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  • Writer's pictureRachael Chau

Happy AAPI Heritage Month!

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

Welcome to my website and to my blog! As it's the last day of May 2020, I am dedicating my first post to a very special event. The full name of this month-long celebration is Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. Wow. Not only is that a long name, there's a lot to unpack there!

For those who don't know me, hello! I am first-and-a-half/really second-generation Chinese-American. Born and raised in New Jersey, went to school in NYC where both my parents grew up, and now my sister and I live in the city, too! At least we did, until the global pandemic of it all sent us crawling back home on NJTransit, as difficult situations so often do. (Getting offtrack.)

I have always struggled with my identity as an Asian-American gal in the United States. This is my home, yet as I grew up, my eyes were slowly opened to all the ways in which I and other people of color (POC) were and still are treated as if we do not belong in this country we call home. That's messed up. Equally messed up, I spent a lot of my young life rejecting my Chinese culture, my otherness. At some point, phrases and practices that were naturally part of my life since I was a baby were suddenly odious and negatively connoted.

Now of course, as a 22-year-old, I regret the loss of what little language I had a hold on (Cantonese is HARD y'all), and the time and energy spent on hating myself, my people, and my family. Now I see that the language, the values, the -isms that I get to laugh about with the Asian friends I've made–they all connect me to the people that came before me and paved the way for my wonderful life, and bond me with a present-day community I'm valuing more and more each day.

As I continue to work on reclaiming my culture in a personal way, I find it more valuable than ever to examine history. Why do I and so many others feel the need to erase our heritage? Why is whiteness in the US the norm? While those are BIG questions I cannot hope to give definitive, educated answers to, I know that part of the answer lies in the institutions and laws created by fear in this country.

In November 2019, I had my first recording session for THIRTEEN WNET's Mission US: Prisoner in My Homeland. This series of video games seeks to educate kids about what I call "less-taught" events in US history. This sixth installment focuses on the Japanese internment during World War II. I know, dark. But necessary that it be taught! Much like my rejection of culture, and perhaps very much entangled with it, turning a blind eye to the event and its cause will lead to further perpetuation.

Any theatre people reading this? Spring Awakening warned us about the dangers of not educating children, right? I believe this should extend to events such as the Japanese internment. What I appreciate so very much about Mission US is that it recognizes America and its people across the board, from the Dust Bowl to various immigrant experiences, and says that children can and should be taught about these things. Sure it requires some thought and effort to do so, but isn't that more than worth it when it means better educated and more empathetic generations will follow? I say yes. I hope you do, too.

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