They call us the model minority… and I get it. I get that when my parents arrived, they did so silently. They cleaned toilets and mopped floors without question. They told their kids to excel in school, but to never brag about it. Raised us to be good citizens; we could only be so lucky. Model minority is what they call us, when we learn how to “stay out of everyone’s way.”
But it doesn’t mean we fit in better. When I said I was from Laos, everyone said they’d never heard of it and there was no one around here like that. Ate differently, looked differently, and lived differently; no one could relate to me. I was born here, but still… I was a foreigner.
In Laos, I was thrown into rooms filled with cousins, aunts and uncles. All Strangers. When I spoke Laos, they would scoff, “You sound like an American!” Over there, still… I was a Foreigner. ———– Foreigner here, Foreigner there.
It is not Mom and Dad’s fault. Their refugee past is one of darkness and struggle. They buried things and raised us to remain quiet.
If no one knows about Laos, this confirms for us what we knew all along. There is still a lack of Asian Representation. There are no faces of Lao men and women on T.V. and film. There are no examples of Lao love interests or stories.
But being discouraged to have a voice and being told to “stay out of the way” only prolongs the time that we spend being unseen.
As children of immigrants, we are all faced with something bigger than us right at this very moment. A responsibility to define what it means to be a first-generation Asian American. The responsibility to create our own identity.
Let us create space for Asian Americans to identify with.
Let us voice where we are from proudly, share our history and challenges (past and present).
Let us foster an empowering environment of belonging, so we can find comfort in both definitions. Asian and American.
And give permission to have vulnerability, so that we can feel at home no matter where we came from and who we are — here.
Pave our own paths where we have never been seen before, as creators, entrepreneurs, bosses and dreamers. Not only for us, but for future generations to come, so that our children never feel Foreigner here or Foreigner there.
Amber is a freelance writer and outdoor blogger for @coloradocaribou. She is passionate about women-led and outdoor organizations. Amber has faced challenges in an industry where there are not a lot of outdoor writers who look like her, but that only drives her to be better. She hopes to connect and leave some sort of mark with all the dreamers and go-getters alongside her! This piece allowed her to be vulnerable and give a small glimpse into our world and to open up to what’s inside of her.
Last modified: February 22, 2020