reposted from the 5/30/21 The Aha! Connection Facebook page
On the final days of AAPI Heritage Month, I am inspired by my mother telling her story for her volunteer organization. I am half Japanese and my mother was born in Japan before she and my grandmother immigrated to Texas.
I was naively unaware that I was different until 6th grade. A girl at my lunch table wore a shirt that said, “Made in the USA, not Japan.” When someone asked her about the shirt, she said that she hated Japan and how they made a bunch of cheap junk and then pulled her eyes back and did a whole ching, chong thing. It was the only time I ever cried at school. I can look back now and know that this girl was only spouting off what someone in her family had taught her.
I grew up in a community similar to Dunwoody. Minorities were indeed the minority and I learned in 6th grade that I would always look different. It was no one’s fault, but the jokes about being Asian were acceptable, indifferent racism making the suffering confusing. Standing up for how it made me feel would only expand the gap between them and me, into a chasm. The words and actions that you say in front of your children are heard, even the ones you don’t want them to. Even when you whisper.
It took becoming a mother to learn to be proud and embrace my Japanese roots. I love that my mom and I get to share our culture with my kids with pride. I love that when two boys in my daughter’s 2nd-grade class made slant eyes and started making fun of Asians, she wasn’t afraid to tell them how it made her feel and stand up for herself.
AAPI Heritage month comes to a close in a year that has seen more anti-Asian violence than any other here in America. Asians helped build this country as cheap labor since the mid-1800s. When the Congressional Exclusionary Act was passed, it restricted the immigration of people based on race, specifically Chinese. Asians have been separated physically through internment camps and segregation and more intangibly through stereotypes. I’m not trying to change the world with this post but would like for you to take a breathe before you say something out loud. That’s all and just love us like you love our food. LT