On Tuesday, May 17, WPNR's "Where We Live" featured a discussion on "..Race, Politics, and Stereotyping" in the APA community. The program featured APAAC Executive Director Mui Mui Hin-McCormick, a Chinese Lao American, joined Quyen Truong, Vietnamese American Hartford resident and Evaluation Coordinator at the North Central Regional Mental Health Board, as well as Sonny Chen, Chinese American resident of West Hartford and owner of Black Bamboo restaurant.
"Where We Live" host Lucy Nalpathanchil, herself Indian American, asked participants to address topics such as migration experiences, living an 'American' life in an Asian/Pacific Islander cultural context, and portrays of Asian Pacific Americans (APA) in media.
APAAC Executive Director Mui Mui Hin-McCormick highlighted some of APAAC's work for APA communities in Connecticut, such as language access initiatives, community engagement, and policy advocacy. She also shared how her ethnically Chinese family came to the United States as refugees in Laos, through sponsorship from a church in Wallingford. Hin-McCormick also noted the additional difficulties refugees, having no choice to leave their home lands and often afflicted with intergenerational trauma, face adapting to life in the United States.
Quyen Truong mentioned her own experience growing up in West Hartford in the1990's, before the APA population in Connecticut and nationally began to grow significantly. She noted ethnic isolation and visible 'otherness', feeling as though she knew all the few APA students in her school, unable to understand at such a young age how to reconcile a 'different' appearance with Western perceptions of 'normal' or 'acceptable'. She mentioned, however, that the West Hartford School District provided great support and ran an excellent English as a Secod Language (ESL) program to help Quyen learn English and overcome language barriers.
Sonny Chen, who resided in Hartford prior to living in West Hartford, spoke to his parents' desire to live in the United States for better life opportunities. However, he mentioned feeling a lack of outreach or active support from services and and other systems in the receiving community. He and Quyen both discussed how family support enabled them to navigate daily life in a new land. Chen also shared how he was bullied as a youth for his appearance and language, and how now his own nephew's football coach refers to his nephew as 'China-man', a racist and xenophobic term.
Addressing the model minority myth, Hin-McCormick expressed how the perception of APAs as homogenous, categorically successful, and without significant disparities, deters extensive outreach or investment into these communities.
Hin-McCormick, Truong, and Chen all agreed that Connecticut presents lacks in resources to assist and advance APA communities. Language and culture barriers persist in education, health, housing, and other important areas.
Jeff Yang, Chinese American author, also participated on the program to discuss media portrayals of APA communities. He noted that television has progressed in its representation of APAs because of the number of mediums available for interesting, higher-quality programming. The film industry, however, continues in its failure to cast APA performers even for Asian-based roles, citing a lack of 'stars' to succeed in the box office.
APAAC thanks WNPR, as well as all participants and callers who helped initiate a necessary conversation on APAs in the United States. We hope to extend these conversations and continue to highlight the diversity and disparities in our APA communities.