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In response to my “opening monologue” on Taiwanese American identity:
But seriously, Taiwanese people growing up in Taiwan have major identify crisis as the world becomes ever more globalized. Just look at the sheer number of Chinese people studying abroad in the US. I have a losing grasp of what Taiwan means to the world. This problem has never occurred to me before until I left Taiwan and look left and right at the changing landscape. China is too big and ambitious, yet Taiwanese people are not working hard enough to keep up. The Taiwanese Americans (at least people in your parents’ generations) are more pro Taiwan than Taiwanese themselves. What irony right? Taiwanese students grow up reading Chinese histories instead of our own history. So really no one really knows when Taiwan will be swallowed up. It seems like a matter of time.
Compared to their Asian counterparts, Taiwanese kids in my generation are suffering from a lack of innovation and lack of strong foreign language skills that could connect them with the world. My brother, who now works in Boston as software engineer, refuses to go back just because there is no opportunity for him. very low pay and all. Unless Taiwan carves out its own niche in this changing world, I don’t know if there will be a future for Taiwan.
Yes, this is definitely true. I’d even say that 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans are still more passionate about Taiwan than many of the students there right now. I will be addressing this in the future though, with my apolitical/educational plan. After all, as the name implies, the “opening monologue” is just the beginning of the dialogue I hope to encourage.
Growing up in the United States as a Taiwanese American can be a pretty lonely world to be living in. We’re often labeled as simply “Asian” here in the States because of how we look. It doesn’t matter if we have a Southern drawl, Midwest twang, or perfect American accent. It doesn’t matter if you grew up in Bahston or New Yawk (where “Houston” is pronounced “Howston”). Even though we’re taught to “never judge a book by its cover,” people still do. I am…Asian?
It’s only a little bit better on the other side. Americans dress differently than Taiwanese people, so going back to Taiwan, our clothing choices can give us away as “foreigners.” For those of us who can pass clothing-wise, we’re often distinguished the moment we open our mouths to speak Mandarin / Taiwanese. Yeah, I’ve got that American accent. I am…American?
Within the Asian American community in the United States, Taiwanese Americans actually hold a pretty strong presence, but in the minds of the world/country at large, we’re still kind of an afterthought. “Ooh, I love Thai food!” is still a common response. Maybe you’ll get an “Ooh, so you’re Chinese?” if the respondent is slightly more educated than the former. Maybe you’ll get a tech savvy person who recognizes that Taiwan makes/designs a lot of technology. Some people are raised in families that instill their deep Taiwanese pride into their children and bring them along to rallies trying to get the United Nations to let Taiwan in (and this was me). I am…Thai? Chinese? A Computer Maker? Taiwanese?
Taiwanese Americans all across the United States struggle with this identity crisis. Probably to the dismay of my parents, I identify with none of these. I identify as Taiwanese American. But what does this mean?
As I plan potential speaker sessions at various Taiwanese American / Asian American events, I’m thinking about using this as an opening monologue. Thoughts? Feedback? Contact
Photo above: TASC Chalks the Quad with PSA! :)
As the FACT conference rolls into town, I think it’s an appropriate time to publish this.
I’m quite amazed at the Asian American (AA) community here at the University of Illinois (UIUC). The contrast to Washington University in St. Louis (WashU) community is quite jarring. UIUC really has worked to create a culture within the AA student body that is productive and collaborative.
Many different organizations have set up their own “family” group systems to facilitate the relationship building, but I don’t see a rivalry between groups other than friendly competition when it comes to events like Capture the Flag and what not. In fact, the opposite is true. People are definitely more humble here than at WashU. To have officers, family heads, and even presidents of other clubs in my own family group has shown this. Furthermore, the relationships aren’t just within the exec/board members. Everyone can feel like they’re part of the family, even if they don’t have an official position.
My alliances might be with TASC (Taiwanese American Students Club) and TIA (Taiwan Intercultural Association), but that doesn’t stop me from supporting other groups like PSA (Philippine Student Association), VSA (Vietnamese…), CUSA (Chinese Undergraduate…), etc.
What’s kind of surprising and very refreshing here is that the presence of commonly underrepresented Asian Americans is even stronger here. I feel like growing up, I had been so focused on being Taiwanese American and developing that identity that I had really neglected to take the time to learn about other cultures. The thing is, everyone has a story - you just have to open up your mind enough to hear it.
This collaborative AA community builds a level of tolerance that I think is currently really hard to find anywhere in the country. I think that the existence of a strong Asian American Association (AAA) and Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) helps a lot, and other schools should learn from them. The Asian organizations have made a really great first step toward educating the entire world, and working toward a more accepting world.
Overall, being here has given me a lot to think about. Even after only 2 months here, I feel like I myself have become a more tolerant individual, and have been striving to make connections within all of APAC. While I have been and plan on maintaining a focus on being Taiwanese American, I think I’ll continue to explore my identity as an Asian American as well.
When I went to Kaohsiung (in the southern part of Taiwan), we stayed at the Ambassador Hotel, which included a nice breakfast buffet. They were making omelets, but also had fried eggs. When I saw the plates lined up on the counter, I couldn’t help but smile.
Growing up in the United States, eating eggs outside of the house usually meant scrambled, sunny side up, or over easy. I’d put on some hot sauce, or (more controversially) some ketchup, and eat it with the toast, ham, hash browns, or whatever else I had.
But then there were these Ambassador Hotel eggs. They were cooked “over well” and next to them? A bottle of soy sauce. I hadn’t eaten a fried egg like this in ages. It’s the only way my mom would cook it, and I would always have soy sauce on it - always. I also remembered my parents always being turned off when sunny side up eggs always came out “uncooked” at restaurants.
So I stood there with a stupid grin on my face. Why? Because even a fully cooked egg serves as a reminder that I really am a Taiwanese American - bringing the best from two freaking awesome countries.