This week, I was honored to represent AMWA at the White House to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with a screening of the film, American Born Chinese.
I am an American Born Chinese – or ABC – as we were often called growing up. This meant that I straddled two worlds, not fully belonging to one or the other, and it wouldn’t be until my later years that I would more fully embrace my dual identity, ultimately appreciating my Chinese heritage and values as a source of strength.
When people speak of racism, Asian Americans are not typically a focus of the conversation. We are, after all, viewed by most as a model minority, a label that ignores and negates the experience that many Asians have faced. I think of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese during World War 2, the anti-Asian hate pervasive during the recent pandemic, and even my own encounters with overt racism or more insidious forms of bias and discrimination.
So to be at the White House, attending “the largest Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage celebration ever held in the White House” was an honor that I will never forget. When President Biden warmly greeted all in attendance, I felt seen as a Chinese American in a way that I had not felt in a long time.
The event included an inspiring and emotional speech by Academy Award winning actor, Ke Huy Quan, about his own personal journey, having arrived in California by boat at the age of 8, and a screening of the film, American Born Chinese. As Quan describes it, the film is about a “blending of cultures, influences, and values into a new American identity, and most of all—about family.”
President Biden spoke of the hope of America, embodied in the word “possibilities” and diversity as the strength of our nation, summed up by his words, “We see the community in all of you here tonight.”
Thank you, Mr. President.