by Samuel, 10th (non-fiction)
When they ask us “Why are you acting like this? You think you grown! Why you dressing up like this? You know we are different!” We say this is fashion or we are trying to fit in but most of the parents or family don't understand that or they just want us to follow their rules or do what they say. I understand why they are saying this because they don't want us to get our culture mixed up or forget who we really are. In doing so we have to live in this culture which is a good thing, but on the other side they don't understand we are trying to fit in. When they see us outside they ask most of us this: “Why you're not playing with the others?”
“Because we are different and we don't know what to do?”
“How are y'all different y'all got everything y'all want?”
“We are different because we have accents and we don't dress good.”
When were kids we were told that to know our culture and our culture mean to know who we are. If we know who we are that means we are supposed to act in our culture's way which is to respect elders, to help people, to not follow fashion, to go to church every Sunday and be a good student. We try to fit in by asking for good clothing and shoes like Nike, Jordan, LV, Gucci good brands because it would at least help us not get bullied. When we get bullied, we get bullied about how we look and how we talk but if we at least look good we don't get judged by our clothing and for the voice we have.
"We didn’t teach you this, this is not our culture” they say. They won't understand it because they don't see it happening or it doesn't happen to them like how we get bullied at school. I had a friend in middle school that he tried to kill himself because of his religion and they were calling him a lot of stuff like terrorist and that he will bomb people and kill people. The parents don't understand this because they don't see it happening unless we told them and if we told them we gonna be ashamed or think we get called “snitches” in doing so we decided not to tell them of who we are. In this culture we are forced to do certain things in different way or unique way like how we dress, how we talk, how we eat and etc. They think we are being broken because us first generation of immigrants are trying to fit in with others.
by B.Bolt, 10th (non-fiction)
All our lives we have waited. All our lives we have watched. All our lives we have learned. We have learned that we don’t belong.
At first, we didn’t know what we were, who we were. At first we were just like everyone else. Then, we heard it. Gay, they said, always half whispered, as if, if you spoke it too loud, you’d be in trouble. And then, whether we were 9 or 19, 13 or 30, we knew. Something clicked. Suddenly, it defined us.
Many of us were afraid, because of what we’d seen when we watched and waited. Many more were happy, excited even. Most of us, though, finally knew who we were.
So we went on with our lives, knowing. But knowing brought challenges. Because it was a closely guarded secret, at least for a while, known only to us and a select few. Because if they found out, god forbid they found out, how would they react? What would they do? What would they say?
That, of course, was not the only challenge. Obviously, we didn’t love like the people around us. So, when the stress of love came along, there was even more uncertainty. Instead of only the question of, Do they like me? there were so many questions we wanted to ask. We didn’t even know if they were the right sexuality. And the odds of them being the same as us were low.
The trouble didn’t stop there. God forbid they found out, we said, and we were right. Some were okay with it, some didn’t mind. But some found out who were not supposed to. They called us names, yelled at us, outed us. They shoved us in lockers, they threw books at us, they followed us, threatened us until we were afraid. And our fear reached for us with fingers cold as the grave. It stole our voices, it stole our courage, it stole every waking moment, and it locked us in closets of our own making. Never could we say that our fear wasn’t justified, for they stalked, hurt, even killed people like us.
We stayed locked in our closets, in our boxes, in our prisons, locked in the darkness, for forever, it seemed. Our voices, so eloquent in our heads, stayed behind our tongues. They hid like rabbits, afraid of the fox that lurked outside. Afraid to make even a sound.
Yet for all the fear there was joy too. Because every time we met someone like us, or saw a couple like us, or were loved for us, the joy blossomed like a flower in spring. It grew and reached and we held onto it, nurtured it, savored it. So no matter what, it wouldn’t die.
We clumped together, too. Flocked together like birds, desperate for each other’s company. Because for the first time we were not alone. And there are strength in numbers.
So our days were spent as outsiders, not able to show who we were. We stuck together as some small protection, but still we feared to show our faces. Well, some of us. Some of us were not afraid. The claws of our fear were sharp, and they grabbed at our voices, but we kept hold of our courage and we held fast. We showed our faces to the world. Many hated us for it. Many loved us for it. And many followed our example.
A growing tide began to rise, with each passing year more and more showed their faces, loosed their voices at long last. Before, those rights that had been denied us, were now acknowledged. There were more of us than we’d ever dreamed, and our strength grew.
It wasn’t perfect. We still struggled, but fear no longer haunted out footsteps, whispered in our ear, dragged us down into the abyss. We kept it at bay now, because now we had someone to fall back on. And in turn, we caught someone else. Strength in numbers indeed, and also stability, also security, also acceptance.
Suddenly, there was pride in who we were. We could look at the world’s disapproving face and say I am proud of who I am, and you cannot take it from me. Our voices rang, free once more, and our joy echoed out into a sky clear for the first time. Many still hated us, many still oppressed us, but now we had each other. And we cried, cried for love, cried for joy, cried for those who couldn’t see this day. We cried for us, we cried for pride, we cried for the ones who didn’t understand. We howled like wolves to the moon, called like an eagle to the sky, and our voices, the voices of so many that had been hidden for so long, were heard.
We saw our children born into the pride we had worked so hard to find, to build. We saw them grow in this thing that we had created, this community. But as they grew, it stopped. They said You have your rights, you have your marriage, now leave us alone. And just like that we were back where we started. This battle would not be won so easily. It would take years, more years than we would see. So we worked, and we fought, and when we couldn’t anymore we passed the battlefield on to our children. Fight, we told them, fight and do not let anyone tell you that you cannot.
And fight they did.
by misfit6, 10th (non-fiction)
based on experiences of my family and interviews
We were constantly questioned and asked to do something. They asked us what type of Asian we were. Japanese? We shook our heads. Vietnamese? Again, we shook our heads. Korean? We continuously shook our heads until they said Chinese, which was when we nodded. They then tell us to say something in Chinese. We say something, and their faces showed confusion or interest. When we spoke, they either ask us to continue saying more things or tell us that is not how typical Chinese sound like. They assume that all Chinese speak Mandarin. We don’t, but we are Chinese. We speak Cantonese, which is a dialect of Mandarin. We have to explain to them that it’s what people in our homeland in China speak. The conversation goes on with them asking us about Chinese-related things or Chinese culture until they get distracted by something more important.
Moving from China to America exposed to us many new things. There were new types of food, drinks, and snacks. Even though there was an abundance of everything, we were still conservative. We were used to being poor, so even when we become privileged we never take an advantage of anything. We can now afford tons of rice, but we still finished each grain of rice in our bowls. We never let anything go to waste. Even though we saw new food, we never really changed our diets. We ate mostly the same thing as we did before we came. In the beginning, we were got all types of judgement for our food. Most reactions are something like ew what is that smell. Are those worms? Their faces become scrunched up like they smelled throw up and then proceed to exaggerate and act like they will throw up. Even though we were judged, we overlooked it. It tasted good to us, so we stuck with it. The food was our culture and history. We all have a moment where we remember our mothers cooking it and us helping make it. We all remember our eagerness to wait for dinner. We all remember the joy that came with our food. It’s their loss for not being able to enjoy this food we love.
First, it was the judgement of our food, and then it was our accents. For the food, we were okay with the reactions that came with it, but the accents were hard to overlook. Back home, we were free to speak our language with no judgement. It was easy for us to speak. Speaking English was no easy task. Even the perfectionists were never able to get it completely right. It was our main insecurity, because we know we can’t do anything about it. For the rest of our lives, we know we will be asked to repeat things and questioned. We know how many times we will be mistaken. We know how many times things will get miscommunicated. We know how many times we will be misunderstood. We know how many times we would not get our way. We know. That is why we are never going to be able get over it. Speaking English will never be an easy task. Our mouths are trapped like it is in a prison, forced to speak English. Everything that comes out of our mouths will be questioned by someone. We will be given glances when we speak Chinese, and we will be given confused or laughing faces when we speak in English.
The only thing we had to change was the way we raised our kids. America did not allow us to discipline the way our children the way we did back home. When the children get mad, we weren’t able to do anything, because we wouldn’t know what to do. The children get mad at us for giving them names others can’t pronounce. We couldn’t possible change it, it was their identity. The children get mad at us for pushing them to do more work. We just want what’s best for them. The children get mad at us for not being American enough. We want to explain to them why, but they’ll never understand. They will never view our history the way we do, because they never experienced it. All they focus on is comparing themselves to other students and assimilating to the American norm to fit in. They will only move farther and farther from their real selves everyday.
Students 6th-12th Grades