Who am I?
The struggle with identity~ Asian American immigrant edition.
Recently, I was in a wonderful workshop on “Exploring Our Identities Together” hosted by two lovely women. While the exercises we did were familiar, the audience was unlike most I have been in for quite some time. The majority of the attendees were Asian women, there were only a couple of men and/or Caucasians. We shared stories about times we felt included and excluded, the stereotypes and how they may not align with who we are. We had some rich conversations and heard touching recounts of personal experiences. Two questions from the session have had me contemplating for many weeks and this post is part of my response.
In light of what you have learned/ experienced today, how would you define who you are?
What does the future look like, where all our identity stories can coexist with each other? …
The nametag we wear to introduce ourselves at events, or our name in the lower left corner of a screen; a simple tool to break the ice. What follows as we make small talk? We tell about our jobs, the roles we play in our community, our hometown or neighborhood, and our relationship to others. So many labels, so many descriptors, so many boxes. Even before the reveal there were some assumptions about us. As you entered the room, with one quick glance there were ideas of who you might be by the color of your skin, your age and gender representation, attire, height and weight. All the interactions and knowledge they had with all the people who look like you, spoke like you, already formed the basis of who you might be.
That’s not quite fair, you say. You’re unique and individual, no one in the universe is exactly like you.
When I received the invitation to the workshop, I printed off the worksheets and had some expectations. As a facilitator, working mostly in the United States, the major identity markers of my audiences were not like those on this call. My family is from Taiwan, and though I lived there as an expat for a few years, it has been a while since the majority in any shared space, aside from family gatherings, consisted of people who look like me. Ironically, when I lived in the country of my heritage (for the first time) in my mid 20s, locals called me a huachou, foreign…