When Home Stopped Being Home
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
I originally wrote this post for Facebook, but I'd like these words to live somewhere a little more permanent. Much of what I wish to accomplish in the world and the entertainment industry stems from what I did and didn't receive growing up Asian-American in the United States. I hope to share my truths with those who feel othered, and those who don't know what it is like to feel this way.
When I was a kid, I was a proud American. The songs were fun to sing, I liked where I lived, the idea of freedom sounded beautiful and I was grateful to be born in a country that was founded on it and continued to stand by it.
But then came the time when I realized that I was "different." And not "different" on an individual level, but "different" in that my family came from somewhere "different" from a majority of my peers' families. It was a kind of "different" I couldn't control.
Nonetheless, I was subject to being treated differently. It was assumed that I loved loved loved studying, that I was a math whiz and a science genius (which made me reject both subjects and cling to english and history more). I was called names and threatened; mostly by strangers, sometimes not. I remember being on the boardwalk with my family as a kid when a man passed and muttered under his breath, "Go back to Flushing." I never felt beautiful or pretty or even normal before and after I realized I was "different" because I truly did not see anyone who looked like me on TV or in school. (The list goes on, especially as I and those around me have grown.)
This made me angry and hurt and confused. I realized that I was an "other" because of the way I looked–something I had no hand in to begin with and something I couldn't change or hide no matter how much I wanted to–in the very country in which I was born! If you grew up in a house you loved dearly and felt safe and comfortable in, and one day in about 4th grade you came home from school to find that you were barred from entering your beloved home, how would you feel? Because that's an awful lot like what becoming conscious of my race in America felt like for me.
I've fought long and hard to love myself, my family, and people of my own race because of how people in my homeland have treated us and how I have wanted so desperately to escape that treatment. I've fought to forgive the people that bar myself and others from certain rights and freedoms because of the way we look, or who we love, or how we identify, or how we simply exist in the world. These battles began long before I realized I was "different" and continue to be fought today.
I loved the USA as an ignorant, carefree child. But now that I'm an adult, I see and know so much more that complicates that love. I like to think that, similar to a good parent or teacher or coach or leader, I love this country enough to treat it with respect. That means encouraging growth. That means pointing out its flaws–the things in it that cause inequity or are in themselves inequitable–and changing them so they turn into positive strengths–things that are founded on and promote equality for all.
This is the USA I love and believe in. I thank my friends who also choose to work for this country's growth instead of settling for how it is. And I implore my friends who do not to reconsider. Happy 4th of July!