact on Asian American Students
In the recent awakening of current news, the Supreme Court last week has reviewed two affirmative action cases that have placed Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at issue. Harvard University was accused of holding Asian American students to higher standards in the college admissions process, while the University of North Carolina…
Illegal: More Than A Musical
Angel Island, San Francisco Bay, 1910. A place where over hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants were detained in terrible living conditions, confined into tightly packed barracks where they awaited for weeks, or even months, to either be allowed into the United States or deported. A story based on these historical injustices is masterfully…
The Facts About Monkeypox
The CDC explicitly says that monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to- skin contact, including, direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox, touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox, or contact with respiratory secretions…