Tag Archives: asian american



By Isabelle Tee, age 15, New Jersey.

She doesn’t want you to join us,” she said, “you are too loud.”

For most of my elementary school years, I’ve never had an actual friend that I’ve felt comfortable enough to just be myself. Many of the people I’ve talked to were mainly acquaintances so that I didn’t look like a loner. Because when you’re on a field filled with kids who don’t think before they talk, the last thing you want to be is alone.

So I tried to befriend a group of girls that I’ve only distantly known from second grade. Whenever they talked to me, I just nodded. I had no clue what they were actually talking about. During recess, I just follow along and pretend to be the bad guy when we play games. During class, I’m the one giving them answers for worksheets. And during lunch? That’s another story.

My mom packed me fried rice that day, which—in my opinion—was better than the soggy dino nuggets. I sat down at the lunch table with my “friends” and ate my food. One girl starts to sniff the air and looks around. Then she goes, “What’s that smell?” She looks at me. All I could do at that moment was put on a fake smile. How can you be friends with someone who can’t accept who you are?

The following day at recess, I joined the girls at the corner of the field. Only two of the girls were standing there. I asked them what game they were playing, and they awkwardly looked at me back. They told me that the others didn’t want to play with me anymore, apparently, I was too loud for them.

I pleaded with them, promising I wouldn’t scream loudly and lower my voice. They looked at me and told me to wait. One of them ran over to the other girls and whispered something into their ears. When she came back, she allowed me into the group again. I kept my word and didn’t speak much. I didn’t want to go back home crying to my mom again.

I realized then that, from the beginning, they never truly accepted me. They were never true friends.

By Isabelle Tee, age 15, Asian American, New Jersey.

In the Forest within the City Park

there is a beauty that can not be muffled

by the city’s lights and sounds

it flies free with the clouds

and pushes the leaves in the air

onto the ground

to flutter like butterflies  

it holds the reins of the seasons

it dresses the earth in wailing white and grassy green

it gives us life  

but we take away from its own

the sky is filled with fire

the ground bathed in garbage

after all that it has done to us

we must save it from ourselves  

we must protect our world, our home

our beginning


By Jaslene Kwack, age 11, Illinois.

Jaslene writes: “I like writing, art and music. I play the piano, clarinet and I started bassoon a while ago. In my free time, I like to write stories and poems. I try to be creative using metaphors and verbs that aren’t cliche. I enjoy drawing realistic and abstract pieces of art. When I grow up, I want to be a person who combines art and writing in a creative way to entertain or help people.

     “I wrote [this] poem about nature and how we are polluting and killing our environment. I want to recognize the beauty of nature and how it formed us in the first place. Sometimes, people don’t give nature as much credit as it should deserve. Without it, our world would be empty and barren. In my poem, I also talk about parts of nature all around us everyday. The wind blowing, the leaves falling from trees. Technology which is represented in my poem as “the city’s lights and sounds” is taking over our world slowly by every hour. I think because of all these new inventions and ways of life we are making for ourselves, a lot of us forget about how important nature is and how it is humanity’s origin. We should recognize nature and be grateful for this world around us. I think we should all strive to be better and protect the earth so that we can keep our world clean and healthy.”

Overlooked Oppression

Minding my own business, I looked for the exit sign in the store since COVID-19 precautions had limited the number of usable doors at Target. As I made my way to the familiar red exit, a middle-aged white man approached me.

“Because of you, I have to wear this mask. Your kind started this whole pandemic.”

As an Asian American, I have always experienced racism, but I’ve never spoken up about it because not many people like me have. Oftentimes, I find that the Asian community keeps quiet and internalizes the racism we endure. However, after my trip to Target, a message shouts clearer to me than ever: The unrecognized racism that Asian Americans face has been shut down for far too long, and it is time to bring awareness to this prejudice. 

Asian Americans have actually faced racism for over a century. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. “For the first time, Federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities.” In other words, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law to ban immigration based on race, demonstrating how Asian Americans have long been subject to racial discrimination.                

But more urgent are the recent violent attacks that thousands of Asian Americans have suffered. As the number of COVID-19 cases have increased, so have the number of hate crimes towards Asian Americans. NBC News reported at least 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past year, mainly against Asian women. From random strangers shouting, “go back to China,” “Chinese virus,” and “Kung flu” to mass shootings such as the one in Atlanta, countless Asians have recently experienced these horrifying acts of racism.

But why aren’t more people talking about all the lives lost due to this prejudice? The answer is simple. Asians are seen as the “model minority,” so we – apparently – don’t experience racism since all of us are so opulent. However, the model minority myth is very problematic. This myth originated in the 1960s when the 1965 Immigration Act reversed the previous restrictions on Asian immigration. But this act still limited which Asians could enter the U.S. because only highly educated professionals were allowed in. Because of the background of these skilled workers, they were able to pursue specific careers with higher income, resulting in the development of the model minority myth. However, this overgeneralization of Asian Americans masks the struggles of those who aren’t as fortunate. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that Asian Americans have the largest wealth gap in the U.S., proving the inaccuracy of this harmful stereotype. Additionally, this myth places a racial wedge between Asian Americans and other people of color. Rather than uniting to fight the issue of white supremacy together, racial minorities are divided against each other because of the model minority myth, which hinders progress towards racial equality. Even though our society has made several steps in the right direction in terms of anti-racism, there is still a long way to go. We must continue to fight for racial justice so that all people of color can finally have an equal playing field.

By Lily Fu, 17, Asian American, Texas.

Please visit Lily’s website: https://asianamericanawareness.blogspot.com/ She created it for her youth advocacy organization that focuses on Asian American Awareness.

Xiāng Xiāng

By Jessica Wang, 16, New York.

I have two names. One I use everyday while the other I keep stowed inside me, locked behind the bars of my lips and the breath of my tongue.

My caged name is actually quite pretty. It means aroma. Not a smelly one, but a homey, warm odor, like the scent of fresh laundry or the steam that bubbles off chicken soup. 

Sometimes I say my name to myself, just to see if it’s still there. It’s strangely pronounced and forces my tongue to touch the roof of my mouth and oftentimes I stumble over the loopy syllables. I only say it in the dark; face mushed between two pillows and huddled under layers of blankets, just in case it tries to make a run for it.

I’m afraid of my name.

It’s odd because you’re not supposed to fear a name. Can you imagine if every Tim, Tom, and Harry were afraid of his name? That would be a strange world indeed.

I’m afraid of my name because it’s cursed. It doesn’t belong here, on this soil or in this strange body that I try to call “American”. If I were to let my name go from its cage, past my lips, people would stare and know that I too don’t belong here. They would ask me what my name means and I would explain that directly translated it means “nice smell”. And then they would laugh at the absurdness and wonder what the silly Chinese were thinking. Naming a child after a smell? What would be next? A girl named after the taste of a lemon?

If I said my name, it would betray me, reveal me as an outsider. It had done it before and would do it again. So I betray my name first. I betray it by wearing colored contact lenses and trying to look Caucasian. I betray it by buying creams to hide the yellowness of my skin. I betray it by waking up every day and wishing my name wasn’t there, that instead of two names I only had one, one free name.

I dye my hair blonde one day, just to see what it would be like to have yellow curls and pretty hair. The dye stung my scalp and smelled like bleach and acid and nothing homey or warm at all. I am not an outsider. I tell myself as I brush my new beautiful hair.  I am not an outsider. I am not an outsider. I am not an outsider. The words taste funny on my tongue. 

My mother no longer calls me by my caged name. She used to, back when I didn’t understand what the word “foreigner” meant and my worst fear was getting an apple instead of cookies during snack time. I remember she used to say it in a certain way, curling her pink tongue and rolling the syllables off neatly. But she stopped after I asked her what the word “slit-eyes” meant. Now she calls me “Je-ssi-ca,” the name neatly printed on my birth certificate, my official name, the free name. She named me after the actor Jessica Simpson because she’s pretty and Caucasian and has blonde hair. The name is easy to pronounce and flows off the tongue smoothly, the American tongue that is.

My second name “Je-ssi-ca” does wonders. It helps me chain up my foreign name and even add a couple more locks, determined to snuff it out. And it works. I can no longer hold chopsticks properly or handle the spices of traditional dishes. When I try to speak the language my ancestors once spoke, my thick American accent pokes through and slurs together the vowels and syllables. It’s American-Chinese my grandma would murmur and shake her head at how far her heritage has fallen. I am no longer the little girl who listened to her stories about the immortal monkey king and his magical staff. She does not know who I am. I am foreign to her.

I have successfully locked up my name.

But even without saying my name, it still betrays me. People still look at me like I’m an outsider even though I was born here, even though I speak English perfectly, even though I betray a part of myself everyday just to please them.

And no matter how much cream I scrub into my skin, no matter how much I try to hide the dark brown in my eyes, they keep staring. 

But I like my caged name. I think it’s pretty, even prettier than light hair and blue contact lenses. It reminds me of steamed dumplings and curved mandarin letters and red paper lanterns with gold embroidered on the edges. And when I say my chicken soup-fresh laundry-oddly pronounced-laughable name. I feel good. The syllables punctuate the air daringly and challenge the world around. When I whisper the letters, my name is free and so am I.

It’s true that my caged name doesn’t quite fit me. I can’t write or read mandarin and my pronunciation is terrible. But it’s still a piece of me, just like my skin and my eyes. I can’t just scrub it off, mask it, or even lock it up. At  the end of the day my caged name is mine. All its dents, curves, and ridges are mine. It’s oddly pronounced, and it’s mine. It is me, and I am mine. My culture. My ethnicity. Me.

 I don’t want to lock myself up anymore.

By Jessica Wang,16, New York, United States.

“My piece is about the period in my life when I went through a lot of self-hatred because of the way I looked. I hated being Chinese because it meant that I looked very different from my peers. I remember sometimes I would even buy whitening creams and dye my hair in order to try and fit in. I should have realized that instead of trying to please others I should have learned to accept myself for who I am.”