Elizabeth: The United States of America, ( not as united as we should be these days! )
What country are you from?
I was born and raised in the USA and have only ever lived in this country.
What language(s) do you speak?
English and some Spanish.
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
I have four “children,” two boys and two girls ages 22, 20,18, and 16. Here’s a family photo from 2012.
How did you connect with World Moms Network?
When I became a blogger in 2012, I looked for a global community of mothers and found it at World Moms Network.
How long have you been a part of World Moms Network?
I reached out to World Moms Network Founder, Jen Burden, as soon as I found it and asked to get involved. At the time, the North American roster of writers was full but serendipity brought us together at BlogHer later that year, and she brought me on board.
How has your life changed since you joined World Moms Network?
When I joined WMN almost a decade ago, my youngest was six years old. Our town did not have full-day kindergarten, so this was my first year with all four kids in school full time, and I was excited to get back to work. World Moms Network has led to some of my most fulfilling work experiences since then. Jen Burden and I have attended Fashion Week, the Social Good Summit, and UNGA in New York City. I’ve worked with the United Nations Foundation, traveled on reporting trips to Ethiopia, South Africa, and Haiti, and advocated on Capitol Hill. I credit World Moms Network as a launchpad to reach my career dream goals while forming deep friendships with some of the most incredible women from around the world.
How do you spend your days?
A decade since I started with World Moms Network, my husband and I have just become empty nesters. For the past several years, I have been working as Social Media Manager for small business clients. I’ve eased back, working part-time from home, allowing me to be fully present for my kids while they were still young. As a stay-at-home mom re-entering the workforce a decade ago, I wondered if and how I would ever be able to make up for the years taken off.
Through digital media and World Moms Network, I found that I could get back to my career goals. With a Master’s Degree in documentary film and Anthropology I aspired to share stories that would promote cross-cultural understanding. After several reporting trips, I realized that it was not too late to achieve those goals, I was able to pull back again. When my oldest went off to school a few years ago, it reminded me that I didn’t have a lot of time left to be there for my kids while they were still home; they’d all be off at college soon. I lost both of my parents when I was young, so one of my main life priorities is to be present for my kids as long as they have me in this world. Now that they are all off at school, I am excited to refocus my energy on what’s next.
What are the top 5 places on your travel wish list?
Is there a book, movie or show you recommend?
I love to read and watch movies! I think the book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson should be required reading for all Americans. Favorite movies include The Life of Pi and Romancing the Stone.
What is your best motherhood advice?
With four kids, I feel that my kids were each born hardwired in some ways and they are all different. My parenting comes from a place of support and love for who they each are as individuals.
What is your favorite place you have traveled to?
I spent six months in my early twenties traveling overland through the African continent from Morocco to Botswana. We shopped at local markets, made the fire that we cooked over each night and camped in tents or under the stars the whole way. It was an incredible adventure.
What is your favorite family travel destination?
We try to travel abroad for two weeks each summer with our kids. It’s hard to choose a favorite but our Tanzanian Safari and Zanzibar trip was spectacular, We visited several different tribes and I loved giving my kids the opportunity to visit cultures and lives so different from their own. We have also been to Turkey a few times where my husband has family, there are so many beautiful, fascinating and historic locations to visit each time we go.
What is one random thing that most people would be surprised to know about you?
I was a member of the sky diving club in college. (Don’t tell my kids!)
What brings you joy?
My family. Our dog. Close friendships. Reading. Movies. Food and drink. Travel. Skiing. Creative endeavors.
We are at the tipping point of an Environmental crisis. The climate crisis impacts all other aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals: displacement, extreme poverty, food insecurity, clean water, equality, education, and global health.
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms
Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.
On September 11, 2001 – the day known to the world as 9/11 – I was a year into my new life in Canada. My office in the west end of Toronto had a perfect view of the Toronto skyline, including the distinctive CN Tower, then the tallest free-standing structure in the world.
About an hour after I got to work that day, I got myself a cup of coffee and was walking back to my desk. A colleague stopped me and handed me a printout from the CNN website. It showed a picture of the World Trade Center’s North Tower with smoke billowing from the top half. My immediate reaction was that this must be a Photoshop hoax. When I realized that it was a legitimate photograph, I thought the same thing as everyone else: that a freakish and tragic accident had occurred.
As I scrutinized the picture, I heard a shout coming from the direction of the conference room. Someone had been able to get the temperamental TV to work, and we all spilled into the room just in time to see live footage of the plane hitting the South Tower. An hour later, we were still sitting in the conference room. We were incapable of speech; someone muted the sound on the TV because the frantic commentary of chaos was violating the silence that we all needed.
I don’t think anyone moved for about ten minutes. Eventually, someone at the back of the room whispered, “Oh my God.” That utterance was a catalyst for everyone to rush to their phones to call family members, pausing on the way past the window to see if the CN Tower was still there.
There was no question of any work getting done that day. We all spent the day on the phone, contacting loved ones south of the border to find out who was alive and who wasn’t. My parents called from South Africa, unashamedly relieved to hear my voice. Toronto is not that far from New York, especially to people watching the chaos unfold from the other side of the world.
After talking to my parents, I frantically tried to get in touch with my friends in New York City. By late afternoon, there were two people I had not been able to reach – Luisa and Jason. I went to bed that night not knowing whether they were alive or dead. I didn’t sleep. I suspect that most people didn’t that night.
Luisa’s husband emailed me early the following morning. As soon as the South Tower had been hit, she and her coworkers had been evacuated from their office a block away to some hall somewhere. Phone signals were jammed: for several hours, Luisa’s husband did not know whether she had been buried in the rubble of collapsing towers. It was almost midnight by the time she got home, traumatized but alive.
But what had become of Jason? At lunchtime on September 12th, I spoke to a mutual friend, Mark, who had commuted to work with him the previous morning. Jason had dropped his dog off at the vet on his way to work, so he was late. The two friends had gotten off the subway at the same stop, and then they had gone into a Starbucks for their morning coffee. With coffee in hand, Jason had gone into the North Tower, waving goodbye to Mark, who had to go a few blocks further. The time was about 8:35 a.m.
Eleven minutes later, the North Tower was hit. I tried to convince Mark that Jason could have left the building in those ten minutes. Mark said it was unlikely. Jason had said something about a 9:00 meeting for which he had not prepared. He would have been sipping his coffee and working on reports at his desk, which was right in the flight path of a hijacked plane.
I said to Mark, “I hope Jason got to finish his coffee.” People say the oddest things in times of stress.
Now, twenty years later, I reflect on that day along with the rest of the world. I think of Jason and hope he died instantly, with no pain or stress. I look at my two children, neither of whom was alive on 9/11, one of whom is on the cusp of becoming an adult, and I wonder what kind of world their children will live in. I look at the world around me – at the discrimination and violence that almost seem to have become normalized – and I wonder if we have really learned anything.
Poignantly, I wonder what became of Jason’s dog, the one he dropped off at the vet on that terrible morning. The dog is certainly not alive anymore, but I hope it found a new home, and perhaps helped some family get through the unspeakable collective grief from 9/11.
Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny).
Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels.
When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum.
Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world.
Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!
No matter what is going on all around us, we need food. Too often lack of food is what is going on in certain parts of the world, while where there is plenty, we might enjoy a morsel on our own or with our neighbors, family, or friends.
I would like to ask you: what tools do you use to cook? Is it a kerosene or gas stove? Charcoal or electricity? A combination? If there was a way to cook your food using less energy, would you want to know about it? This post is all about that, so you are in the right place!
Bibi Saleha (Sally) Qazi is a Tanzanian woman who came up with a brilliant idea. We call her Bibi, a title of respect that means “grandmother”. Bibi Sally is my mother, which might make one question whether I am biased, but once you read on I believe you will see that it makes good sense.
The idea is the Wonder Basket.
So what is it?
The Wonder Basket is a cooking tool that is made with all* recycled materials. Use of the Wonder Basket helps with busy and lazy schedules, as you can use your stove of choice for a short time and turn it off (or use it for other foods). You then transfer your pot to the Wonder Basket to continue cooking without additional energy, using only the heat it has already gathered. The Wonder Basket saves energy, which is good for the planet, people, and the pocket.
Where may one find one of these amazing Baskets, and is the answer Africa? Well, as much as you are welcome to visit Tanzania (as you should) and attend a training session with Mama Sally, you can make a Wonder Basket on your own!
Speaking of bias, I’ll be honest… as her daughter and a woman who has always wanted to be financially independent, the fact that my mom freely shares this information sometimes bothers me Why? Because through this knowledge she could provide for herself, which is something that is needed. However, as a human being I am so thankful, humbled, and proud that she does freely share, and I hope that this universe will continue to provide for her all that she needs and more. My mom rocks as a human, as a woman and as a mom!
How Bibi Sally makes the Wonder Basket
The Wonder Basket is made using ten items: 1) A basket or large wooden box 2) Nylon sheeting large enough for two linings 3) Thin sponge mattress for insulation or enough large wood shavings for lining 4) A piece of sturdy cotton cloth to cover the nylon 5) A nylon bag for a cushion lid 6) Sponge for the lid 7) A pillow slip for cushion lid 8) Some string and big needle 9) A pair of scissors 10) A small square of cardboard to put under the pot in the basket
How to make it
Take a large basket or box (around 50cm x 50cm x 50cm). Line it with the nylon sheet to insulate it. Create a base 3–4 cm wide at the bottom. Apply the second sheet of nylon to cover the base , and fill in the space between two nylon sheets to create a wall inside the basket or box, either with wood shavings or the sponge mattress. Seal the wall which is 3-4 cm wide by folding the nylon sheet overlap. Cover with the strong cotton cloth. I used a large pair of skintight pants as the elastic waist band covers the nylon wall perfectly and the legs can be folded into the central well. The cloth can be arranged to cover the inside of the basket and overlap over the basket walls. Give it a shape with the scissors or tuck it in and stitch with the string to hold it all together. The pillow must not be rigid. Fill the nylon bag with wood shavings or sponge; give it a shape to fit snugly into the well in the basket. Cover it with the pillow or cushion slip and stitch it shut.
How to use the Wonder Basket
All cereals/grains and most foods cooked in water can be cooked in the basket!
Measure and clean the cereal/grain to be used, soak it until saturated. Put it in a pot without salt and with enough water to cover it completely with 1 cm of water above it. Bring it to a boil and stir. Cover and boil for one minute. Then transfer the pot to the insulated basket and cover it immediately with the cushion lid. Make sure no hot air comes out or cold air goes into the covered basket. The cooking time is the same as when you use the stove.
A note about rice
One cup of rice absorbs about two cups of water, sometimes a bit more for mature grains. Soak the clean rice for a few minutes. Then heat the necessary amount of water, salt it and bring to boil; you can put in some oil and spices if desired. When it boils, put in the strained rice, and stir. When it starts boiling properly, cover it and move the pan to the basket, and immediately put the cushion lid on.
Meat, potatoes, and cassava can be cut into inch-long pieces and cooked as desired. Then add a little boiling water, put the lidded pot in the basket, and cover instantly.
The basket will cook the food and keep it hot for a long time. You don’t need to watch it for fear that it may get burnt, as there is no flame or live fire. Don’t open the basket to check the food before passing the minimum cooking time has elapsed.
You cannot fry, grill or bake with this method. You can sterilize juice, food, and bottles in the basket. Take it on safari or picnic, or the office or the farm.
Bibi Sally has been an advocate for nutrition and nutrition education in her community for decades. She has always been passionate about women’s rights, human rights, children in poverty, self-reliance, and having a good hearty laugh! She is also a phenomenal translator, having translated many of the Baha’i Holy Writings from English to Kiswahili, as well as other independent translation assignments.
If you have any questions about the Wonder Basket, please do ask.
*all recycled materials: Sometimes you might have to buy the basket, box, or other materials.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by ThinkSayBe. Photo credit to the author.
I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!
The United States is one of the few countries in the world providing the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone who wants it, yet our vaccination rate stagnates around 49%. America has lost precious ground against misinformation. What can we do to convince vaccine-hesitant and vaccine-opposed people to get immunized?
For early COVID-19 vaccine adopters, it’s baffling that anyone would refuse a solution to a disease holding the world under siege. The choice to immunize is so obvious to some that they heap insults on those who choose not to vaccinate instead of trying to understand how to change minds. I’m no behavior expert, but I’m certain that demonizing an audience is not a convincing strategy to change behavior.
Personally, I wrestle with two questions:
Why would anyone oppose a life-saving vaccine?
How can we change their minds?
To help us better answer these questions, my friend Bernadette shared her story. Now a proponent of vaccines with grown children, she was once a young mom planning not to vaccinate her baby.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR VACCINE HESITANCY
The first part of understanding Bernadette’s early vaccine suspicions is to know that her first pregnancy at 19 years old resulted from an act of violence. Young and vulnerable, she fled from a friend who had suddenly become an abuser.
She sought medical care from four different obstetricians, but as a single, low-income mother, she received little compassion for her traumatic history. The dismissive attitudes of male doctors eroded her trust in traditional medicine.
She eventually decided on an illegal home-birth with “underground” midwives because she feared her abuser could find her at a hospital. Bernadette recalls, “The midwives were the first people to ‘hear me.’” They gave her excellent advice about nutrition and childbirth.
The competence and kindness of these caretakers primed Bernadette to accept that the medical community was not all-knowing. Unfortunately, these particular women also gave her misinformation about the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine. It’s important to note that midwives are valuable, trusted birthing partners around the world and often support immunizations.
When her baby girl was born, Bernadette still wanted to provide the best protection she could. So she took her daughter for vaccines. It horrified her when a lump the size of a walnut appeared at the injection site of the first shot. The follow-up shot caused an even bigger lump. Even though lumps are a common side effect, it convinced Bernadette that her midwives were right in opposing vaccines. She added her voice to those expressing mistrust about immunizations.
CHANGING HER MIND
Eleven years later, Bernadette was pregnant with her second child. This time, with a loving husband and health insurance, she looked forward to consistent care for the new baby and her daughter. However, she still distrusted vaccines, and brought that attitude with her to interview doctors.
That’s when she met Dr. Patricia Wolff, a highly respected St. Louis pediatrician. Bernadette remembers her as respectful and unflappable with a wry sense of humor. It was a very impactful conversation. She says, “She didn’t seem like she was standing four steps above me. We were having a discussion. She wasn’t trying to make me submit.” Bernadette wanted to work with this woman!
Dr. Wolff told Bernadette that she wanted to work with her, too. However, for the safety of her current patients, she wouldn’t be their doctor unless Bernadette agreed to vaccinations. Dr. Wolff didn’t show anger at the anti-vaccine position, only disappointment. Bernadette’s desire to work with Dr. Wolff won out. The doctor was flexible enough to alter their vaccine schedule, so the kids only received one shot at a time.
When Bernadette talks to anti-vaccine folks in 2021, she feels a reluctant kinship. She remembers the temptation to dig into a position when others belittled her intelligence. It was empowering then to think, “I know something those so-called experts don’t know.”
She believes the speed with which COVID-19 covered the globe contributed to helpless feelings. People act illogically, faced with helplessness and fear. Nobody wants to feel ignorant or out of control. They can’t control job loss or ventilator supply, but they can control whether they get a needle in their arm or wear a mask. She sees their hardened beliefs and notes, “Once you take a stand, it’s hard to reverse because that would make you look and feel stupid.”
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE
What can we learn from Bernadette’s experiences as we talk to people who mistrust the COVID-19 vaccine?
Listening + Respect = Trust
I noticed themes of listening and respect. The midwives were the first people to hear Bernadette. The doctors who wouldn’t listen made her feel small and ignorant. Why would she trust them over the women who took the time to care for her emotions and her body?
Dr. Wolff listened to her. It didn’t cost the doctor anything but time, but she gained trust. Far too many people in Bernadette’s life were condescending and dismissive when she longed for validation and respect.
Trust is essential
Trust was the element that caused Bernadette to change her mind. Once you stoop to ridicule or insults, there’s no trust in the relationship. If you make fun of others, they can dismiss you. They no longer see you acting like someone with their best interests at heart. You go from being a friend and resource to “one of them.” The response switches from “I’ll hear her out because I respect her” to “I don’t care what she says.”
Stand firm without punishing
Dr. Wolff didn’t berate her potential patient. With compassion, she denied services based on the safety of her patients. She was accommodating, but never compromised the protection of children under her care. We can be firm without being hateful.
PUTTING LESSONS TO THE TEST
After talking with Bernadette, I reached out to a vaccinated friend who hadn’t taken her 12-year-old for his COVID-19 vaccine. I recognized her desire to protect a child was the same reasoning that led me to vaccinate my kids. Focusing on that common emotion helped me speak less and listen more. Shortly afterward, I received a message from her saying that her son received his first dose!
Of course, not all conversations will go that smoothly. Yet I hope others might find inspiration here to help start the hard conversations. Lives depend on it.
Cynthia Changyit Levin took her first advocacy action in 2001 with a hunger event at her church. Years later, after resigning from her position as an automotive engineer to raise her newborn daughter, she searched for a way she could better the world from home while caring for infants. She returned to advocacy and is now a dedicated volunteer activist with RESULTS, Shot@Life, ONE, and Bread for the World.
Levin involves her young children in her advocacy activities, including face-to-face lobby meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing, and classroom advocacy projects. She shares what she has learned about advocacy through her Anti-Poverty Mom blog and training other activists with RESULTS. Her op-eds and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Chicago area newspapers as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, the New York Times and the international Financial Times.
Levin has served on the Board of Directors for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and on staff with RESULTS Educational Fund as a fundraising coach for grassroots volunteers.
Two heavy blankets are on top of me. I am shivering so hard that my teeth are chattering but I’m also sweating so profusely that I look as if I’ve been standing in a rainstorm. My hands shake, my legs twitch, I pull my legs up under me and then I stretch them out, ball them up and stretch them out.
I repeat this routine for hours. I smell myself and it’s not good. I haven’t had a shower, and if I’m being honest, it’s been more than a few days. My stomach rolls and I’m nauseated. I try to drink water and Gatorade but I know they’re both going to make me vomit. My mind tries to remember when I last ate; I think it was five days ago but that might not be true, it could be longer. My hair is matted from the sweat and my curls are turning into massive knots. I toss and I turn and time drags endlessly. What feels like hours has only been an hour.
I always count down the first 24 hours because if I make it through the first 24 hours I know it’ll get better. I hope this time I don’t hallucinate. I’ve actually had that happen before and it’s extremely scary. As thoughts raced through my mind and anxiety and worry and stress and beating myself up for being so dumb once again, I wonder why am I doing this. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this; this isn’t the second time, third time or even fourth time. Detoxing from alcohol use is a hell that I keep allowing myself to go back to voluntarily.
The worst part about it too is that I am an angry raging drunk. I’m not a sweet, fun, happy drunk – I’m a lay-on-the-loveseat-binge-drink-and-cry drunk – one who lets all her anger from past traumas out on everyone around her.
I ruined my last relationship due to this. I no longer speak to my mother after the last time I cussed her out in a drunken rage. My youngest son no longer speaks to me due to how I talk to his grandmother. My dad and I did not speak until recently.
Every time I wake up from a binge I nervously look at my phone to see what craziness I’ve posted on Facebook, or what friend I have cussed out – and there have been quite a few. I have ended some really good friendships and it’s always so embarrassing to see what I’ve done, but I do it over and over again.
When I joined World Moms Network 11 years ago, this was not how my life was going. I was 37 years old and engaged to my now ex-husband. Both of my children were involved in sports and school, I was finishing my bachelor’s degree and working full time at a job that I loved, and then in 2015 I had a gastric bypass. I was so excited in the first year because I lost over 140 pounds. I’d never dreamed I could be that weight again. I never dreamed people would tell me I was beautiful and gorgeous. It was something I had never experienced.
My surgeon did tell me to get counseling, because whatever had fueled my food addiction would not go away. I didn’t listen. I did not know at the time that a large percentage of weight loss surgery patients become alcoholics.
I always like to tell people that when it’s sink or swim time, I’ll always swim. However, I’m no longer able to swim as easily. It started off where I’d be swimming fairly proficiently. Then, as my drinking progressed, I’d slowly start to drown. I would always get to a point where I’d realize I was drowning and kick my feet as hard as I could, and I’d swim, swim, swim back to the surface because I could always see the light. And then the next day I do it again, and the next day I’d do it again, and the next day I’d do it again. Over time my body has gotten very tired of swimming back to the surface. Every time I drown I feel like I don’t care anymore if I swim to the surface. Everything in my mind tells me, Don’t swim, just go ahead and sink. I’ve gotten really close to completely drowning a couple of times. My arms are tired, my legs are tired – but something in my brain keeps pushing me get to the surface and try it again.
So here I am, back on the surface, in the shallow end, trying it again. In addition to weekly therapy, AA meetings, and a strong network of support, I’m also taking medication. This time, things feel different. I’m still cautious, though. I am not going past the shallow end. Addiction recovery is not linear, and I’m wholly aware now of addiction transference. My goal is to heal my whole self and address the internal issues that led to the food addiction long ago.
Do you or a loved one have an addiction? Are you in recovery?
Margie Webb is a forty-something, divorced mom of three biracial sons: Isaiah (25), Caleb (20), and Elijah (6/8/1997 - 7/2/1997) and two bonus sons: Malcolm (5/10/1992 - 10/9/2015) and Marcus (25). She lives in Lafayette,
Louisiana by way of Little Rock, Arkansas, and enjoys traveling, attending the theater, cooking calling the Hogs during Arkansas Razorback football season, spending time with family and friends, and is a crazy cat lady.
In addition to obtaining her Bachelors and Masters degree, she also has a Graduate Certificate in Online Writing Instruction and a National HR Certification through SHRM. She excels in her career as a Human Resources Management professional. Additionally, she has represented World Moms Network as a Digital Reporter at various conferences, including the United Nations Social Good Summit.
Her life has been one big adventure in twists, turns ,extreme lows, and highs. After recently embracing her new lease on life and her identity in the LGBTQ community, she is excited about what is yet to come. She can be found on Twitter@TheHunnyB
In a blog post that I wrote for NPR’s intern edition back in 2007, I started with, “I moved to the United States four years ago, but I never felt more like a foreigner until I was back in my homeland of Taiwan last summer.” I then told a story about how I was kicked out of a taxi in Taipei because I didn’t speak a Taiwanese dialect. I ended by saying, “I don’t feel Chinese or Taiwanese and I certainly will never be a real American.”
Fourteen years have passed since that post was written. Now I feel American, 100 percent. America is home, with no doubt. Funny how things change.
One thing remain the same, though. I still feel like a foreigner when I am in my birthplace of Taiwan, or among my fellow Taiwanese.
Not that finding a place in America is easy. I have to constantly prove that I am an American, that I belong. Fourteen years ago, I tried to prove it to myself. Now, I try to prove it to everyone around me, from strangers I encounter to my fellow Asian American people.
Recently my family went hiking and as always, my little hikers got a lot of attention. In the shade of an old tree two white ladies started to talk to my 8-year-old.
“What’s your nationality?” they asked.
“I’m American,” he replied.
“No, where are you from?”
“No, how do you say ‘hello’ in your language?”
He was confused, but I knew what those people wanted to hear. So I said, “We’re American. If you’re asking about ethnicity, I was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents. The children were born in San Diego. And we try to speak Chinese at home but as you can see, they are more used to English.”
Then we moved on. My children asked me what all those questions were about. I told them that because we look different, those people assumed we were foreigners.
“How do we look different?”
“How not being white is different?”
“…Oh look at that blue butterfly!”
The kids went to chase the butterfly and soon forgot about the conversation.
On our return trip we saw those ladies again. They apologized for “not being sensitive.” I told them we got a lot of questions but we never got apologies. So I thanked them.
And I meant it. With the delicate distinction that lies between curiosity and insensitivity, we face this kind of behavior all the time—some people call it “micro aggressive.” To me, it’s a constant reminder that we still need to prove that we belong. It is uncomfortable, but nothing close to the hardest part. The truth is, racism against Asians has been there ever since, or even before, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. However, people have never talked about it as we are doing right now. Conversation is always a good thing and a sign of change. I don’t mind proving this to myself again and again, as long as it guarantees a better place in this country for my offspring.
The hard part is walking between two worlds as an Asian American. In the last year—the pandemic year— I have found myself caught between the maliciousness from different Asian groups, particularly between Chinese and Taiwanese. I contribute to a variety of Chinese and Taiwanese publishers. And to this day, the standard language in many Taiwanese newsrooms for COVID-19 is still “Wuhan virus.”
I had hard time communicating with some editors I work with that it is unbearable seeing the words “Wuhan virus” under my by-line. In my neighborhood, my children have never heard any white people using slurs against Asians, but they hear Taiwanese kids use the term “Chinese virus” a lot. My Taiwanese friends who are determined to stick with the term said it loud and clear: “Taiwanese will always be Taiwanese! Chinese will always be Chinese! Nothing changes when we move to America! And as Taiwanese we will always hate Chinese!”
Some of these people have been living in the States for decades, yet believe that they will never be American, and their determination to hate people of certain national origins is ever solidified. Identity is indeed a most curious thing.
These are the hardest things for me: explaining to my children how the hostility between different Asian American groups is deeply rooted in politics back in Asia and fueling the hate crime at home in America, and how long it will take to eliminate such hate. These conversations are just draining.
Recently I have come to the conclusion that I will be honest to my children and tell them that I do not have a good answer. But there is one thing I can assure them: we should all have empathy. Not because we are American, Chinese or Taiwanese, but because we are human beings.
And hopefully, with a little more empathy, we will get a little bit closer to a day without hate.