Exploring Identity through IPAAFF by Candice Tan

I remember last year when all the buzz about IPAAFF started. That was my first year in college, new me, new experiences. Through attending meetings with the Asian American Alliance and questioning my identity, I got to meet several folks who were minoring in Asian American studies.

Before college, I never asked myself what it meant to be an Asian American. I did know what aspects made me Chinese and what didn’t. Knowing how to use chopsticks made me Chinese. Speaking Chinese with my parents made me Chinese. Most importantly, I “looked” Chinese. Growing up in New York City, I lived in a diverse environment watching my immigrant parents work hard for my sister and I. I saw the biggest setback was their lack of ability to speak English.

I remember instances where people were surprised at my ability to speak English when I was roaming around Chinatown one day with my friend. I thought that was funny, but I did not question why they had asked me that question. I remember wanting to play the lead role in a play in elementary school and people told me that I’m not fit for the role. I didn’t question why. It may have been that acting wasn’t my biggest skill that I had, rather it was something I wanted to try, but I don’t want to completely deny that my identity as a Asian didn’t not influence those events.

Coming to college where Asians make 6% of the student population and listening to these students speak about their pride in their cultural heritage, I started to question aspects of my life where I should have owned my Asian identity and realized that my parent’s journey is admirable and empowering.

In meeting these students who didn’t let society oppress their identity, but rather celebrate their heritage and move on to educate people of diversity and inclusion, I felt more relieved. In joining the IPAAFF class this year, I hope to become one of those students who can go on to educate other students of upcoming classes in finding their identity, celebrating their heritage, and learning to see the system that surround us.

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