The Ethnic Value: Having Pride in Asian Culture

Ethnicity is what runs through our veins. We are living proof of our ancestors who fought in wars, struggled through the hard times and made history. Though our generation is quite blind by what we perceive through the media and television.

I remember in junior high school, there was this Chinese boy who would bring packed lunches to school made by his mother. I could tell it was packed because of the way it smelled and looked. Sautéed sardines over rice and canned soy milk. He would always get made fun of because it was different from the fatty burgers and over salted fries that the cafeteria served to these middle school rascals.

The kids called him weird for not converting to the school norm. They snickered at him in class because he sat in the back and wrote down notes instead of chit chatting with the other kids. The funny thing was that these kids who were making fun of him were Asian as well and they probably ate the same things at home. Self loathe at its best.

If this were a movie, the poor Chinese boy would probably have been bullied and humiliated; I guess in some way, it’s the same thing.

Being a 12-year-old that I was, I wanted to stand up for the kid. I wanted to call the other kids hypocrites for not embracing their own culture in public, but alas, I was only 12 and I would’ve been another victim of this matter. Reflecting back on it, I wished I would’ve stood up to those little brats.

One day in English class, we had to pair up with someone to develop a story using multimedia slides. Everyone paired up with their friends, leaving only me and a few others in the dust. I got up and sat next to the Chinese boy and asked if he wanted to pair up. His eyes lighted up and he smiled at me. We worked hard on the slides but it was nothing compared to the other kids in class. It was probably one of the greatest moments I had in middle school.

I am very disappointed that the kids in my junior high school only stuck to what they knew through either their parents or influences in their lives. They didn’t want to admit to eating sardines because it would cause a ruckus;they didn’t want to admit to eating egg rolls and downing soy milk because it wasn’t normal. In many ways, grade school is the media. It can make your life miserable or wonderful.

I’ve always wondered why Asians in the media are portrayed as stereotypical and nerdy. This is why. Kids grow up being influenced by what they see and what they hear. The writers and directors of certain TV shows will show this to viewers because it’s
what they grew up with. It’s what they saw when they were kids. Tina Cohen-Chang, one of the characters in Glee played by Jenna Ushkowitz, is constantly being made fun of for her ethnicity by her glee club mate Santana. And then there’s Ben Chang in Community played by Ken Jeong , who sometimes have references to Kim Jong-il. One would think this would get old sooner than later.

It angers me that some Asian Americans do not take pride in their culture. When I was younger, I did not either, though after years of fighting it, I’ve learned to embrace it. Sure, people criticize and poke fun of my Pho-loving, ramen-slurping, sushi-wasabi-dipping lifestyle, but hell, I love it. I love Asian culture; I love it with every muscle in my body.

If the world didn’t have culture, if the world didn’t have diversity, how boring would it be? Would you want to eat the same things every day? Would you want to wake up every day and look at someone who looks exactly like you? I for sure don’t.

Some people try to mirror what they see on TV and magazines, trying to become perfect. They have to realize that there is no such thing as perfect. What they’re trying to chase down is a fabrication of beauty.

Embrace and love yourself, love the fact that you are cultured and different. Be yourself, even when you feel others may judge you. Stay true to yourself because it will get you to where you want to be. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself; you have to love yourself for who you are, not because someone told you otherwise. Imperfection will always be beautiful.

[Photo Courtesy of dcJohn]

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About Mike Saechao

Hi everyone. I'm a Mien-Asian American guy born and raised in Sacramento. What's Mien? Even I have a hard time explaining that, to put in short, south-eastern Chinese. I'm a big fan of all sorts of music and you'll probably find me at some coffee shop blasting music, reading books or browsing the internet for stuff to write about.
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