Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing your thesis with me and thanks for the wonderful piece. I figured it was better to reply to your comment on my Better Marketing piece here than my own, but this article made me think of a lot of things:
First off, I grew up in a very traditional Asian-American household. I was the first person in my family born in the States, and as such I am the most whitewashed and Americanized person in my household. I resonate a lot with your thesis because I am a special education teacher in inner-city Baltimore, which is the most violent and one of the most high poverty schools in the country. My students are smart and savvy in manners of survival, as you have described. They are on mostly first to third grade reading levels and they’re in middle school, but politicians across the country have likened Baltimore to a third-world country. Even though they might not have high reading levels, my kids are very very intelligent.
Even though I love my job and embrace the difficulty of it, my father wants me to doctor. Always had, always will. I went through most of college on a pre-medical path with a side major of English, but I knew pretty early on where my passions were. It’s going to break my father’s heart if I choose not to be a doctor, and he will do everything he possibly can to stop me. It isn’t even about the money that can be made, but the perceived status as doctors.
I’ll be honest and say I hated a lot of Chinese culture growing up. I hated the whole saving face concept and how parents would talk about you like a commodity to other parents about how smart you were. We struggled a lot financially and money was always a problem, so I definitely understand my father wanting better for his kids, but I hated how marriages in a lot of Southeast Asia aren’t for love either. As you can imagine, that led to some pretty horrifying fights between my parents when I was growing up, and I have endeavored to act in ways that are very different from what I grew up with.
While I feel for the Asian-Americans who have been the recipients of numerous racial slurs and attacks, I am also very critical of how insulated and racist themselves Asians can be. I won’t even repeat some of the things people in my family have said about Japanese people, or things people have said about Hispanic of black people. I respect the loyalty to family and friends, but hate how much of that is tied to status and materialism.
I wrote about that a lot here:
I'm Complicit In Racism Against Asians
Because divisions within the Asian community are so much more consuming I was playing volleyball at the beach, and a few…
Anyways, my dad pushing my brother to be a doctor pushed my brother into the ground. After graduating college and not being able to handle medical school, my brother spent a lot of years not working and struggling with mental health issues. As you can imagine, my parents were furious, but didn’t know what they could do for him. Growing up seeing that definitely shaped my aversion for traditional Asian values and expectations.
Anyways, I apologize for the rant but couldn’t help it with this great piece. If you want to become an English teacher in Baltimore City, feel free to reach out. The City would be very glad to have you as there’s always a high need, and I can refer you to alternative programs that were very good for me. My personal email is on my bio.