Most of us over the age of 16 or so who have been in this country for a while remember what it was like just a generation ago. America was a very different place, with very few Asians on TV and very few Asians in books and in movies. It was a difficult world to grow up in, one where many of us felt like we were perpetually alone in a predominantly white community.
Things are slowly starting to change, though. Last year saw two Asian-Americans, Lisa Ko and Min Jin Lee, as finalists for the National Book Award in fiction. Their books, “The Leavers” and “Pachinko” are about Asians. The latest installment of the “Star Wars” franchise features a prominent Asian character. “Fresh Off the Boat,” only the second American sitcom to air featuring an Asian-American family, entered its fourth season.
Twenty years ago, it was virtually impossible to find an Asian doll in a store. Today, there are a variety to choose from. Twenty years ago, there were no Asian Disney princesses. Now, we have Mulan. America has changed in so many ways since I was a child, and it has been incredible to observe.
My prayer for future generations is that they never know the heartache of being marginalized, that they never know what it is like to feel like a stranger in a foreign land, that they know love and acceptance as Filipino Americans.
This year, do what you can to support Filipino-American and Asian-American voices. Buy a book written by an Asian-American, go to a movie with an Asian-American actor. Write something yourself, or encourage your kids to. The more we share our stories, the more we will make this country an accepting one for us and for our children.
It seems incredible that just one generation ago we were still viewed as outsiders. This is still true, to an extent, but these days our presence in the country has become stronger. We are on TV, we are in books, we are in movies. We are showing the rest of America that we are here to stay and that we are contributing to this beautiful and diverse nation.