Living in Texas brings many American experiences and culture into Texan’s lives. We become accustomed to the Stockyards, BBQ, and Friday night lights. Texas holds many possibilities for new experiences although it isn’t the same for those who aren’t American adjacent. Culture seems to seep through the cracks as it passes through generations. Newer generations will never experience festivals like their parents did in their home country, they’ll never be able to speak fluently enough to hold a conversation with grandparents, and kids will face the constant struggle to balance their cultural past while preparing for their American future.
Sophie Le is an American-born Asian with heritage from France, Vietnam, and Puerto Rico. Like many 2nd generation kids, she once faced the common struggle of submitting into American culture and concealing her own. Being a person of color in a city with over a 50% of a white population is difficult, but the struggle isn’t inherently direct racism. She overcame her internalized prejudice and embraced her culture and is now a proud part of her identity.
“When I was super young and even now, a lot of people still make fun of my culture. I think when I was younger I was a lot more malleable and wanted to impress my peers, so I definitely pushed away my native tongue and tried my best to only eat more American foods”, said Le.
From a young age, Asians are stereotyped and marginalized, consuming media with negative depictions of their identity. Kids are molded by the model minority stereotype, and in a way are forced to become weapons in the debate of racism. The Model Minority Myth forces an expectation onto Asian American that they have to be smart and successful to be considered Asian enough. While diversity and inclusion has flourished the past couple of years, kids have been forced to find their own way to embrace their culture.
“I remember when I was younger, not fully understanding that I was American, even though I knew I lived in America. Maybe this was because of the tv shows I watched and the Barbies I played with that always portrayed caucasian characters to rule the screen, or because I was always the only Asian kid in my class— I felt like I didn’t fit into the “American” title, so I never adopted the label as a kid”, said Tu-Quyen Dao.
The Asian identity has struggles with something as simple as someone’s name. People with foreign names are often put aside on their own and forced to create new names that are easier for others to use. Anirudh Shenoy is often seen at crossroads with the two different names he dons, one at school and one a home, creating two different identities.
“It’s very sad how common the mispronunciation of foreign names are because in most cases they do end up with the person having identity issues,” said Shenoy. “The model minority myth has made me at times feel like I’m not a true South Asian. I am very bad at comparing myself to others, which means when people like me are doing so much more at a much younger age, I feel like a failure, which all stems from the model minority myth that basically states that I have to be a genius just because I am an Asian American.”
Seizing the opportunity at hand, kids participate in what activities their environment gives them. Punjan Patel, a Texas-born Indian has many ways he connects to his culture. With daily activities like eating traditional Gujarati food or festivities like Holi and Diwali, he is able to be a part of his own culture. Sophie Le wears a jaded jewelry and Andy Shenoy wears a Rakhi bracelet to signify that they carry their culture wherever they go.
“Now, the judgment is much harsher but I have no intention of ever repeating my past mistakes of isolating myself. My culture is my pride and without my culture I am nothing”, Sophie Le said.