I carry the immigrant flag.
I carry the American flag.
Sometimes I wave them separately, sometimes together. But regardless of any situation I am in, whether it’s as simple as choosing which brand of tea to purchase- the heritage, traditions, culture, and experiences from both influences my everyday decisions.
My family moved to the United States when I was nine from the Philippines. At that age, I was old enough to have grown and embraced my cultural traditions yet young enough to integrate into my new life smoothly. I learned English quickly; I made friends easily and excelled in academics. But no matter how easily I assimilated in school, there was no getting away from being different. I was the kid who couldn’t talk much about the latest TV shows because ours was always on The Filipino Channel because that’s what my Lola (grandma) watched. I was the kid who had to explain to their friends to remove their shoes and hats each time they came inside the house. I was the kid whose Mom packed rice and chicken adobo for lunch. I was living two lives at a young age.
Looking back, I realize that my closest friends have always been ethnic despite growing up in predominantly white neighborhoods. I don’t think it was on purpose, but our differences connected us. While my lunches had rice and adobo, my best friend in elementary school, Rosa had tacos or tamales. My best friends in high school had kimchee. I remember we were so excited when Margaret Cho had her show, All-American Girl. Even though I wasn’t Korean, as an Asian-American, I connected with the storylines seeing parts of myself in her struggles of the two worlds that influence her. Perhaps, mainstream media wasn’t ready for that yet as the show was canceled after one season.
As I’ve grown up and found success, I like to think that I am not affected by cultural differences and ethnic representation. But I am, and always will be. I notice and remember when I see someone alike to me. I take note when I hear a different language other than English on a video. I get teary-eyed when I see commercials of grandparents who immigrated to the U.S. watching their grandkids graduate from an American-school, reminding me of the sacrifices my grandparents made to get me to where I am today.
I see. I hear. I remember. And so does everyone who is like me.
For Asian-Americans, whether we are immigrants or born in the U.S., our path to purchase as consumers is more complex than it seems influenced by our native- and American- cultures. It’s time for brands to invest the time to get to know us, connect with us genuinely.
While I am not an expert on Asian-Americans (With more than 20 countries, hundreds of languages and heritage, is there one that is?), I want to be an advocate for a more sincere and better Asian-American representation.
I am an Asian-American. I have two flags that I proudly wave, my native Filipino culture and my American culture, which, when combined, makes an intricate, beautiful puzzle. I want to share my, my family’s, and my fellow Asian-American’s friends’ stories should brands really want to know us. That’s why I’m here.