A Thought on My Asian-American Identity

From 2000 to 2015, there has been a 72% increase of Asian population in the United States. Among them are immigrants and first generations and so forth. For me, I am the daughter of two Chinese immigrants who moved here in 1995. At the time, my parents were the newcomers — a new culture, a new skin color, a new lifestyle.

And growing up, I constantly dealt with an internal battle. At home, I spoke Chinese, I learned how to use chopsticks, and my mom packed me potstickers and fried rice for lunch at school. But at school, when I take out the potstickers and fried rice, my friends looked at me weird and told me my food smelled funny. So growing up, I was always confused about what was the right meal. I loved my mom’s cooking, but at the same time, I felt so ashamed when my friends pulled out ham and cheese sandwiches and pizzas.

My parents pushed Chinese culture heavily on me. My life at home was a plethora of red envelopes, Chinese cartoons, little habits, and choices that many of my friends at school did not understand. But the moment I went to school, the Chinese identity I was proud of instantly disappeared and was replaced with American television shows and hamburgers. Throughout elementary school and the beginning of high school, I often felt lost and ashamed of my culture because not many around me had the same experience and perspective as me.

Coming out to college, I found a diverse community of people who had also lived a life similar to mine. Years of being one person for our peers and another for our parents had finally caught up to us and in a time like college, where we are allowed to independently find our identity, we had no foundation set. We weren’t sure what we enjoyed, whether it was our mom’s homecooked chicken feet or fried chicken box from Popeye’s, or it was the Asian cartoons our parents put on for us to watch or the American television shows we would watch at our friend’s house. Pages like "Subtle Asian Traits" started popping up on Facebook, creating a bigger community of Asian Americans who lost themselves through the intertwining of culture.

The page not only brought Asians from all over the world to one platform but also was evidence of the unique identity that Asian Americans had. It was no longer just connecting through similar experiences we’ve had in our childhood, but also experiences where we could all come together, as an Asian-American community. For example, going to get boba and going to raves became huge for us as we continue to look for something to be proud of.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned while trying to find my identity here was to never lose sight of what brought me here in the first place. In my blood is hundreds of thousands of years of ancestry, and when my family moved to the United States to create a new opportunity for me, I will take my history to make more.

 

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