A New Voice, A New Home
It is always hard to leave one’s hometown and settle in a completely different country, especially when you are Asian like me. Spending the most important years in the US was truly difficult but I have nothing to regret.
I came to the US years ago with an open mind, and to get my bachelor’s degree. I was overwhelmed with all the courses and opportunities. It reflected directly by the way I chose my classes for the first semester. I picked everything from economics and psychology to art. From a science student’s perspective, everything has its own rules. I kept that mindset and applied it to the art classes. But soon I realized that art doesn’t work that way. I really started to struggle. I closed myself. I could not speak up when it was not my turn to introduce my work. I was even afraid to ask questions. Then, my professor shared stories about his art adventure and other artists with me. It was not always a smooth path and their inspirations were not always obvious. The important things are their journeys and their stories behind each piece. Thus, it is totally fine if you do not follow the rules, since there are no rules. I began changing my point of view by releasing all the pressure of about being wrong, opening myself for all comments and giving more opinions about acquaintances’ work. For the first time, I understood the crucial elements of my stories, my background and my opinions. For the first time, I saw my voice mattered.
I am lucky to be studying at Clark University where students’ opinions are taken seriously. I gradually felt the democratic atmosphere which I have never experienced in my country - Vietnam. In my country, students’ responsibilities are going to school and completing homework. And here, I felt like I could represent for those who wanted a voice.I could feel my thoughts became essential, I realized my reactions had impact. However, only my world changed. I rarely witnessed conversation of an Asian association discussing our rights and our perspectives. It is more exceptional when talking about a march or speaking in public. I had a big question mark about the Asian position in public speaking after my friend said that Asians are good at being invisible. Why are other communities fighting for their acknowledgment but we are proud of being remained nameless?
Inequality for the Asian in American society is not new and it has been exploded since the 1960s when developers refused to hire Asian workers for the Confucius Plaza construction project. The problem also was recorded by AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui when he mentioned that protest among New York Asians weren’t just rare, it was unheard of at that time. “I remember the Asian community was afraid to speak up about issues they faced… lack of access to equal employment or services.” (Our History). Does that frightened feeling need to be absorbed by the next Asian generation in America, the result of which would cause them to feel less confident with their voice? There is a lot of unfairness but there is no protest.
The image of an Asian on the media is also neglected. “Oscars So White” is one of the famous lines past couple years. The percentage of Asian speaking characters is so little compared to other races. There are many articles talked about this issue. However, this was one of few times Asian appearance has been noticed. Besides that, the social media is full of Black Lives Matter and White Lives Matter hashtags but Asian Lives Matter does not exist. Not because we do not know how to say it but we dare not to speak.
It is quite funny when I found my voice in a foreign country but not my home country. Two years in a strange place is the two years I learned, explored and understood my true power of speech. Although I am just one person, I’m trying every day to fight for my right and letting my voice be heard. And you should too.
Evelyn is a junior at Clark University in Worcester, MA, pursuing a double major in Economics and Mathematics.
Citation: "Our History." Asian Americans for Equality. N.p., 11 Dec. 2016. Web. 20 July 2017. .
Image source: Robert H. Goddard Library. N.d. Clark University. Robert H. Goddard Library, Clark University. Web. 26 July 2017.