One of the most powerful emotions I see many Asians feel right now is rage — and it’s the deepest and most personal kind. It’s a hard feeling to live with when many of us were born and raised to be hard working people who stay silent, obedient, and not cause trouble.
It’s the feeling I’ve felt when I got in trouble for fighting back and injuring a bully in elementary school. Or the time I heard “f*cking Chinaman!” as I was walking by an older couple at the movie theater with my friends in middle school. Or being the target of racial slurs constantly hurled at me during school lunch time all my life up into high school. Or one time, when I was walking home, a red Camaro pulled up next to me with a group of upperclassmen inside who thew garbage at me while laughing and calling me a “f*cking Chink” before quickly driving off. There were so many incidents throughout my life where I chose to stay silent because I didn’t want to “cause trouble.”
Last week, Andrew Yang published an op-ed in The Washington Post highlighting the growing racism against the Asian community.
The piece, published on April 1, was met with immediate backlash from the many Asian Americans, including celebrities like Simu Liu, Eddie Huang, and Steven Yeun. While the post touched on Yang’s personal experiences dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, many took issue with him commenting on Japanese Americans who joined the military during World War II to “demonstrate that they were Americans.”
Nearly three years ago, I sat down for an interview with David Tian, entrepreneur and the founder of “Chinese Americans For Trump,” who is responsible for mobilizing massive groups of Chinese Americans on WeChat in support of President Donald Trump during the 2016 election.
The group is famous for placing Trump billboards in over a dozen states and flying aerial banners in over 32 cities during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
“Why are you not like Auntie Yi’s kid?! He works so hard.”
“Did you know that Steve’s kid just got into Harvard? He’s so smart.”
Los Altos is the Silicon Valley city that has been home to elite residents including Sergey Brin, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. Nestled in the heart of downtown Los Altos is a Japanese restaurant so low-key, it’s easy to miss when walking by.
The concept is the brainchild of Hiroshi Kimura, a chef who started his cooking career in Osaka and Tokyo before settling down in Hawaii. For the next 28 years, he ran a Yakiniku restaurant in Honolulu where diners grilled their own beef at a table. Although the restaurant saw a lot of success and popularity, especially amongst celebrities, rising rent caused him to move to California and eventually open the Los Altos location in 2017.
It’s the summer of 2007, I’m sitting inside my room on campus with the A/C on full-blast. I had just finished my freshman year at UC Irvine. Back then, it was known as a “safety school” before rapidly moving up the UC ranks in recent years.
I was born and raised in San Francisco to parents who immigrated from mainland China in the 1980s. Like many hopeful immigrant Asian parents, they took one look at me when I came out of my mother’s womb and said to each other in Cantonese:
People of Asian descent have historically had a hard time finding glasses that fit them. Why? Because most of us have narrow and/or low nose bridges and other different facial features compared to other ethnic groups.
“Asian individuals tend to have more of a flatter face with the cheekbones very projected compared to the typical European,” Mark Hubbe, assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State University, told QZ in 2013.
Bruce Lee is remembered by many as a legend in the martial arts community. His innovative movies featuring epic fights continue to stand the test of time even decades after his death. His influence and success is no accident though — everything he’s accomplished is a product of his seemingly never-ending drive to succeed at all costs.
In 1961, Lee was 20 years old and a virtual unknown at the time. He made ends meet with small roles in TV shows, particularly the “Green Hornet” series. In January of that year, Lee sat down and wrote the following mission statement.
“We do not serve American rolls.”
These are the words you’ll see written on a chalkboard right before you walk into Ikko. Unlike most sushi restaurants in America where we are accustomed to seeing California and Volcano rolls, Chef Ikko Kobayashi is more interested in preserving tradition — with a twist.
Growing up as a Chinese-American, finding role models who looked like me on the big screen was always difficult. I saw many movies with all-Asian casts, but they were all Asian, not Asian American. There were movies with Asian leads like “The Replacement Killers” with Chow Yun-fat and “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li, but aside from “The Joy Luck Club,” I can’t remember another mainstream movie that really spoke to my experience as an Asian American.
At one point, I just internalized a belief that society just favored White faces more. I accepted this as the way things were in mainstream Hollywood, and didn’t think things would ever change.
As a 30-year-old Chinese-American who grew up in San Francisco, I remember a time before the internet, and then seeing it quickly become the thing we can’t spend one second off of. I was grateful for it because it offered communities where I could meet and and connect with others like me. Spaces like the legendary Asian Avenue, AIM, and Xanga were places where I could interact and share experiences with other Asians living in western countries.
Being in a mostly white middle school at the time, I faced many moments of racism and prejudice from my peers. But having these spaces to find others who’ve experienced the same reminded me that I wasn’t alone. These were places where we could share our favorite playlists with each other (Jay Chou, KAI, Kiss, anyone?), chat for hours about boba and cultural similarities in AIM chat rooms with our crazy screen names (Who had AZN. Bby, Boi or XxX in their sn?), to share stories unique to us, where “Azn Pryde” was celebrated.