SILENCE FROM THE EAST

Despite being born and raised in the US, I grew up surrounded by the Vietnamese culture and values of my household. At school, the behavioral differences between me and the "American" kids in my town were very apparent. There were various contrasts, but here I'm only going to highlight one.

Within the past couple of years, social justice and equal representation in the western world has risen amongst minority groups, except in the Asian community. Although there has been a slight rise, it's still not as unified as the Black and LGBTQ communities or other minority groups. It got me thinking as to why this was, and eventually I figured it might be due to the oppression that Asian culture quietly and passively raises us around. I’m generalizing all Asian cultures as I've noticed many similarities between how we're raised and the values across different nationalities.

Growing up Asian, we're very disciplined and taught to accept things for what they are, to work around/with it, to not talk back, which conditions us to keep our thoughts to ourselves—despite having contradicting sentiments. Now these traits aren't necessarily bad and in my opinion are actually positive traits, but there comes a time when something needs to be said and done. As great as these traits can be, all together they can weaken our voices, make us too reserved, stifle our dreams, and cause a lack of conviction towards many subjects in life. This results in us being overlooked, not taken seriously, and seen as obedient and quiet pushovers in the western world.

So, the one difference that stood out amongst my non-Asian peers was that they had a voice. A majority of them had an opinion, something they believed in, and they weren't scared to share their thoughts—something that I, shy little me, didn’t really have. It took me some time to realize, but as I had conversations with people throughout the years, I noticed how little I had to contribute to the dialogues taking place. I didn't really have an opinion or much to say on many topics, from choosing a restaurant to politics. Due to my nature of accepting various life situations, opinions never fully formulated in my mind, as I typically moved on without thinking too much. This is great in some scenarios but on issues like global warming, endangered animals, inequality, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, or racism? Maybe not so much. I envied these people for having a voice on something they cared about deeply, the knowledge they possessed, their fearless attitude, and for having a sense of who they were.

Thankfully years later, not only have I cracked my shell (still in progress), found aspects of life I'm passionate about, such as empowering and helping the LGBTQ youth, but the voice of the Asian-American community has grown stronger. We now have an all Asian cast sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” (that’s actually pretty funny), and a magazine catered to Asians called “Banana.” These are milestones for our community, considering we didn’t have any publications or shows catered specifically to the Asian-American demographic. It makes me so happy to see our community come together and sharing our thoughts, whether it's about the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood or standing up to recent discriminations.. We have so many great things to share with the western world outside of our martial arts, exotic foods, chopsticks, or our beautiful almond-shaped eyes. We're just as talented, hard-working, sexy and strong as the other ethnicities in this world, but no one will hear us if we don't share our voices. The western world can share the light with the East, just as the East has with the West. 

So, goodbye to these invisible strict chains of oppression because I’m no longer going to hold back (within reason) and let loose, be heard, break free, and really let my true self shine. No more being coy, as the Lady Dragon is rising… a nice and humble one, of course.

x D

Top: Alexander Wang | Pants: Adam Selman (Similar Here)

Photography by Alexander Nguyen
Edited by Trace Otsuka