September 18, 2012
Written by Leighton Vila
My sociological journey began in the third grade. On the day in question, I had worked up enough childhood courage to tell my crush, a U.S. born Korean American girl, that I liked her. In my romantic fantasies—fueled by watching “the Little Mermaid” exactly a thousand times on VHS—I was hoping for fireworks and singing crabs to sprout up outside of Mrs. Locke’s room.
During recess, I made the note. It was written in red magic marker, and said “Do you want to go out? [ ] Yes, [ ] No, [ ] Maybe”. Yes, as a 3rd grader I knew to include an “other category,”—I was destined for survey research, but that’s another blog. I walked up the stairs, backed by a half-dozen of excited but jeering boys, following me like scientists follow a test missile.
Palms sweating and heart racing, I handed my crush the note.
She took it. And read it. And gave it back to me without checking a box.
“Umm…” she said, looking to see if anyone else was watching (years of playing hide and seek had paid off for my male conspirators in the stairwell), “I don’t think I can go out with you. I don’t think my mom would like it if I went out with a Filipino.”
That day, more than any other day in memory, has made me want to understand Asian American sociology. So much was happening in that story, and life stories just like it, that I desperately need my sociological lens just to understand it.
From a critical black sociological lens, this was my first experience of double consciousness. W.E.B. DuBois explains double consciousness where my American romantic values (“you can love whoever you want, regardless of creed”) were in conflict with my lived reality (“my mom doesn’t like Filipinos, so we shouldn’t date.”)
From a colonial mentality sociological lens, her mind was thoroughly colonized and it affected how she saw me. According to Fannon, her mind was colonized by western ideas of love, she had been brainwashed into believing that ‘going out’ with a Filipino was undesirable from the start.
From a dramaturgical sociological lens, her front stage behavior had been informed by her back stage interactions with her mother. Her role, as a good daughter, was to not date Filipinos, and she played that role regardless of my courage, the penmanship on my note, or the fact that it was written in red—her favorite color. She had conformed to her role, and I was just another actor.
I am in love with sociology because it allows me to understand my racialized life, and the way in which it affects Asian and Pacific Islanders. To me, Asian Sociology is the use of sociological tools (theory, data, and analytics—both quantitative and qualitative) to understand the Asian experience. And, personally, I can’t see myself doing any other type of work.
PS: I would like to thank C.N. for giving me the opportunity to contribute to Asian-Nation. I would also like to recognize Calvin for his contribution to Asian-Nation. I look forward to this endeavor.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "The Beginning of My Sociological Journey" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2012/09/the-beginning-of-my-sociological-journey/> ().
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