When I was growing up, I believed what my teachers taught me. They inspired us to “stand up for what you believe in, even if you are standing alone” to “shoot for the moon…” I was a shy kid, unable to speak up about anything. I’m not sure if it was the way I was raised, but it certainly was the way I was.
I’m of Vietnamese descent. Teachers always thought I was smart and that I would become known in some way. I remember my fourth grade teacher told me that she would read about me in Reader’s Digest one day. I would make them proud and it wasn’t a question.
Now, I’m not as shy as I used to be. I am, maybe, too loudly opinionated. As if it makes up for all the times I did not speak up.
One day after school, I must have been in the eighth grade, I walked past one of the other Vietnamese kids in my year. There must have been a handful of us yellow kids, a handful of blacks, and maybe two handfuls of browns in the entire school. This other student was trying, trying so hard, to fit in and to be one of the cool kids. As I walked by, one of those popular girls said to him, “Give me a piece of gum, chink.” I don’t remember how I learned of that word, but I knew it was awful and I watched as this student gave her a piece of gum. I hated myself for not saying anything, not even stopping. I hated that he wanted to fit in that much.
So when I look at the US and our government, the corporations, the political parties, I’m afraid. I’m afraid for the children I see on the street because I don’t think we’re making world that is receptive to their ambition.