By: Hillary Hsu
My goal in life is to have a successful career and comfortably support my parents as well as my future family. I would not be here had it been for the sacrifices my parents made early on when they were my age. Everything that has happened to the generations before me has shaped the life I have now and the opportunities that I receive. The history of Asian Americans is of great importance, and as a part of the new generation, it is my job to ensure that future Asian Americans do not have to endure the struggles that which ancestors such as mine have faced.
War and the effects of peace and justice have not directly affected my life, but they have ultimately influenced me through the experiences of my family. My grandparents all moved from China to Taiwan during the early 1920s, fleeing from the communistic rule of China. My parents were born and lived in Taiwan from childhood to their young adulthood. They knew each other as young students through family and have been together ever since. They were born right after the time that martial law was instated and so they grew up under the oppression of the Republic of China. These were hard times when Taiwanese people were slaughtered in the streets and civil rights were nonexistent. During their high school years, my father faced a lot of reprimand from authority figures. He was a strong-headed individual who insisted on speaking his mind for a democratic way of life. He has told me his stories from these days and how lucky he had been that he was not jailed, or worse, killed. Often, he faced the threat of imprisonment for even the smallest infraction. Eventually, he served as a lieutenant in the Taiwanese Army and was stationed on a remote base on a small island, away from getting in trouble over his liberal views.
Soon after, my parents moved to America to seek a higher education, around the same time when several of my aunts and uncles also did. My parents both went to pharmacy school to receive their licenses to practice medicine. After going through school, they found themselves penniless with nothing but a small car, a rifle, and the clothes on their backs. They slowly made their way across America from the East Coast, and finally ended up in Los Angeles where they continued schooling and began working as pharmaceutical technicians. Coincidentally, they lived in a small apartment not too far from the apartment where I am currently living for school. They worked very hard, barely making enough to make the rent and put food in their mouths. Soon enough, my dad landed a steady job as a pharmacist in a small pharmacy in West Covina, but life didn’t get much easier. Crime was very prevalent in the area, and often times he found himself looking down the gun barrel of low life thieves. The police officers in the area did little to help and would have done nothing to help if they didn’t receive a steady influx of bribes from the desperate business owners. Throughout this period, my father maintained his morals, never selling medication to the wrong sort of people, no matter the extra money that he could have made or the threats that constantly came his way. After my sister was born in 1985, my parents began looking for a different place to live. He found a nice, affordable house in Cerritos where my family relocated just two years before I was born in 1989. Over the next couple of years, he made the commute to West Covina and put up with the harsh work environment with no complaints. Later, with the help of a contractor friend, he rented a small store and built a pharmacy in Artesia where he and my mother began working from 1992 to this day. Through their hard work and risk taking, they ensured a safer upbringing for my sister and me, with better opportunities than we probably would have had if they did not make the move.
To this day, the influence of my parents’ experiences is evident in their lives and how it affects me as well. The oppression which they faced humbled them and also taught them the importance of making the most of every opportunity, which are just some of the ideals which they pass down to my sister and me. My father wanted peace and justice for his country and while it may not have been on his mind at the time, I know he wanted the same for his future children. My parents provided the opportunity for us to receive peace and justice, but it is something that still does not come as easily to Asian Americans. This just fuels my desire to help create an environment where Asian Americans cannot only receive the same opportunities as everyone else, but the ability to receive the same results. Becoming aware of one’s intersection with history is a terrible lesson when realizing the injustice which occurs in life and the difficulties one must overcome as a minority, but it is magnificent in that it is enlightening and necessary in order to develop and grasp the reality of the world in which we live. It is a hard message to learn because it is difficult to see people capable of being so cruel towards their fellow man. Growing up in the predominately Asian community of Cerritos, I have not faced much racial discrimination, but I know it is a harsh reality which many Asian Americans continue to face. I have experienced racial prejudice in various points of my life, especially as I find myself getting older and becoming more independent. There are bigots who discriminate Asian Americans, consolidating their ignorant hatred towards the minorities whom they feel threatened by. Because of this, there are oppressing limitations that prevent many from reaching their full potential.
Becoming aware of the injustices that have occurred in the history for Asian Americans and those which still occurs in our society today, it is my duty as an educated and privileged individual to act and create change to eradicate them. Equality is something that is constantly being sought after whether it is in the economic, social, or political sense. But of all of them, the basic rights to live as equals should be a natural given right. The prejudices which remain prevalent in large parts of the world hold back societies from becoming completely civilized. For social change to occur and to create progress in these communities, it takes education and activism which needs to start among the youth as they will eventually become the leaders of the public. Becoming aware of the problems Asian Americans face is the first step towards making a change. As an individual, I can spread this awareness, and gather a group of like-minded individuals who seek to create an unbiased society for the future generations.
I am Taiwanese, and I was born and raised in Southern California. My hometown is Cerritos, California, just thirty miles southeast of UCLA. There are many things important to me including my family, friends, and the freedom to do the things I enjoy. I can say these things, and I am here today because of a choice my parents made a long time ago to better their lives and create a future for their children with endless possibilities. Although I am unsure of what specific career I would like in the future, I know I want to work in the health care industry. From past experiences working in clinics and doing research, I know how valuable good health is to an individual and I value the opportunity to help others achieve it, especially the underprivileged. Having worked with Asian immigrants in a free clinic, I have no doubt that access to healthcare creates healthy, strong individuals who can give to society and add invaluable contributions to build a society of which the founding fathers of a democratic America would be proud to see come to fruition.
Social change is without a doubt needed in our communities. To remember the histories of our parents and the hardships they endured, it is inspiring to aim for a future full of equality and justice for all. Though this kind of progress requires sacrifice from those who want to see change, giving back to these communities is easy when there are past generations to look up to; those who decided that they wanted change for themselves and for each other. With the knowledge my generation receives from the education that is available, there are bountiful resources which can be utilized to create change. The struggles for equality and justice are far from over. Past generations have done the legwork for younger Asian Americans, but it is up to individuals such as me to help, educate, inspire, and lead others to carry on the efforts.