In this identity exploration through art, Wires, I wanted to better understand how the environment shaped the Asian American experience and identity. Based on interviews with those that grew up as one of the few Asian Americans in their school, I translated their experience into a portrait that reflects their experience.
I never realized how lucky I was to have come from a very diverse upbringing and being constantly surrounded by other Asian Americans who shared similar experiences and obstacles. Growing up with parents who are both immigrants from China, outside of my home I constantly felt like I was stuck between two different cultures. When I was with my family, I was considered the American girl, but it was easy to see that outside of my family, I was just another Chinese girl. I never felt like I could be completely accepted by either of the cultures because my experiences. Whenever the two cultures conflicted, I struggled to figure out where I stood, but my narrative was not uncommon. I had many Asian-American friends that could help me process and supported me through this experience of feeling stuck in between two cultures.
This project really helped me to understand just how there are so many different narratives that compose the Asian-American experience – not one narrative is the same. I used to believe there was a very general structure for those who also felt stuck between two cultures, but I got the chance to know other people who felt between cultures in a different way. Unfortunately, they didn’t grow up surrounded by people who shared this experience and this in turn greatly shaped the type of person they have become. This project has helped me to better understand where my identity as an Asian American stands and how I need to start questioning why society thinks that one term, Asian, is sufficient in capturing a vast variety of ethnicities.
In my STEP Signature Project, a large portion of it was interviewing others. I was able to discuss with others how the environment they grew up in has shaped them. As an Asian American that grew up in an environment where there were so many others who I could relate to and so many parts of my culture that were easily accessible beyond my household, there were some stories that was difficult for me to wrap my mind around. It was difficult hearing stories of people getting made fun of because of what was in their lunch box. It was difficult hearing people confess that they did not want their friends over because their parents could not speak English. It was difficult hearing stories about explicit racism.
Growing up in a diverse setting allowed myself to cope with a lot of the more subtle racism that I experienced. However, I am tired of being silent. It is my responsibility to speak up, regardless of whether it is a personal, academic, or professional setting. To have to grow up feeling isolated because you are different is not an experience that anyone deserves.