*I’m still looking through my pictures to write my part 2 for the previous post, I have been working on choosing a grad school so I haven’t paid much attention to my website. This is an early draft of one of my personl statements that I might use for grad school. Still needs work lol.
Filipino Blood. American Heart.
The story of multiculturalism is thriving throughout the world, globalization, the mobilizing power of the internet and countless media trends in Afro-centric fashion, Japanese animation, Korean pop music are only a few of the many examples the global obsession to celebrate the culture of others. But for those who embody more than one culture, particularly for Asian-Americans, celebrating an Asian ethnicity and American nationality, are posed with the decision of which identity to celebrate. Diving deeper, choosing to celebrate one begs to ask why we might celebrate one side or the other. Our decisions come back to us as questions and it is the same question that many people with multicultural backgrounds will ask themselves over and over again. Where do we belong. It’s a difficult question to ask and an even harder question to answer. Reflecting on my past observations, research, and experiences, I want to continue investigating this through the lens of anthropology. It is through this cumulative body of knowledge will I get closer to answering the question of belonging that many Asian-Americans yearn to answer.
In the past, diversity was not a concept goal for a community or organization. Since conception of the America, the population has been largely homogenous, or of homogenous groups that only associated with others of the same kind. A time where segregation and explicit racism was observed. But, as the decades rolled through, so did the outlook towards cultural diversity. In America, we start to see an influx of African-Americans, European-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans’ steady climb to power positions. Cultural diversity is now celebrated almost everywhere, but in some ways it is still lacking in its conviction. The celebration of diversity could be seen more of a token of acknowledgement that only denotes the acknowledgment of the idea, but not the acceptance of the outsider community. My experiences were far and few growing up in Hawai’i because of the naturally diverse community, celebrating the many holidays of the cultures we had. It was when I finally joined Peace Corps, working alongside other Americans across the country that I started to feel the divide.
My Peace Corps Uganda experience is as unique as everyone else’s. In concept, there is no novelty. The story of personal struggle and victory is a consistent storyline amongst all volunteers, but the key difference I would highlight is that the common storyline only acknowledges the struggle of working between us Americans and the citizens where we volunteered, and nothing about their colleagues. My struggle was with both. The idea of being an Asian-American walks the line between Asian ethnicity and American nationality. A lot of the ethnic values that I have learned growing up do not complement well with the American values I have come to learn. Asian values are generally more conservative and rigid, correlating with introverted behavior; in contrast, American values are generally more radical and dynamic, correlating with extroverted behaviors. It trickles in to mannerisms, greetings, appearance and perspective. The differences were clear to me, and struggled to express and relate with others with my experience. Learning to be American is something I had to do because it was the only way I could feel a belonging to my American side.
As the months in Peace Corps Uganda went by, I started to feel stronger about my nationality. I felt confident to call myself American, something I might not have done living in Hawai’i, so it gave me strength in knowing I do belong. But another struggle came up in my work, the struggle to prove my American identity amongst the Ugandan citizens.
In most cases, Ugandans would not believe I was American. I did not match up to the blue-eyed image that they picture of. In contrast, I am a brown-eyed, brown-skinned Asian-American. In their eyes, I was not American. I was Chinese. My culture is always at the forefront. But I also hold that American pride within me as well. Part of me thought they were right, I am not American. But another part struggled to understand what makes me Asian in the first place excluding my colored skin as a Filipino. There was no clear-cut answer of who I was and it was a constant struggle to fight and prove myself over and over again. Returned from Peace Corps service, I have the opportunity to find my answer.
It would be rash to think that a research project alone in graduate studies would sufficiently answer the question of belonging, it is a lifelong quest to understand the context of the American society and the assimilating culture that many Asian-Americans have to go through. This is something I want to do not simply for myself, but for many others who are struggling to balance the internal ambivalence of identity, of ethnicity versus nationality. And the first step I have taken thus far in my investigation is to shift the framework from the idea that they are opposing factors, to the idea that they ethnicity and nationality are symbiotic. There are so many ways to celebrate both identities at the same time, and to research, understand, and learn about the ways communities have done this in the past is what I hope to bring to the forefront of the multicultural society we live in today.