The "I Love You" Project
The past few days have been the most challenging of my life.
I've never really experienced grief before, so I was shocked and devastated when my childhood best friend took his own life last week.
This situation gave me the harsh realization that certain characteristics of eastern culture, such as emotional reservedness, can have terrible effects, particularly on mental health. Young Asian Americans should feel like they can openly speak to the adults in their lives, especially their immigrant parents.
Therefore, DeclarASIAN will be rolling out the "I Love You" project in the very near future. We'll be asking Asian youth and their parents to say "I love you" to each other (a simple action that doesn't occur enough in eastern families) and to describe their experiences to us. We hope it'll be a positive and enlightening endeavor.
We'll be accepting submissions through our Instagram page, so keep an eye out for that soon. We wish you a very happy holiday!
Update 2/17/19: Our project is completed and it was tremendously successful! Thank you for your support and submissions. Check out all our submissions below!
Author: Claire Cao
1. How did you get the idea or concept for NextShark? Were you inspired by any particular experience?
In college, me and two friends had Asian American blog, which did well for what it was. However, we didn't think the market was big enough at the time for it to turn into a real business.
2. Has being a minority in America helped or hindered your path to success in any way?
I think anything that happens to you in life is how you perceive it. You can look at your ethnicity as a crutch and let it hold you back, or you can see it as a strength and push your forward.
3. How have you been able to spread your message and convince people to care?
By listening to what our readers want :)
4. Young Asian-Americans often feel lots of pressure to pursue “success.” What is your definition of success? Do you have any advice for today’s Asian-American youth?
For a huge part of my life, I thought success was based on the amount of money in my bank account. As I've gotten older, I think success is finding what you truly love to do.
Benny has been the absolute most pleasurable person to work with. He is a fantastic businessman and an even better person. Seriously, you have to check out NextShark. It puts DeclarASIAN to shame.
Author: Claire Cao
I'm sure we all remember that one 2017 news story that went viral regarding the elderly Asian man, Dr. David Dao, who was physically dragged off a United Airlines flight.
The world was disgusted, and rightfully so, at the way Dr. Dao was treated. Whether or not the mistreatment was due to his race is up to you to debate, but we thought we'd update you on the situation:
Was justice served? That's up to you to decide.
Authors: Carina Sun and Claire Cao
A Newcomer's Take on Asian Pride
I had discovered Declarasian by chance, when I was scrolling around on Instagram (as one does) looking for more Asian activist pages to follow. After reading some of the blog posts and stories on the website I knew immediately that this was an organization and cause that I wanted/needed to join.
I am a Chinese-American, daughter of immigrants, and first generation citizen living in the United States and I am so grateful to be living in such a diverse country with so many opportunities. However, there are still many problems regarding the prevalence and ignorance of Asian racism that I have yet had the opportunity or space to address. Honestly, it infuriates me knowing that Asians face problems in America that are being overlooked by so many people, especially because Asian racism and stereotypes has been integrated into American culture as the "butt of a many jokes” or even as facts. Going to a pre-dominantly caucasian private school in New York City where I am the only Chinese girl in my grade has been very rough on my image of myself as well as my pride in my culture. I have grown up always unconfident in my appearance, the food I eat, and the differences in culture I have with my friends. It wasn’t until last summer when I went back to China and Taiwan to visit family where I actually realized how beautiful and rich my culture was. I left that trip proud of who I am and it has led to my current Asian activism values.
One topic I have recently become very passionate about is Asian representation in media, especially in Hollywood. As an Asian interested in film and media arts, it breaks my heart to see talented Asian-american actors and artists to be constantly ignored and replaced entirely based on their looks or even an "Asian-sounding" last name! And even with “representation” in TV shows or films, Asian actors are only included to perpetuate an existing stereotype of their culture. For example, Ki Hong Lee as “Dong Nguyen” in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where he played a smart, Vietnamese, food-delivery guy with a thick accent. (I may have ranted about this character for days to my friends when I saw this show.) So at my school I tried to spread awareness, where last year I created a project addressing the "whitewashing" phenomenon of Hollywood. And it was one of my major accomplishments of that year.
I want to join Declarasian as a proud ambassador because not only am I passionate about empowering all Asian cultures, whether it’s East, South, Southeast or Central Asian, I also will dedicate myself to educating my peers and other people. Joining Declarasian would allow me a platform where I can share my own experiences as well as learn about other Asian-Americans’ stories. Together, I believe we can bring about change and promote our cultural celebration.
Author: Cindy Xu
DeclarASIAN may have launched in 2017, but social justice has been on my mind far before then. With that said, I have a special story about a fellow Asian-American I encountered several years ago.
Meet Katherine Ho:
She was on NBC's The Voice in 2016, where her performances were montaged three times and she was eliminated before the nation ever saw her talent. I was angry; shocked; confused. Finally, someone who looked like me was on my television, and she (and her beautiful voice) got about five pathetic seconds of screen time. The show's winner is eventually determined by public voting, so it was clear the network never wanted to give her a chance.
As a thirteen-year-old at the time, I contacted Katherine in the most practical way I knew how: Instagram DM.
The story only gets crazier from here. Follow along in our animated Instagram story to find out how it all goes down!
Author: Claire Cao
Update On the Movement: Through Our Eyes
Since the launch of DeclarASIAN back in 2017, people have asked me why I care so much about this movement. To be honest, it’s not something I can easily answer.
When a family friend asked me this question, I stumbled over my words, hoping to sputter out something inspirational and moving—a sob story about when I was racially harassed. But the thing is, I never was. And based on that alone, she felt that I couldn't count myself as a true advocate. Though I have witnessed many moments that have inspired me to raise my voice, I don’t have a personal story. And I think what’s important for us to know is that not having a personal experience with bullying or harassment doesn’t mean you can’t stand up for it. Similarly, just because you may not be Asian doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for Asian-Americans to have pride.
I started the DeclarASIAN campaign because I felt like now, more than ever, there are movements led by the new generation. People like me and Claire, and all of our ambassadors, are part of this new generation. What is our goal, though? What do we hope to achieve through this? DeclarASIAN isn’t a campaign that focuses on the political side of the issue. It doesn’t focus on shaming people who have shown racism. We aren’t like many other organizations. Rather, we strive to advocate for Asian-American pride, especially for teens who are going through the same stages we are—of lacking self-confidence.
Through my eyes, DeclarASIAN focuses on nurturing the confidence of young people so that together, we can change the future little by little. And already, there are breakthroughs happening. “Crazy Rich Asians” is only one example of how minds are changing in the strictly-bound society we live in.
Be a part of the movement and send us your story to become an official DeclarASIAN ambassador.
Author: Carina Sun
Even if rom-coms aren't your thing, these movies are pretty unprecedented. This is no superficial attempt to throw in some diversity—Asians are actually being taken seriously, and that’s fantastic.
Things are only looking up as we also count down to Disney's live action Mulan, which is set to release in March 2020. Until then, catch us at the theater!
Author: Claire Cao
When I discovered the history of this legislation, I decided to create a website about it for National History Day, an annual academic competition. This project was the result of a nine-month research process that truly paid off when it qualified for the national competition in Washington D.C. this June.
I hope you will learn something about the first Chinese immigrants in this country as well as how we've established our identities as Americans since then.
Author: Claire Cao
A Letter to My Younger Self.
For a long time, I would make self-deprecating jokes about my ethnicity. It was probably the worst in sixth grade, because that's when my focus shifted from just having friends to being popular. I wanted to be liked so bad that I was willing to do anything. And when you see results, you form a habit. My habit was constantly making fun of my Asian heritage.
It was because I saw results. When I was with friends, I would take it into my own hands to make a racist joke before someone else did. I remember vividly my mom was driving me and a few friends to lunch, and I had literally done research the night before and found a racist rap about Chinese people. I learned it, and showed it to my friends in the car, with my mom there. I was laughing, and my friends were laughing. It made me so happy. So fulfilled that something I had done had made them laugh. I remember my mom asking me, "what are you watching?" and me brushing it off. I wish now that she had just told me then about how I was just hurting myself.
I don't think I fully gained confidence since I entered high school. Actually, I still struggle with it sometimes. Part of it is because I grew up in a small, predominantly white town, so many of my classmates are white. It's a similar situation for many other Asian-American teens out there, and I wasn't aware of that.
Throughout middle school, I sat back and took in the subtle insults that were directed towards the only Chinese girl in the class. Classmates would ask me, "do you have a life other than studying?" I even had a teacher who would ask me if my parents would let me have dinner if I got a bad grade on his next test. Now, I realize that this was absolutely unacceptable, but I just took it all in because I was used to it.
My advice to my younger self? See the beauty in being unique. Your culture makes you who you are. Anyone who can't see that doesn't deserve your attention.
This being said, I am nowhere close to being 100% confident in my culture. I still find myself wishing I wasn't occasionally. I hope we can continue to embrace our own cultures together.
Author: Carina Sun
Racial Misconceptions: A Global Issue
After much observation, I have found that China and America have very different conceptions based on race. In China, there are fewer race-based issues, but this is mainly because so few foreigners live in China. In Shanghai, where I'm staying, the native people see many tourists everyday but most of them still haven't gotten over the novelty of seeing a foreigner. Many people still blatantly stare or say "外国人," which means "foreigner" in Chinese. They have very little experience interacting with people from other countries, so most of their information comes from stereotypes.
During one of my classmates' host family stay, his parents asked if black people were dangerous. These misconceptions about race don't stem from hate like they tend to in the U.S.; they simply haven't been familiarized with different cultures yet. In the U.S., however, there aren't excuses for racism or ignorant stereotypes, because we are lucky to have many different ethnicities that make up our population. Every time a person says or does something that alludes to racial discrimination, they are doing it consciously to hurt someone's feelings.
The many stereotypes surrounding Asian Americans don't often receive the same publicity or awareness that other minority groups get, because people see their generalizations as positive. People need to start realizing that any stereotyping has harmful effects for the target party, and Asian Americans are no exception.
Author: Ava Krensky
Asians Are "Un-Athletic?" Says Who?
The Winter Olympics are happening right now, and the representASIAN we've got on Team USA is groundbreaking!
Certain names are quickly gaining attention, such as snowboarder Chloe Kim and figure skaters Nathan Chen and Maia Shibutani. They're out here breaking the age-old stereotype that Asians are solely nerds who are incapable of athleticism or masculinity.
Check out this video of Chloe Kim defying everyone's expectations-- and physics:
Let's hope they bring home the gold. We'll keep you updated on the results through our social media stories, so find us @declarasian!
Author: Claire Cao
Remembering Peter Wang
"For as long as we remember him, he is a hero,” classmate Jared Burns told NBC Miami.
Wang was posthumously admitted to West Point for his heroism and then buried in his JROTC uniform. He represents the very best of the Asian community and is truly a monumental American.
It is our duty to ensure Peter Wang is never forgotten.
Author: Claire Cao
My mom made a comment earlier this week that made me think.
We were shopping for something to contribute to a bake sale when she picked up a box of meticulously-designed, expensive cookies and said, "Let's get these. I don't want the other moms to think I'm a cheap Asian or something." Yikes.
I've noticed recently that people in the Asian American community are sometimes discouraged by stereotypes. They're afraid that saying "I like math" will classify them as the "classic nerd," or playing tennis and the violin will make them like every other "Asian overachiever." In my mom's case, she feared that settling for a box of Costco sugar cookies would make her appear like the "typical cheap Asian." That bothers me.
Ideally one could just be themselves, but that's far easier said than done. I think the key to achieving that is understanding that stereotypes do not define a person. Obviously they exist for a reason, but they shouldn't tell your whole story. So if you find yourself fitting a stereotype, own it. The stereotype might be true, but it does not make up your complete identity.
Ultimately, the only person who decides who you are and what you represent and value is you.
Author: Claire Cao
1/15/18- Def-I Stereotypes
2/16/18- Remembering Peter Wang
2/20/18- Asians Are Un-Athletic? Says Who?
3/11/18- Racial Misconceptions: A Global Issue
4/12/18- A Letter to My Younger Self.
6/14/18- History Lesson: The Story of Chinese Exclusion in America
6/25/18- Summer '18: Groundbreaking RepresentASIAN in the Movies
7/18/18- Update On the Movement: Through Our Eyes
8/18/18- RepresentASIAN: My Journey with Katherine Ho, the Voice Behind "Crazy Rich Asians"
9/16/18- A Newcomer's Take on Asian Pride
10/11/18- Update on the United Airlines "Dragging" Incident
11/6/18- RepresentASIAN: Interview with Entrepreneur Benny Luo, Founder of NextShark
12/20/18- The "I Love You" Project