By Alicia Soller, 2013-2014 Multimedia/Webmaster Chair

Some of my friends (and to be honest, some of my family) are really baffled by how and why I care so much about Asian American advocacy.

Is it that much of a mystery?

It’s the fact that a few of my friends call me as “chinky,” and I used to not feel empowered enough to speak against that. It’s the fact that, joking or not, they have asked me how much I can see out of my eyes.

It’s the fact that when I call my parents, they ask how my “Chinese group” is going, even though I’m involved with an Asian American organization. Or how growing up, my sister and I created this game in which whenever we saw an Asian on TV we would yell, “ASIAN!” because truly it’s quite the novelty. Or the fact that at a conference I recently attended, my facilitator blatantly confused my friend (who is also Asian American) and I for the other two Asian girls in the room, successfully homogenizing us.

It’s the fact that one of my Asian American male friends back home is constantly emasculated by his own friends, and he doesn’t feel empowered enough to express his subdued voice no matter how inherently important it is. It’s that I watch him silently harbor this resentment and be discouraged by his perceived lack of masculinity and worth.

It’s the fact that I watch my sister silently suffer from not only the marginalization of her being a woman but her as an Asian American as well. It’s how we grew up in a household that valued our silence instead of our assertion, as well as a society that perpetuates this notion not only within the expectations of a woman but the expectations of an Asian American.

I see her struggle with her identity because a pivotal part of it is missing. Not only do we both feel disempowered by our lack of connection to our Filipino heritage, but we feel somewhat ostracized by some in a community — where we should be supporting each other in solidarity — because we don’t perfectly fit a certain mold.

It’s the fact that I’ve rolled with these punches – sometimes laughing them off, sometimes silently harboring them – and have stood idly by while they kept coming. But somehow I felt it was my place to adopt such a stance of passivity and the necessity to feel each and every one of the punches without objection.

It’s the fact that collectively, our histories as Asian Americans have been erased. And that the only way I even began to learn about our history was through my own curiosity. It’s the fact that our value and voices are substandard, and we don’t even know it.

So when my friends ask me why I care about Asian American advocacy so much, I have to raise an eyebrow. Here’s the reason in it’s simplest form: I AM Asian American. So honestly, if I don’t care about Asian American advocacy, who else will?