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Embraced My HeritageI recall a time when I was in elementary school and I was teased because I had natural "kinky" hair. My mother used to style my hair in little pompoms. I was in fourth grade. I felt outcast, rejected, ugly, worthless and hurt. After this experience, I was not confident in myself or believe I was beautiful. Later on in life, I made a decision to stop processing my hair and leave it in its natural state. I started loving myself double the amount and loving those that looked that way. By doing so, I embraced my heritage and began acknowledging my unique beauty. I was not tolerant of bullying or discrimination. I learned that everyone is beautiful in their own way and should be treated likewise.
The day when I achieve my PhD, I'm a Psychologist, I am content and have accomplished success after surpassing fear, doubt, anxiety and tapping into my dreams, faith, fulfillment and greatness ─ I will help others. I will help those who are oppressed and fearful, those who are rejected and discriminated. I will advocate universally for those in spite of gender, race, orientation, and also end cultural appropriation. I will live my life as a model by giving back, writing influential books, traveling and motivating young people, ending my family's tradition of poverty, and most importantly entering the door of success!
-- SHANIA R
Why Are You Here?
At a college workshop where they talk about picking which college you wish to attend, I was talking to a group of Caucasian/white American males. As soon as I told them I was a Mexican American, they started to ask me, "Why are you here?" I asked, "What do you mean?" And they said I was not supposed to be there since I was Mexican and I was not supposed to go to college. At first, I was in shock since I was in New York, such a diverse city. I felt horrible, surprised, sad, angry. I would have wished that they could have educated themselves better about race and culture because we could have become friends. What I've learned from this is that people can have an opinion of you based on your ethnicity, but it depends on you if you listen to them. Always remember you control your future and choose what you want to do so you do not fall into stereotypes.
-- GILDARDO G
Why Words of Hate
On the second day after 9/11, I went back to school.
I was six.
When I came to the bus stop, a child threw words at me
like “terrorist" and "killer" and
I fell victim to words of hate.
I felt confused about why this child was yelling at me
while everyone was watching.
The bus was taking a long time
and more people started joining in.
I wish someone would have stood up for me
or tried to explain that
I was as much a victim of 9/11 as he was.
-- BASSEM A
I will inspire respect for diversity by being open minded and accepting of other races and cultures. All people should be treated with the utmost respect and equality. We should move forward with the notion to treat others how we should want to be treated, and also by being accepting of all our differences because those are the qualities that make us stand out and add to the world as a whole. My best dreams are to be a positive contributor to my environment wherever I decide to go. I want to gain the education and insight to do great things, gaining a career that can help do wondrous things.
-- DAWNLEY P
Spaghetti "Madinad" Three Times A Week
I never considered myself to be very ethnic. My father's family has been in America since before the Mayflower, and I thought my only connection to my maternal Italian roots was the fact that we ate spaghetti "madinad" (not mar-i-nar-a) about three times a week.
In May of my senior year of high school, my mother and I went shopping to look for accessories for my prom dress. We went to her old neighborhood, an area populated largely by second and third generation Italian-Americans very much like my grandparents. I hadn't spent much time there myself, other than the family's weekly trek to that neighborhood for pizza. But it suddenly took on new meaning for me after that day of shopping.
The woman behind the counter was no one in particular, didn't stand out in any way. But while she showed us necklaces and earrings, and talked to us about her granddaughter's first communion, I began to see a whole culture and a large part of my own identity in this woman, who looked to be about my grandmother's age, who had the same Staten Island Italian accent I prided myself on not having, and who probably would have been as lost as I would have been if we had suddenly found ourselves beamed to the center of Naples. I felt a wonderful sense of comfort in listening to her talk, and I felt confident that the smell of garlic hung as heavily in her house as it did in ours. I'd even venture that she walked around her house with her "pock-a-book" hanging on her elbow. It was a strange feeling, but I wanted to hug this woman just for being who she was and reminding me that I shared this Americanized Italian culture more than just sitting down to spaghetti "madinad" three times a week.
-- BELLA LUNA
The Jade Circle
The jade circle embodies the fundamental principles of Asian society. When I was a young child, my grandmother sat me down and handed me a jade bracelet. The surface was smooth and round and cool. There were no sharp edges; it was a continuous circle, no beginning, no end. It was simple, and unbroken.
She said to me, "This bracelet represents the continuous circle of life. It illustrates the perpetual love and hopes that I hold for you, and the simplicity of the desires which you will strive to obtain. " As I held the bracelet, its once cool surface began to warm. As I slipped it over my wrist, it felt like a hand embracing my arm.
As a child, when people asked me what nationality I was, I boldly announced, "American," without further thought to my heritage or my birthright as a Chinese American. My outward Caucasian appearance has enabled me to walk through life as a person of unidentifiable origin. Many people of ethnic appearance have told me that this is a blessing that has saved me from antagonism and prejudice, that I am lucky and that they wish they could look as unidentifiable as I do.
But to me, this is not a blessing but a curse. As an Asian in American society, I do not fit in as an Asian, nor as an "American." I have felt as though I am an American of dual cultures, yet with no culture at all. In China, I am an "American;" in America, I am Chinese. Yet somewhere along my journey, I realized that I could and wanted to be both. The most difficult part has been the struggle to balance the cultural differences in my family. Never before have I understood the reasons why my parents look at the world so differently. Although as my grandmother prophesied, I would be granted the opportunity to achieve all of my goals, she never saw what a difficult task that would be to attain such goals in a family of dual cultures.
The study of Asian American history and culture has given me the gift of understanding. Understanding the values that the Chinese possess and why they possess them. I have always been resentful of the simplicity and the understatedness by which my mother lives. As a typical American adolescent, I have always valued the ostentatious displays of wealth and independence that predominate in American society. The Chinese value that which is humble and courageous and good, not that which is strong-willed and pretentious. The simplicity of the jade bracelet that my grandmother gave me holds new meaning and value. It is simple and understated. It is refined and valuable. It is a simple circle, yet it is continuous.
Exploring my heritage, I now realize the customs and values which shape my identity. This exciting journey into my past has enabled me to understand my family's unique values and beliefs. My own belief system has been influenced by my Asian roots and members of my family much more than I ever realized. The study of Chinese Americans has given me the ability to gain insight into my own personal past and present. It has given me the chance to claim my "Asianness," to be proud of it, and to grow culturally and spiritually. I have gained the ability to look within and therefore beyond.
Yet my journey is not complete. I must continue to search into my past and look towards the future to claim my identity as an Asian American. My study has given me that warm hand of reassurance that my grandmother's jade bracelet embodies. The jade circle is continuous, and I will continue to learn.
-- B BUTLER
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