Tag Archives: Asian American

What It Means to be Asian American

By Sarah Ta

[3 minute read]

My identity has always been something that I could never quite pin down. When I was younger, I believed that I knew myself inside and out, and thought I could predict what my future self would be like. As I’ve gotten older and just a little bit wiser, I can say for certain that my past self was wrong. I am constantly changing and even if I continue to use the same terms to describe myself, those terms hold an entirely different meaning to me now than they did five years ago. One of those terms is “Asian American”.

While I have always known that I was Asian and identified as such, I didn’t feel the need to specify that I was also American. After all, I knew I was born in the United States and since most of my elementary classmates were as well, it was just something we all accepted. It wasn’t until I moved the summer before 7th grade when the need to specify that I was American came about. I went from a predominantly Asian school to a predominantly Hispanic/Latino school and suddenly, me being American was no longer a given. It took several months of being questioned about whether I was born here and what my ethnicity was before things finally settled down and everyone moved on with their lives. However, their questioning left me more unsure of my own identity than I would have liked to admit. Just identifying as Asian no longer felt adequate enough, but with my limited vocabulary and knowledge, I pushed my small identity crisis aside and continued on with my carefree middle school days.

It wasn’t until high school that I discovered the term Asian American. By then, my little identity crisis had been almost forgotten. I don’t remember how I came across the term, but once I did, it was like a light bulb had lit up inside my head. That was the term that I had been unconsciously searching for since middle school, and finding it was like finding the missing piece to my identity puzzle. While I continue to identify as Asian American, the meaning of that term has changed since then. Being Asian American used to mean that while my ancestry was Asian, I was born here and so that made me American. There was a clear line between those two categories, but I just happened to be in both. Now, I realize that there is no line. Being Asian American is a melting pot of many different experiences and it is not something that can be easily separated into nice, neat categories. Even though it can be a confusing mess at times, it is one that I have never been more proud to be a part of, and every day I am learning more about my culture and how my identity shapes who I am.

Featured Image by Christina Boemio on Unsplash

Sarah is an undergraduate student from the San Gabriel Valley studying GeoDesign. In her free time, she enjoys reading, exploring L.A., trying new foods, and of course, meeting new people. She can speak conversational Cantonese, and is currently learning Mandarin. Even though her Chinese is limited, that doesn’t stop her from striking up a conversation with other international students. 

USC Student Voices on Black Lives Matter

[15 minute read]

Editor’s Note:

Unprecedented times call for unique actions. Oftentimes it is easy to forget that history is not a thing of the past, but rather something that is being created every day. A large and powerful university such as USC has a significant influence on its community, and that community spans from on campus inhabitants to the Los Angeles population to the United States as a whole. Students and faculty have a choice, as part of a major institution, to make their voice be heard through the variety of platforms, privileges, and opportunities through which USC has afforded us with.

When we observe discrimination, particularly in a time where information is so easily accessible, it is imperative that we educate ourselves and raise awareness for others. The voices of the Black Lives Matter movement and families across the country who have experienced losses similar to those of George Floyd’s family need to be heard. The death of George Floyd, as well as the economic consequences of COVID-19 occurring at the same time, have made it clear that certain members of our community, especially minorities and low-income families, are not being granted the rights that our country is founded on. As a part of the USC community, the USC American Language Institute recognizes these problems and leaders in some of our programs have stepped forward and written their own thoughts and reflections on the matter at hand.

The American Language Institute bridges an important gap on USC’s campus: the gap between domestic and international students. As students in the United States, it is important that all members of the USC community remain open and informed about the history that still plagues America to this very day. Three students have written about this movement, not only in the context of America and USC, but in the context of other minorities (particularly Asian Americans) who also play a significant role in shaping America’s history. We have united these voices, and below you will find three articles: Yellow Peril: What Black Lives Matter Means To Us by Tina Wang, Black Lives Matter: What Is It? by Kaitlin Foo, and Privilege in the Light of COVID-19 by Sarah Ta. Through these voices we hope you find inspiration and knowledge to help shape your own role in the history that is being made around us at every moment. The USC American Language Institute embraces our international community with open arms as well as the community at large, and we hope you will find some of your questions answered through these articles.

-Natalie Grace Sipula, Editor

YELLOW PERIL: WHAT BLACK LIVES MATTER MEANS TO US

By Tina Wang

As I am sitting here on a Wednesday morning writing this article, I am filled with disappointment and sadness for what has been occurring in this country. For those who are not aware, protests and riots have consumed the nation in the past week over the recent death of an African American man, George Floyd. On May 25, George Floyd was detained by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a local store owner reported suspicions that Floyd was attempting to purchase a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit bill. In the ensuing encounter, Officer Derek Michael Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while Floyd proclaimed, “I can’t breathe,” and “Don’t kill me.” After those eight minutes, he suffocated. Recorded on video tape, for 2 minutes and 53 seconds after the victim became unresponsive, Chauvin maintained his knelt position. George Floyd later passed away, and several different autopsies have produced different results, some claiming that his death was due to pre-existing heart conditions, and other independent studies stating that his death was a direct result of homicide by asphyxiation. The video of this encounter quickly surfaced on the internet and spread like wildfire throughout the country, with people nationwide crying “Black Lives Matter” and demanding that justice be served to the officers who were involved in his death. Because of national outrage, former officer Chauvin’s charge with third-degree murder was updated this afternoon to second-degree, and three other officers involved were charged for aiding in murder. 

Photo by munshots on Unsplash
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The Single Space Between Korean and American

By Jacqueline Choe

Throughout middle school and high school, if someone asked about my cultural heritage, I always said, “I’m more American than Korean.”

Korean American. That single space between Korean and American divides this compound word in half. Obviously, nationality and ethnicity aren’t as distinctly partitioned. But language is a tricky thing, and English had fooled me into thinking that I could develop only one half of my cultural identity without missing the other.

I’m a second-generation Korean American, but I grew up speaking English, and only English. I’m from a small suburban town half an hour’s drive from Seattle. In high school, I knew of maybe three or four other Korean kids, but  I didn’t know them on a personal level. My Koreatown was the H Mart (the local supermarket) in Bellevue, the only place outside of our own house where I could eat jjamppong and jajangmyeon and practically the only place where we could buy them.

Photo by Laura on Flickr

My brother and cousin don’t speak Korean either. On New Year’s, when our family meets up for mandu-guk, our parents would have conversations with our grandmother that we couldn’t understand. Sometimes our names came up. We accused them of gossip and laughed about it. Then we grasped for words in the common language between frustration and loneliness: two lands in which we are not outsiders.

Photo from Wikipedia

Los Angeles is different. Los Angeles has the largest population of Korean Americans in the country, and Koreatown is the most densely populated district in Los Angeles county. In a world like this, Korean Americans are Korean American, and that single space between the two words is not a divider, but a connector. Identity is intrinsic to life and vice-versa. Language and culture bond people together in ways I didn’t understand until I came to LA, walked down a city block, and saw what I couldn’t be a part of because I had spent so much time disregarding my Korean identity.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
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