By: Mimi Nguyen
Stepping into the building I call school, I face an internal conflict every single day.
“Be me or be me?”
Now you’re probably wondering there’s only one of everyone, but what happens when you’re faced with the conflict of being the you you are at home versus the you you are at school. By that I don’t mean pretending you like a certain music genre or gossiping about the latest drama. I mean arguing with your inner self whether to act ”Asian” or not.
This topic has always floated around in the Asian community but have we truly discussed what it means? I as well as many other female Asians that I am friends with, have most certainly discussed numerous times what the topic at hand means to us. For me being “Asian” revolves around speaking about my culture and ethnicity to those who aren’t of the race. It’s at times where I’m able to connect with another Asian person and someone (not Asian) will come up and say,
“Do Asians really do that? That’s plain disgusting.”
While everyone else is able to be proud of their cultures, I feel as though I’m put to shame of being who I am in front of my peers. It’s difficult to see others at lunch bring their tamales and pączki while I sit next to them, afraid of what they’ll think of my bánh mì. We as Asians feel a pressure to join in on what it means to be apart of the “group” while still retaining our roots.
My day as a first generation Vietnamese-American, the first from both sides of my family consists of being American in the daytime and Vietnamese at night. Eating pizza at lunch while I await for the bún bò huế that sits at the dinner table once I come back home. Speaking English at school to then switching to Vietnamese so I’m able to converse freely with my mother who is limited in her English skills. Celebrating Thanksgiving with others, knowing that Chinese New Year is around the corner with its dragon parades and red lanterns. I am torn between two vastly different cultures that both want me on their side.
I feel as though we are ashamed for being too “Asian” or too “American”, so why must this generation along with generations both in the past and in the future have to choose only one side? I hope that Asians are able to live comfortably, knowing that there is no need to choose who they are. This world might always have this issue, and that it is only for us to believe in ourselves that who we are is not defined by a race or ethnicity. What defines us is what we have chosen for ourselves and that it should not subjected by others.
Mimi’s interests include listening to music and lettering. In the future, she aspires to be a entrepreneur and later on travel the world, so that she is able to learn about other cultures and eat amazing food!
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