AAPI HERITAGE MONTH
By Angelina Lang
Published April 23rd, 2021
AAPI Heritage Month by Angelina Lang
The sounds of Zara Larsson in “Symphony” play as water runs down my back whilst showering 一 the ensemble of wind, string, brass, and percussion of a symphony resonates with this complexity that I call my life. When the world isn’t kind, I always find an escape with music.
Being an Asian-American living within a white-dominated society is a story that I’ve read, lived, and written. There is so much beauty and pride that I see in my culture. Whether that’s eating my grandmother’s homemade dishes or adorning an áo dài, a Vietnamese traditional dress, to my first high school dance, I’ve grown to love who I am. Though, it wasn’t always bouts of sunshine and rainbows.
Growing up in a Vietnamese household with immigrant parents has shown me a world full of intricacies. My parents, whom I love dearly, wanted to raise me in a fashion that embraced both traditional Asian values and American norms. I was given a European first name; Angelina, in hopes that I would blend in more with the children in my classes named Sarah or Emma or Jessica. However, on many occasions, I often felt like an indie song in the middle of a country playlist. It started with little things like being pulled out of an art project to attend English classes, when I spoke and wrote perfectly fine, or even sometimes above the levels of my peers. Then it was the mild chit chat of my classmates making fun of the way my mom had an accent when she would pick me up after school. I never understood why the same kids that I would play with at recess or ate lunch with would see us as so different.
Fast forward to the present day. It’s May 2021. As I scroll through instagram, I see news headlines of Asians being brutalized, beaten, solely for being who they are. Simultaneously, I also see a text message ping with a friend asking me how she can support the AAPI (Asian-American Pacific Islander) community best. There is so much good in this world: readily available resources online to educate people about my culture, friends and family who embrace me, for me. With recent uprisings, more and more people have been exposed to the struggles that the AAPI community faces and have found ways to help us. Even still, there is still so much blanketed racism within schools, workplaces, and simply in public. Things like the model minority myth that categorizes Asians as the more “superior” people of color have done nothing but hurt us; putting us in a box that fails to see the reality that many people face.
The way people viewed me, my family, the way I dressed or ate, had long altered my perspective of my culture. Regardless, there was one thing that forever connected me to it; music. Some of my most fond memories come from my time in Vietnamese language schools. I pranced in traditional costumes while “Tết Tết Tết Tết Đến Rồi'' (“Lunar New Year is Upon Us”) rang through a restaurant stage; the annual rhythm of beating drums coupled with the sizzling firecrackers signifying the start of the new year. And more recently, being able to look up to artists like Olivia Rodrigo, UMI, or K-POP bands like BLACKPINK or BTS, allows me to see people who look like me be able to be so successful and influential in this judging, harsh world. Though music doesn’t fix our society’s deep rooted issues surrounding race, it can bring people together, tuning out the ones who try to silence us and amplifying the voices of those needed to be heard the most.
I am a symphony: composed of so many different experiences that all play in this harmony that I get the privilege of living. The diversity in the way people have treated me for my race, the journey of discovering and welcoming my Viet heritage, and the future that is ahead of me reminds me of that one song that makes you feel alive; finding every little part of you, the good and bad, happy and broken, and turning it into something so beautiful, so worth listening to. Happy AAPI Heritage Month.