#STOPASIANHATE – Statement From Your Kinda Asian Litter-Picking Pediatrician
March 20, 2021
We were at Casa Romantica as the last stop on our brief but much appreciated and much needed OC vacation. We were mostly there to look at the Native Pollinator Gardens, the Monarch Way Station and the views, but the kids surprisingly wanted to wander into some of the historic rooms. And when we did, we saw this beautiful art installation by artist Christine Nguyen. https://www.christinenguyen.art/public-art
The piece is indeed beautiful and I will enjoy getting to know her art more, now that I’ve found her webpage. But I was intrigued by her last name which is as Vietnamese as they come and prominently displayed against the very white walls of a very established cultural institution in Southern California.
What does this have to do with #STOPASIANHATE which is now trending on social media? I haven’t commented on this at all on my personal nor eco-avatar social media sites. I was trying to figure out why I didn’t have a visceral reaction to the hashtag or needed to adopt it. Neither did Mr. Plastic Picker who is actually Korean, and indeed was a Korean citizen until medical school right before our marriage. I was born an American citizen, my mother having popped me out on American soil after having been pregannt in refugee camp. So I can become President of the United States of America if I wanted. Not Mr. Plastic Picker. And I did mention to him years ago that he should become a citizen before we got married, so that I would know he was not marrying me for my citizenship.
Indeed I agree that we should #STOPASIANHATE . We should stop all hate.
I was trying to figure out why I didn’t have such a strong reaction to #STOPASIANHATE and that is because I’ve just recently realized and identified as kinda Asian. I am Asian to the outside world. That is how some see me. But I’ve always identified as Vietnamese, not Asian. I remember walking past the Asian American Association recruitment tables at every stage in my career: high school, college, medical school, and even one of the other HMO middle managers invited Mr. Plastic Picker and I to join a locally prominent Asian Professional Civic Association and we politely declined (mostly because they were asking for donations. LOL). We passed on these recruitment tables because each of us felt uniquely our own ethnic group. I always identfied as Vietnamese, and Mr. Plastic Picker identifes as Korean. Indeed when we married each other, there were cultural differences between our families despite us outwardly to everyone being both Asian. How different could we be, our families both used chopsticks?
I was born to Vietnamese parents. My mother tongue is Vietnamese. I grew up and still eat a lot of Vietnamese food. And I informed my daughter yesterday that she will eventually when she decides to form her own family, will have a Vietnamese engagement ceremony with the traditional dress, tea ceremony and gifts – the whole shebang. Mr. Plastic Picker is the same way with many things that are Korean. Indeed his parents still own their very traditional Korean home in his hometown, and soon we will take the children there to go visit and see all the older aunts and uncles. It’s not luxurious at all. Four stories and three levels are rented to tenants. You sleep on super clean floors that are wood and heated, and the shower is ice-cold water in the winter that consist of running water but a plastic hand-held small bucket shaped like a pot. You pour the water yourself over your head. There is no traditional shower head. I’m sure they’ve updated the house since. But that was what it was like when we last visited 20 years ago. It was 20 years ago though.
But I realized that I am kinda Asian now because my two children identify as Asian. They have as close cultural ties to Vietnam and Korea as we have been able to create. Indeed, I think they are very firmly rooted in their cultural identify knowing each language somewhat. One better than the other. And our daughter has a better mastery than our son. They cringe at others professing to love KPOP, just as someone who is Mexican might cringe if your friend suddenly said he loved tacos or your Indian friend would react if you suddenly said you loved curry. They realize that being Korean and Vietnamese is more nuanced than just a single dish, or a band. As a mother of children who are raised culturally Korean, I will be honest to say that I cringe everytime someone tells me they love KPOP. To me, you have now reduced my children to hyper-sexualized, westernized, and commercialized subset of the Korean culture that makes everyone think of my children as real-life anime characters. I can’t stand some Asian-American comedians who trade off fame by capitalizing on Asian stereotypes as well. One male comedian I recently watched streaming, and I had to turn it off. He was so inappropriate and sadly popular and trending right now.
But my children are somewhat distrubed by the spate of Asian hate crimes. And I do agree that they are on the rise. Of course there has been Asian stereotypes and hate crimes. During the fifteen years we lived in Boston, I realized how lucky I was to grow up Asian-American / Vietnamese-American in Southern California. Let’s just say that for much of the time I lived in Boston, in multiple flashing moments I was not seen. I was placed in a category. “When did you learn English?” “Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?” “Ching chong ching chong.” “For an Asian girl.” “I thought you were a Japanese tourist.”
For Mr. Plastic Picker and I, I insisted we move back to Southern California to raise our Asian-American children. Having witnessed how different some of my Vietnamese friends reacted to being American and their identity being raised in different areas of the country – I wanted my children to be who they are, and comfortable with their mixed Asian identity. So we came home to where I was raised, and mostly loved and welcomed. So how did Dr. Plastic Picker #STOPASIANHATE, we came home to San Diego.
All hate is bad. When my little patients tell me they hate vegetables, I am always shocked. I look at them and ask them, “Hate is such a strong word. What did a vegetable ever do to you?” And I think the powerful thing is that I say this to all my patients no matter what ethnicity they are. I see them for who they are wholy, and treat them I hope the same. I want them all to eat vegetables. And that is how I seek to stop asian hate, to be part of this beautiful community as a pediatrician and an environmental advocate.
Yes please I agree and appreciate all the trending #STOPASIANHATE. Mostly because people are scaring my children, Asian children and indeed likely all children especially those who love KPOP and anime.