June 9, 2006
Written by C.N.
The following is a ‘guest post’ by Brintha Gardner:
What is an identity? According to the Oxford English Dictionary the definition of an identity is ‘the fact of being who a person is’. So where do Asian Americans stand?
From a decade of observation in India, I’ve noticed that some people try to be ‘different’. They are not always pleased with whom they are or their background and so they try to put on a new identity which will ‘help’ boost their confidence. Now looking at Indians born in America, that is a completely different story.
In Indian slang terminology, Indians born in the United States are affectionately called ABCDs. This word is basically an abbreviation for American Born Confused Desis (Desi, pronounced ‘They see,’ is a slang synonym for Indians). Let’s just say that over the years, Indians have found many ABCDs, lost. Their Indian roots have stayed just there, underground, with no room to emerge.
To choose not to follow one’s culture and religion due to preference based on prior knowledge on the same is an educated and justified reason these days but to acknowledge one’s culture and religion and ignore it intentionally on the pretense of peer pressure and ‘other’ reasons is according to me, just not right.
Every individual is unique, I truly believe this. We are where we have come from, what we’ve seen and how we have molded ourselves. So how far does one have to go back to know where they’ve come from? Apes? Ancestors? Great grandparents? Truth be told, I think it’s all in an individual’s perspective on either where they think they really come from or where they want to think they really come from.
Could what we see truly be chiseled in our identities? Oh pish posh you say. Well, look at the clothes you wear, the music playing on the radio station you selected, the transportation you commute in…I could go on but I’ll stop here on this point. We didn’t wake up one morning oblivious to our surroundings before making any of the just mentioned decisions. Our preferences are very important in defining us and in return reflecting our identities.
Moving on to my third question, how have we molded ourselves? Let’s see…potty trained, no longer crawling…fast forwarding….we adapted habits (good or bad), we got an education and a career, we picked what we liked and dropped what we didn’t like along the way (if we have the luxury of choosing).
With the multitude of interests available to an individual in the world today, we find ourselves never short of it. Being great (or not so) at something doesn’t make an individual. The fact that it is/was a part of your life makes it a part of you.
I feel during this period of time despite controversies, people more prominently began to standing up for what they believed in this aspect. Once exorbitantly frowned upon all over this country and still in some places, many couples of different races still face occasional struggles in their marital life from external sources. Love does not have a race. Why then must people be secluded into the fathomless abyss of uniformity?
I have quite a diverse background myself having spent most of my life in three countries. I treasure and respect my roots (Indian if you didn’t figure that one yet) and I cherish the lessons I have learnt in the Middle East and the United States. Being an Asian American is exactly what it says it is: you’re Asian, you’re American; not just the latter but both.
It is never too late in life to accept what you are, but earlier is always better. That way you don’t miss out in the beauty that lies in traditions and values that you have yet to explore in your heritage. Besides, if a great personality like Tiger Woods can accept being Caucasian, Native American, African American, Chinese and Thai; I’m sure you can accept your background also.
Not many people get the opportunity of having two or more cultures mixed in them so instead of feeling you stick out or are odd in a group, treasure it, be proud of it and tell anyone who gives you a hard time: ‘Yeah, I am a combination of cultures and that just makes me a more interesting person. If you don’t like it, well I just feel sad for your narrow-minded, culturally-challenged, miscegenation-ignorant self.’
And if you really don’t want to acknowledge your roots, remember that it’s not going anywhere. It’s only lost until you choose to find it.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Identity: Gone or Just Lost?" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/06/asian-identity-gone-or-just-lost/> ().
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