The thought has crossed my mind before, at times provoked by a stranger’s pointed remark.
I remind myself at those times of the struggles that my father overcame in order to have the fortune to come to America. Make no mistake: my mother must have cut many ties as well, but my father is responsible for our Americanness. Their feelings of otherness must have been at least as strong as those that I have experienced, for they came to this country with just enough English language ability to get by.
Yet get by they did: my father earned two degrees from the University of Tulsa, enabling him to work alongside some of the brightest in the oil and gas industry. His earning power meant that mom could devote all of her time to rearing me, Alice, and Justin. I try to bite my tongue when my father uses the wrong pronoun in conversation (sometimes referring to a man as she, or a girl as he, often while the object of this pronoun is still present).
Unlike my parents, I never struggled with language. I may not have engaged with every fool looking for a fight, but I understood their every word. My father, aware of the limitations within his command of English, may have considered communication skills to be a sticking point in career advancement for himself and others like him. I’m positive that this contributed to my mom’s insistence that we master English, and her reluctance to teach us Chinese. More likely, my father and his peers had butted heads with the Bamboo Ceiling.
The America that I live in now is a place where Asian men remain emasculated and othered. In spite of my growing awareness, I won’t leave the US. My reasons are as follows:
Because this is the country of my birth, the country whose passport I hold. The country where I work, pay my taxes, and live. The country where my paternal grandfather was buried.
I have great love for this country, but I also have beef with it. See, within the Statue of Liberty is a plaque bearing the text of Emma Lazarus’ 1883 poem, The New Colossus. The best-known verse, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” speaks of America’s values, bringing to mind thoughts of Winthrop’s “city upon a hill.” Yet in the information age, I am reminded time and time again of our collective loss of right to the moral high-ground.
Although the option to leave this country remains attractive, I won’t leave until I see the day that all men are treated as equals. “Where freedom is real, equality is the passion of the masses.” When the day comes that true equality exists, perhaps I will see no compelling reason to leave. Until then, I will enjoy the freedom that comes with being here, while fighting alongside my brothers in arms for a fair existence.