Ever since I read Jay Caspian Kang’s story on the hazing and death of Baruch freshman Michael Deng, I have been thinking about this line:
“‘Asian-American’ is a mostly meaningless term. Nobody grows up speaking Asian-American, nobody sits down to Asian-American food with their Asian-American parents and nobody goes on pilgrimages back to their motherland of Asian-America.”
Kang’s line stayed with me for a few reasons. The latter part of his sentence is completely accurate. And, yes, at many times the term “Asian American” is just a lazy way to describe a person, community, or restaurant.
But we shouldn’t overlook the meaningful part of the term, either. While Asian Americans are an incredibly diverse group, we can often find ways to identify with one another. This idea, to some extent, is the basis for various Asian American groups, whether based on Greek life, religious institutions, or professional associations.
At Mochi, which will celebrate its 10-year anniversary next year, we have always strived to cover as many aspects of the Asian American experience as we can. We know we can’t cover every perspective—precisely because there is no limit to the number of ways one can identify as Asian American—but it has been important to me, from day one, that we tell stories that celebrate individuals and that help us learn and grow as a community. We highlight Asian American issues and narratives so that readers can see themselves in the features that they read here. There’s a real danger in growing up and not seeing faces like yours on TV, in magazines, or in toy stores.
This importance boils down to one thing for me: visibility—which is also the theme of this current issue. This reference not only the ways that we’re seen in the world, but also the way that the world allows us to see ourselves. That’s why it’s heartening to see Hawaiian actress Sonya Balmores, Korean American actor Mike Moh, and Chinese American actor Ken Leung play big roles in Marvel’s “Inhumans.” That’s why we write stories about how hate crimes against Asian Americans are rising in Trump’s America. And that’s why we look into why Asian Americans tend to live at home longer.
Finally, the importance of “Asian American” as a term comes down to power in numbers. As a group we bond over certain values, even if our upbringings are completely different. As a group we help each other grow professionally. And, at the same time, as a group we fight every day to battle the stereotypes that erase our individuality.