Part Two of my guest post for Fascinasians.
One of the few places where I felt that I really belong, where it didn’t matter if my skin had a hint of yellow and my hair was pitch black, was church. My parents have always been very Catholic and passed it on to their children. At the age of eight I started serving as an altar girl – belonging was simple: You just follow the rules, make the right steps at the altar and everything will be fine. You will be a respected part of the group. Outside church services and Sunday masses it was more complicated. Even if I followed the social rules religiously (no pun intended), I was not entirely part of the play.
Connecting with other Vietnamese, let alone other Asian people (who my parents found acceptable), didn’t happen. One reason was that the next larger community was an hour car drive away. My siblings and I found it also weird to hang out with Vietnamese people just because they were Vietnamese. “I don’t want to contribute to the ghettoization of Asians,” my older brother used to say. Those gatherings would never last long enough to make friends. Besides, what was the point? I knew the judgmental looks that my siblings and I got from our German environment too damn well. We were a group of four and people stared at us when we walked around, sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with disgust. “Those outlanders get way too many offspring!” their eyes seemed to say, scrutinizing us. Their disdain was almost palpable. Why enforcing those resentments by grouping up with other Asians?
My perception of my identity gradually shifted to the better once I went to university and spent more time on the internet. The German media is even worse in diversity than Hollywood, but the internet offered so many Asian faces and voices that it became almost hard to choose. I learned that in the United States, Canada and Australia, there are many more people like me: Stuck between their Asian heritage and the western culture they grew up in, facing unfair judgment, racial slurs and bullying. Finally – I found people I could relate to. The more I watched their videos on YouTube and the more I read their articles, the more I felt ok being me. I learned to accept this very existence that the universe had given to me and to embrace it.
For Part One click here.