My Heritage is My Power

My story as an Asian American is a simple, but powerful one. I grew up in the suburbs outside of Richmond, and in a much smaller, but tightly knit Chinese community. My family and I attended the community’s events celebrating important holidays, attended Chinese school every weekend, and was generally immersed in the community. But along with the good of staying in my bubble, came the bad. I was sheltered from the darker society, a society where Asian Americans are mistreated; a society where our community is hated for no good reason. So, when I went off to elementary school, unbeknownst to me at the time, I had been subjected to stereotyping and racism. There were small-eyes jokes, slanted-eyes jokes, the dog-eating remarks at lunchtime, this type of casual racism didn’t seem like much more to me than jokes at the time, but, willingly allowing these jokes to happen is creating a hate-filled society. These seemingly small actions can develop and evolve into having major repercussions in the future.
When I was in 7th grade, I moved here, to McLean. Immediately, I was really inspired by the entire Asian-American community here and how it bands together in doing what is right. When I first went to school at Longfellow 2 years ago, I was surprised by how many Asian Americans went to school there, and how active they were in all elements of the school’s clubs and leadership. The Asian-American youths at my school were taking charge of our future and holding these leadership roles. This opportunity allowed us to develop as leaders and community members. This is just one of the many things that our community does well in fostering a forward-thinking community. In addition to this, there were Asian-Heritage clubs, lessons about Asian-American history in classes, and even Asian-American teachers. This all helped craft the school’s diverse identity and extend the role of the Asian American community in the NOVA area, and this identity allows us to believe that the system has our back. So, this time, when I saw a student make fun of another student’s accent or say an inappropriate, racist joke, I was able to recognize that this was harassment and tell them that what they were doing was wrong.
Finally, this past year, all of the negatives brought by COVID-19 have been wrongly turned into anger directed at Asian-Americans, with innocent lives being ruined by shocking acts of violence. Even here in our county, people continue to be harassed by racists for being Asian. I remember hearing about an incident near me where a Chinese-American kid was abused and spat at while playing soccer at school. But, even through all of this, our community is strong, and as the AAPI community has been since we first arrived in America, we fight, we protest, we work hard so we are treated as we should be. Many organizations, such as CAPA-NOVA, and others like it around this area are working to keep us safe and make sure our voices are heard. This builds our community’s bonds and truly has inspired the youth, including me, to take action in many ways as well, with one way being to share my story in this essay.
So, our heritage is what connects us as a community, and it keeps us together as one. Our past enables our present to build a better future, and our community’s culture helps us fight for what is right. This is how my heritage has empowered me, and this is how our heritage makes us all stronger.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this essay does not represent the views of the contest organizer CAPA NOVA.
One thought on “My Heritage is My Power”
  1. Sorry judges, this is the author here, my formatting for some reason didn’t save so the spacing is a bit odd.

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