What It's Like To Be An Asian-American On The Fourth Of July

What It's Like To Be An Asian-American On The Fourth Of July

A personal essay on the disenfranchised feeling of being a first-generation Asian-American.
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It's the Fourth of July: There are fireworks at night. Celebrations begin with large BBQs, friends and family; and, some vague nationalistic pride permeates the country.

Although this is a personal essay from a very specific POC point of view, what I'm about to describe could easily ring true for all veterans of war and their affected loved ones.

My father was a refuge from the Vietnam War. From the stories he told me during my childhood, he had come here with his two brothers, a sister and his mother in a ship after the war. His older brother convinced the family to immigrate, filling my grandmother's head with lies of extravagance, free food and shelter, and jobs. When they arrived, she certainly saw that was not the case.

Shortly after my father married my mother, a Taiwanese immigrant who worked her way into moving to the United States and gaining citizenship, I was born as a first-generation Asian-American in sunny Southern California.

Saying that it was difficult growing up with my father's PTSD and my mother's ignorance towards American values is an understatement. They wanted me to grow up as American as possible, without knowing what that entailed. Instead of teaching me how to properly speak Chinese at home, they spoke to me in broken English, thinking it would help. Nowadays my father spends his time taking care of his ill mother who rents a room in a bedbug infested home because nobody in our entire family has the heart to convince her to live in a senior living facility. My mother (sometimes frustratingly) takes care of my father when he comes home. There is a lack of communication from everyone, but I've learned personally that compassion transcends language.




From the first of July each year, the neighborhood is kept awake by the sound of illegal fireworks in the dead of night. When I was young, I used to wonder why my father would lock himself in his bedroom during this time of year. Now that I'm older, I still imagine him silently coping from the trauma of being a child in war.

I cannot help but feel guilty for the lack of communication in our family, but then again, guilt complexes are a major aspect in families – especially Asian-American families. Asian parents, even if they are living in poverty, save up all they have in order to put their children through tutoring (even if they don't need it), giving others the impression that “Asians are smart.” What this also does is ensure that we feel a strong sense of duty to our parents, who expect us NOT to move out, but to move in with a significant other and take care of them when they are older.

We never hear about Asian-American life in the articles about POC because there's this false pretense that because we do “OK” in school, we will grow up to have great jobs and become billionaires. However, this is rarely true for Asian-Americans; most of *those* are immigrants from rich families from overseas, who actually make fun of us in this country for being American.

For an Asian-American, it is easy to feel like you don't belong in either group -- but that's another story that needs to be told. For now, enjoy your hot dogs and pretty light shows. You deserve it.

Cover Image Credit: Ben White

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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I'm Not Voting, And Guess What, That Is OK

To all of the recent political endorsements by celebrities and Facebook posts telling me I should register to vote, I'm not voting.

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I am not the type of person to normally ever write a Facebook post related to politics, yet here I am dedicating a whole article to it. Or rather about voting itself, not my political affiliation. For the most part, I like to keep my political outlooks to myself instead of broadcasting them to all of my friends, family, coworkers, and that handful of people I do not actually know but I accepted their friend request anyway. Instead, I grace this group of people with animal videos because it doesn't cause any friction, the videos are always light-hearted, and there are already so many other people posting about the next election.

But tonight that changed. I saw a post about how people who do not vote should be fined. I do not know why this ignited something in me, but it did. I have no problem ignoring every other person telling me to register to vote or vote a hundred times on my feed, but charging me a fine for exercising my right crossed a line.

Quite frankly, I do not identify as a liberal democrat or conservative republican so I should not be subjected to vote for either. I choose not to vote because I do not support either side of the political spectrum and I do not think any of the candidates are true to what I want in the future of my country. There are some ideas I like from Democrats as well as some ideas I like from Republicans, but because of the political climate in recent years, the political parties are becoming more polarized than ever with their ideas, and instead of seeking a moderate stance, are becoming more extreme. I understand that voting is seen as a civic responsibility that comes with being a U.S. citizen, but I have the right to vote not the obligation to vote, and people should respect that decision.

Can you imagine amending the constitution to include penalties for not voting? Where is the democracy in forcing citizens to the ballots via scare tactics? I just do not want to be forced into voting or supporting something that I do not believe in. I will vote when there is a candidate that earns my vote and that I support instead of voting just to vote.

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