In 1998, I arrived in the US with a suitcase to study Interior Design at Washington State University. Before that, my family and I had visited the US a few times while my father traveled there for business. As a curious and adventurous teenager, I was attracted to the idea of studying abroad.
During my first year at Washington State, passing each class was my focus. While it was easy for other freshmen to pass general courses, I recorded each class and listened to them multiple times to ensure I didn't miss anything. Though I knew "book English," conversational English was still unfamiliar to me. People thought I was shy, but in reality, I was still learning the language. Nowadays, people see me as an outgoing person.
You may ask what attracted me to stay in the US. For me, it was "the land of opportunities." The US is more accepting of women who speak their minds and are ambitious, while Japanese culture tends to praise submissive women who don't speak out. Although it's changing, there's still more work to be done. Being a person who fit better culturally in the US, I decided to stay after graduation.
After getting my bachelor's degree, I moved to Dallas for work. The economy there was better than in Washington State. During my time in Dallas, I made many friends and met my husband. Interestingly, I hadn't met any Japanese people in my professional network for over 15 years. Then, I met a Japanese woman, originally from Japan, working at a semiconductor company who had been living in Dallas for about as long as I had. We formed a platform for Japanese career women in Dallas to connect, network, and empower since there were no such organizations. We registered the group as 501©(3) and named it DJCW (Dallas Japanese Career Women). I realized how helpful it is to talk with someone who's been in similar circumstances - studying abroad and working in companies where you're one of the few Asian people.
For a while, "your English is good" was a compliment for me, but I later learned it could be negative. The sentence assumes someone's from outside the country based on their appearance, and you don't know where they're from. There are many second, third, and fourth-generation Asian Americans, so English is their first language. As a mother of a second-generation Asian American who's also biracial, I pay more attention to how people say/treat me and my family. After the Atlanta shooting towards Asian women at a spa, I was too frightened to go outside or to the grocery store. I couldn't trust anyone because they targeted Asian people. The same goes for Black people - there were many incidents where they were targeted because of their skin color. I'm a mother of a Black and Asian mixed daughter and started learning about the history of Black and Asian people in the US to educate myself. I have a wonderful family, and an incredible daughter who is proud of her biracial ancestry.
As I see my daughter grow with confidence and self-assurance, I can't help but wonder what we can do to create a better world for her as she grows up and thrives. With this in mind, I believe that sharing my story can make a difference and bring about positive change.
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