“I love Chinese food!” My American friends yelped.
“We have to eat real authentic Chinese food together sometime!” I shrieked excitedly.
Chinese food, like American food, includes a wide range of different types, depending on where it originates from. For instance, Sichuan food is numbingly spicy, Shanghai food is subtlely sweet, Shandong food is generously filling, and Cantonese food is delicately nourishing.
They are all Chinese food, yet so different from each other. I love Chinese food. However, now that I have moved to America – the land of opportunities – to pursue a college education, I no longer have 24/7 access to my favorite food anymore. I yearn for Chinese food, especially Dim Sum.
Dim Sum, not one specific dish, is a category of brunch food in Cantonese cuisine. It ranges from steamed savory pork to sweet tofu pudding. They usually come in bamboo containers, which are stacked in a trolley with an inside heater.
An older Chinese lady would push the trolley around and serve food through the steam rising from the hot dishes. Everyone can pick a few favorite dishes because each is served in small amounts and shared by the entire table. A pot of hot tea, a few trolleys pushed around, a few bamboo containers of food, a table of friends – together they make a classic Dim Sum experience.
When I finally found a must-try Dim Sum place in LA, I immediately invited my American friends, who had explicitly expressed their love for Chinese food. Very soon, a few of my close friends (all Americans) and I set up a Dim Sum date. “I love Chinese food!” my friends yelped again and again on our way to the restaurant. Even the abnormal pouring rain in LA could not quench their excitement. My heart was pounding – now they would finally get a real taste of my culture, and they would love it!
I was wrong. When the steaming dishes were put on table, my friends hesitated. Slightly frowning, they looked suspiciously at the food, “What’s this?” They pointed at the food with chopsticks loosely and unskillfully strangled in their hands. When they finally took their first bites, they stopped chewing almost as soon as the food touched their tongues.
Now, they looked down with eyebrows tightly knotted together, but still putting on a polite smile. I knew they had never had this before, and they did not like it. Not to mention love. Then, when I felt too painful to witness their reactions and looked away, they would quietly spit out the food. Some of them would not even try to hide, but gave me a funny face, “It’s weird.”
And then, they would not touch anything else without questioning, unless the more adventurous ones of them tried and approved it to be edible.
I was hurt, to say the least. I thought my friends loved Chinese food. I thought they loved my culture as much as they loved me. But is that true? Maybe my friends did not know what they got themselves into when they said they loved Chinese food.
Maybe they did not know better because it is not “politically correct” to tell someone of another cultural background (especially if they are minorities) that you do not like their culture. Or maybe they thought everything would come catered to their American taste, like how Panda Express is actually Chinese-like American food. When they came to Dim Sum with me, maybe, they were expecting something like Panda Express. They said they loved Chinese food, but they only love Americanized Chinese food.
If even my friends, who have been so loving to me, are like this, how many Americans actually love Chinese food? How many of them actually love immigrants’ cultural food? Do they even understand immigrants’ cultures? Do they claim to welcome and accept immigrants, but actually only like Americanized everything? Yes, I know it sounds like I am overreacting, but please at least hear me out before you make any judgment.
America is known as the land of opportunities for people of different backgrounds. Immigrants have come to America for different reasons for the past 400 years. Even the sonnet (the New Colossus) carved on the Statue of Liberty – the signature sculpture of America – sings America’s acceptance of immigrants.
It tells the “homeless”, the immigrants, to “give [America] your tired, your poor,/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It promises to “lift my lamp beside the golden door” so that immigrants can see the way towards an affluent future in America. The sonnet accentuates the “value” of America – diversity.
Certainly, now that Donald Trump is the new president, the country seems to have become unprecedentedly anti-immigrant. However, the president’s distaste for immigrants does not mean the public holds the same opinion. In fact, a lot of people, especially angry Democrats, have become even more supportive of immigrants. When Trump signed Executive Order 13769, people were shocked.
Democrats were enraged. When the Order was executed in January 2017, stopping immigrants from certain countries from entering America, nationwide protests at airports erupted. There is no need to argue how much most Americans dislike president Trump and his anti-immigration ideas. They protested just about everything related to Trump. However, how many of them literally hate everything Trump has to say?
A lot of people actually dislike Trump as a person, so much that they protest by becoming even more pro-immigration, only because Trump famously opposes immigrants. However, do they really understand and appreciate immigrants and their culture? Perhaps, even in today’s political atmosphere, most people still only say they welcome immigrants, and only love Americanized palatable minority cultures.
According to a recent survey, most people, especially Democrats, claim they think immigrants are as honest and hardworking as U.S. citizens. Almost half of the Democrats believe immigrants who are illegally staying should be allowed to become citizens if they meet requirements. The presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, Hilary Clinton declared at the eighth democratic debate that she wanted to keep immigrants and even “see them on a path to citizenship”. After the election, California State Senate leader also promised to “defend” immigrants who “[contribute] to the California Dream, but lack documentation.”
So many people like me come to America with beautiful American dreams, expecting to be accepted and appreciated for our unique backgrounds. But Americans – or at least most of them –do not seem to keep these promises, though doing a great job at paying lip service to immigrants. Otherwise, if the majority say they welcome immigrants, why when the population is behaving as one entity, the welcoming attitude does not seem to hold true anymore? Americans want the benefits of having immigrants, but they do not accept the immigrants’ tough-to-take-in cultures. They want only the “sweet deal”.Wondering how this is the case? Come back next week, and I'll show you.