As May is recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we thought it would be valuable to highlight this powerful talk by Canwen Xu of TEDxBoise. Xu’s talk, I am not your Asian stereotype, highlights the difficulties of growing up in “a blend of two cultures” and the confusion of growing up as an Asian American.
While Xu speaks directly to her experiences that she had while growing up in the United States of America, we believe that there are many anecdotes in Xu’s talk that Asian Canadians could relate to as well.
A talk like Xu’s is significantly more important at this time of because of the recent #StopAsianHate movement which has picked up steam in response to growing cases of Anti-Asian hate crimes linked to misinformation surrounding the current pandemic. While Xu never personally faced physical violence or aggression based on her race, she faced a lot of confusion and difficulty understanding how to love and appreciate her Asian culture because of the judgment from her societal environment.
A poignant quote from this talk that ties perfectly together with the #StopAsianHate movement is as follows…
“The truth is, Asian Americans play a strange role in the American melting pot. We are the model minority. Society uses our success to pit us against other people of color as justification that racism doesn’t exist. But what does that mean for us, Asian Americans? It means that we are not quite similar enough to be accepted, but we aren’t different enough to be loathed. We are in a perpetually grey zone, and society isn’t quite sure what to do with us.”
The #StopAsianHate movement was difficult for some to wrap their heads around in the beginning. Similar to what Xu discusses in the above quote, there is a common misconception that there is not a lot of violence towards Asian people because of the idea that they are the “model minority” or possess cultural values most acceptable in Western society than other non-Eurocentric ethnicities, however this is far from the truth.
The #StopAsianHate movement is of great importance because it brought to light the sad and embarrassing truth; there are still very prevalent acts of racism and hatred towards Asian people. Society has made it difficult and confusing for AAPI people to feel as though they can be authentically themselves, that they can celebrate and embrace their culture and feel truly accepted and welcomed within mainstream North American society.
A beautiful talk such as Canwen Xu’s, and a powerful and strong movement such as the #StopAsianHate movement serves as an important reminder to all; we still have a long way to go to eliminate and eradicate racism in our society. For those trying to support AAPI friends, it may seem difficult to know how to be a good ally. The best way to start is to listen and be curious when they are sharing their stories.
Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, may we celebrate our friends with pride, love and honour!