Asian Invasion: AAPI Heritage Month

AAPI

(I’m not sure what I think about the photo above. But that’s what Google images gave me when I typed in “Asian American.”]

Okay, I’m slow.

I guess, I have an excuse. You know, those 3 kids of mine. But, seriously, I thought I could get it together and muster up enough energy, even in small bursts between a fussy 2 month old and 2 feisty toddlers to write something more regularly. A sentence. A few words down here and there. A thought. An idea. A shadow of a glimmering of an image.

Nope.

Even though #3 is a lot easier…he seems to fill in a lot of those wispy threads of quiet that I get once in a while during the day when I can manage to pry my eyes open. I am holding out hope that whatever pathetic desperation to reach out to the rest of the civilized world kept me up during the twins’ first year will surface once again long enough to write a post here and there.

Nope.

Or maybe.

But. It’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I need to celebrate my peeps, yo. My history. My community. So, I’m going to try to do that this month. Posts about books. Posts about people. Posts about posts. Posts about stories that opened my eyes to the possibility of a truly Asian American identity.

And, of course, try to get some other folks to write something about something about this month. There’s a plethora out there, believe it or not, but I think it’s still hard to know where to find it. And find it, and learn it we must if we are truly to know who we are as Americans (and that goes for all y’all. Not just the ones who look like me.). We’ll start out with some blogs:

8 Asians: “This is a collaborative blog of Asian-Americans and Asian-Canadians. But once you look past the fact that we fill out the same bubble in a census survey, you’ll see that we don’t have much in common, and as you’ll soon see, that’s not such a bad thing. We’ll be posting about whatever Asian issues are currently relevant in our lives, whether it be pop culture or current events or politics.” I also write for this blog. Well, actually, I was for a while, then I stopped, and now inspired by AAPI month, I’m trying to write again. Basically I love this community for the wide breadth of stories and opinions on Asian and Asian American culture. This is my go-to for all things Asian American year-round.

Angry Asian Man: Like he says, he’s not really that angry. All the time. He has been around for a long, long while, and prolific when it comes to any kind of news in Asian America. And I love his perspective. He has a great story that he shares on his About page, and talks about why he writes: “Because racism does exist, and because Asian Americans still do struggle with issues of acceptance in this country. My context for discussing these problems often came from comic exaggeration, because at times, it was the only way to make such ugly issues open and approachable. Angry Asian Man became a cause. And just like Angry Asian Man, the views expressed in the contents of this website will inevitably be ridiculously zealous and exaggerated. Of course, it’s all in fun, but just like the persona of Angry Asian Man, rooted in truth.”

Disgrasian: These ladies are so hilarious. They are also gorgeous, intelligent, and have a crazy sharp wit. I like the As Amer women representation here on all sorts of topics, and am thankful that they are role models.

Now, in terms of those in the Christian sub-culture I’d like to laud: Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Bruce Reyes-Chow, The Next Gener.Asian Church, and Eugene Cho. Some diverse voices, and important ones not only for a faith perspective, but when it comes to social justice, poverty, environmentalism, and equality.

I wonder what others read to be informed about Asian American culture?

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I remember the first time someone slanted their eyes at me.

They came up to me, pulled back the corners of their eyes, and asked, innocently, “How are you able to see when your eyes are so small?” Ah yes, the “innocence” of children. I had no idea. No idea what to say or think or do. Except I went home and looked in the mirror and wondered, “Is there something wrong with me?” And then I would hear it all, the ching-chonging song, and the Chinese-Japanese-dirty-knees-look-at-these, and caricatures of my name.

I didn’t understand that this was an expression of racism. All I know is I felt shame. A self-hatred that almost could not be eradicated by the Gospel. Because that racism was so deeply entrenched in everything, even church, and I struggled with what it meant to be made in God’s image.

I couldn’t say anything. Ever. Eventually I would hear from both American and Korean cultures that the round, Western eyes were the ultimate sign of beauty, and then stories of how Korean women would get the double eyelid surgery. I hated hearing about people’s eyes, and comments whether from my mother or from strangers. Today, I couldn’t care less about that beauty standard, but when a Korean makes a comment about my eyes, and the sang-ah-pul (double eyelid) I have naturally, or about the children and their eyes, it haunts me.

All I can hear is ching-chong, ching-chong, ching-chong.

3 thoughts on “Asian Invasion: AAPI Heritage Month

  • May 8, 2013 at 10:45 am
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    It’s disturbing to read of the haunting experiences of your childhood, but perhaps even more so when you write that a “Korean makes a comment about my eyes.”

    But you should know that probably all of us are haunted by slurs or slights from our childhood: I remember walking home from my high school bus stop. Two boys that I had played with when we were young, taunted me calling me “paleface” over and over again. I wonder if they remember it. Probably not. It was over forty-five years ago, but I remember.

    And there are other memories too personal and hurtful to type in any public space.

    Race is different, however, and many people think of race, some more than others. Until I became acquainted with my German in-laws who made many comments about nationality/heritage, I just never ever thought about my roots. That was small town thinking. But it perhaps prevented me from growing up with prejudice: we were all just Americans. It wasn’t until I was in college that I met people from other countries. It was an Egyptian grad assistant who taught me to drink my black tea with milk. And from there you know my interest grew in other cultures. Maybe it was better for me because I began that journey with a blank slate, never having heard any racist slurs in my home during my childhood. Lucky for me.

    I’ve forgiven those mean boys and I understand Bob’s upbringing affected his thinking about some cultures. Your children and mine are growing up in a different American world of greater acceptance, I believe. When I was your age, I would have never imagined that Obama could become President. His presidency and his family in the White House are one of the joys of my life. So much change, so much better. And for your three babies, too, I sincerely believe.

    Reply
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