This month, Equity Task Force member Victoria Fok shares her personal experience of the importance of representation in media, “Growing up as an Asian-American in the Midwest, I was often the only person of color, child of immigrant, or Asian person. I not only did not see myself, my family’s culture & customs reflected in the communities and people I grew up in, but also not represented in media or popular culture. I was keenly aware, that even though I was born in the U.S, I was often seen as a foreigner- reinforced by the incessant, “where are you from?”, being mistaken as a foreign exchange student, to being led to the ethnic food aisle in a grocery store because the store associate thought I asked for chopsticks when I asked where the Chapstick was.
Until I was 25, there was a not a Hollywood feature film that featured an all-Asian cast until Crazy Rich Asians came out in 2018 and then The Farewell in 2019. For the first time in my life, I saw Asian-American women as leads, centered in their own stories, not just sidekicks or tokens of representations that just propped up the more important White lead. I saw people that looked like me & my family and the complex experience of being not just Asian but Asian-American reflected on the big screen. It was the first time in my life that I felt that my experience really mattered. Kimberly Yam, the editor of Asian Voices at HuffPost summed up the impact pretty perfectly in this series of tweets.
While the Asian-American experience is not a monolith and these two films are certainly not a perfect representation, I do think they start to prod at a broader meaning of the American experience and challenges some of our societal biases. I think key to anti-racist work is recognizing our own implicit biases, and how we can be limited by our own perspectives, life experience and start to build a broader worldview outside of that. Maybe it starts with watching these movies, but leads to researching and raising more awareness about the recent rise of anti-Asian American hate crimes and harassment, I hope you find these movies as impactful as I did.”