Fighting for Greater Asian-American Representation in Media and Education

by Diana Drake

During the heart of the pandemic, the world watched in horror as hate crimes and hostility toward Asian Americans began to rise. For New Jersey, U.S., high school student Albert Zhou, it was both terrifying and mind-boggling that people would blame entire ethnicities and cultures for the spread of the Coronavirus, when in fact they had nothing to do with the global health crisis. He felt both targeted, as well as inspired to speak up for his fellow Americans who also had Asian ancestry. That’s when he got a text from his friend Kyler, and together they began to build Hear Our Voices, a magazine dedicated to raising awareness of the Asian-American experience through writing and art (the cover image was created for the magazine by student Kristy Sorochan).

On this month’s Future of the Business World episode, we explore Albert’s journey for greater Asian-American representation in media and education, which is a story of community, creativity, product development, marketing and personal acceptance. 

Be sure to click the arrow above to listen to the podcast. An edited transcript of the conversation appears below. 

Wharton Global Youth Program: Hello and welcome to Future of the Business World, the podcast featuring teen entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe. I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Wharton Global Youth entices high school students to discover the depth and breadth of business through our summer programs, for-credit courses, competitions and content. We meet many of our Future of the Business World guests through these opportunities and invite them here to tell us more about their lives and their unique business interests.

Today, we are celebrating our 30th episode with Albert Zhou, a high school senior from the state of New Jersey, who studied in our Leadership in the Business World program in summer 2022. Albert is going to share his journey with Hear Our Voices, a magazine launched in 2020 to give the Asian-American student community a voice that has since evolved into so much more. Albert, welcome to Future of the Business World.

Albert Zhou: Thank you so much for having me here today.

Wharton Global Youth: It’s great to have you. Let’s get started. I would like to start with a very basic question. Can you define the Asian-American demographic for us? Who does that include? And also, give us the context of New Jersey — does your high school have a large Asian-American community?

Albert Zhou.

Albert: Being Asian American just means any American that has any sort of Asian ethnicity. This obviously encompasses a wide variety of people, from immigrants from Asia, who are living here now, to people who, like myself, were born in America, but have Asian ancestors that at some point immigrated over here. It includes East Asians and South Asians and people of mixed descent. But basically, anybody who identifies as an American but also identifies with their Asian background, descent and ethnicity. So, to contextualize it. In my experience growing up in New Jersey, I went to a school district that had a very high Asian population — West Windsor, New Jersey. And to be honest, Asian American was actually the majority of my student population. And so, for me growing up, Asian American never seemed abnormal to me, because everyone around me looked like me, had the same lived experiences as me, celebrated the same holidays as me. Around high school, when I applied to [private] high school and I got to my current high school, Princeton Day School, I experienced a sudden dramatic increase. Asian Americans were somewhat underrepresented in my high school; they were a smaller population in my new school. And so for me, it was a drastic change in my life. I never felt like a minority before. I never had seen so many people that didn’t have the same experiences as me. That definitely played a role in me joining the Hear Our Voices team and me trying to push for more Asian representation in media.

Wharton Global Youth: I want to hear more about Hear Our Voices. You and Kyler Zhou are among the two founders of Hear Our Voices [Kyler is the founder and Albert joined to help with recruitment], a magazine specifically dedicated to raising awareness of the Asian-American experience through writing and art. What inspired this project in 2020? Was it in response to the hate and hostility toward Asian Americans that surfaced during the pandemic?

Albert: You actually got it; you nailed it. It was directly in response to the rise in hate crimes and hostility toward Asian Americans that came with the rise of the pandemic. I remember when the pandemic had first started, my mom was extremely paranoid. She said that people who look like us going out in public during the pandemic was an easy way to get targeted, to become a victim. We were seeing stories night after night on the news of Asian women who were being pushed to death on the subway, or another Asian shop owner being assaulted, while people screamed racial slurs and blamed the pandemic on them. So, for a lot of Asian Americans, like myself, it was a very, very scary time. And we felt that we were at risk and we were a targeted group.

I remember one day Kyler texted me out of the blue and he said, ‘Hey, I have an idea. Can we chat sometime?’ We hopped on a Zoom meeting, because obviously this was the pandemic. And he told me that he had an idea for a magazine. He had always been into journalism and he wanted to be able to project his voice. He said he wanted to be able to respond to the rise of hate crimes that we were seeing toward Asian Americans. And he had the idea for the magazine saying simply ‘Hear Our Voices.’ Hear Asian-American voices. We initially started with monthly issues. He wanted to publish monthly issues that would include news about Asian Americans and poems about the Asian-American experience and short stories from different authors. It started off very simple. We just wanted to share our stories and share experiences with as many people as possible and to feel empowered in a way and to feel that there were people out there who cared about the Asian-American experience. But we couldn’t have predicted that over the next few months, it would grow into so much more.

Wharton Global Youth: I’m really eager to talk to you about that growth. Before we do, I’m hoping we can stay with this just a little bit more, because I want to understand better what it was like for you and your classmates and your friends and your family during those dark times of the pandemic. Did it evoke anger? What kinds of emotions did that bring up in you?

Albert: I think most of all, it evoked fear. It was quite scary. A lot of my classmates and I would see videos of hate crimes being committed live. I think social media has really sensationalized a lot of things now and so it’s so accessible to see horrific incidents happening. It’s difficult to see someone who looks like you, who probably has a lot of shared experiences, go through terrible, terrible things. You can’t help but imagine: what if that’s me next? It felt unfair to me, especially because people were blaming all Asians for the Coronavirus pandemic, when really there was simply nothing that we could have done about it. A lot of us had family that was suffering from COVID. I had family back home in China that had contracted COVID and were living through really, really difficult conditions. To see absolutely no sympathy toward that and instead, to see all this hate and violence and crime toward us was very difficult. Hear Our Voices was a vehicle for us to say, we’re not going to just sit back and take the abuse and violence that we’re seeing. I think traditionally in media, there can be a lot of stereotypes about Asian Americans being more submissive and not very vocal about their opinions and their voices. And they’re not really represented in politics and media and that type of stuff. Hear Our Voices was our way of saying the hate has to stop. We want to take action against it. We don’t want to just sit back and watch all this unfold.

Wharton Global Youth: As you just said, you initially rallied a group of like-minded classmates and friends from your community. But then you began to think nationally. What prompted you to want to expand? And can you also tell us more about how speaker events helped you to extend the reach of Hear Our Voices across the U.S.?

Albert: We realized at some point about five, six months into this whole process that our team was very New Jersey-based, which made sense because we were from New Jersey, and there was a large Asian community in New Jersey, as I mentioned before. But there were so many Asian Americans out there that we felt we just weren’t touching with our work and that we weren’t impacting their lives. And so, we wanted to be able to give them a chance to see our content and to see themselves represented in media through a group like us. One of the ways we went about this, and you touched on this, was speakership events. We invited notable Asian-American figures in the community to come and give speeches and Q&A sessions and talk about their experiences or whatever else they wanted to talk about. And then we would advertise these all over social media; all over Instagram, all over WeChat, and on different platforms. And we were able to bring in a lot of people.

I remember our very first leadership event was with Benny Luo, who was the founder of NextShark, which is another journalism company. It was kind of cool to see a founder of a huge journalism company then give a speech for a start-up journalism company like us. He gave a speech and answered a Q&A session. It was a really huge success. We had a lot of people come and I remember messages pouring in after the event telling us what an enjoyable opportunity it was for a lot of people and how cool it was to see themselves represented in a figure like Benny Luo, who was bringing Asian-American representation to media. That really helped us expand our national outreach. People from all over the country from Arizona to Georgia were reaching out asking if they could join the team and that they wanted to write content, or they wanted to apply for a social media position or something. Within a few months after our first leadership event, we got more speakers and we decided that this was a really great way to reach more people. Because while content and articles are great, there is just something about seeing a person live [who can] actually talk about their experiences instead of just write about it. We had a bunch of events with different speakers. And we were able to expand our reach. By the end of the year, we were in a bunch of different states and had really become, I think, a nationwide organization instead of just one that was located in New Jersey.

Wharton Global Youth: Do you have the data of the bump in numbers on your website? Can you give me a sense of how the readership grew?

Albert: Our first issue probably only had 20 or 30 readers, to be honest. I don’t have the exact number on me right now, but it was very, very small. By the end of the year, we had around 10,000 readers nationwide, which was a huge jump. We couldn’t have expected that, and now we’re sitting at around 17,000 readers nationwide.

“For a long time I was very ashamed of my Asian ancestry, to be honest with you. I hated the way people looked at me in public whenever my parents spoke to me in Chinese.”

Wharton Global Youth: That’s very cool. As I alluded to in the beginning, you’ve really evolved into so much more. I want to talk about that a little bit. You also helped to influence the New Jersey State Legislature, right? What role did Hear Our Voices play in New Jersey becoming one of the first states to mandate AAPI — which stands for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — history to be taught in public schools?

Albert: This project started with a recurring theme that I’ve been talking about all episode, which was we wanted to have more Asian-American representation. For a lot of kids like myself growing up in school, we were never really taught about our history. We learned about American history, [but] we never really learned about Asian-American history. And it was difficult to sit in classrooms and see all these people that never looked like me and really have no idea what my cultural heritage was like, and what my people generations ago were doing here in the country. Kyler and I were talking about this one day after a meeting and he said, we’ve been a journalism company for so long. We have tried to be very independent and kind of stay out of political activities. But perhaps now’s the time to transfer more to the political sector. Perhaps now is the time to make our voices heard through legislation, instead of just stories. So, we reached out to a bunch of different lobbying groups who were working on a bill that would mandate New Jersey public schools to teach Asian-American history. And we got a coalition — one of the most notable groups that we worked with was a group called Make Us Visible New Jersey, that was also focused on making Asian-American history taught, hence the name Make Us Visible. And we pushed and pushed for many months. We were doing all sorts of different lobbying activities and reaching out to grassroots supporters, talking to assemblymen and congressman and legislatures. After many, many months of constant work and calling and advocating and protesting, the New Jersey legislature finally became just the second state, I think, in America, to pass the bill that would mandate Asian-American history. It’s a recently passed bill, so we haven’t seen the far-reaching impacts of it yet. But I hope five, six years from now, some kid who’s in elementary school or middle school, who is Asian American, can take classes about their culture and their legacy and feel for once represented and included in all school curriculums.

Wharton Global Youth: That’s quite a victory. You must have felt great about that.

Albert: Yeah, it was a huge victory for us. And I think a really important stepping stone in the Hear Our Voices journey, because it was amazing to see our work finally manifested in law. It’s nice knowing that people are reading our stories, and people are reading our content and can feel represented, but to actually see themselves represented in schools around the state; to see the government truly put their foot down and fight for us, was a big victory.

Wharton Global Youth: I want you to dig into your Leadership in the Business World experience a bit. Let’s talk business. When you think of Hear Our Voices in pure business terms, are you guys marketing a product? What would that product be? Also, how do you believe innovation fits into it?

Albert: When Kyler first approached me, he saw Hear Our Voices as a vehicle for social and political activism. He saw it as a very noble venture and simply nothing more than that. When he brought me on I said, we might have to shift focus a little bit if you want to reach as many readers as we can, which obviously we do. If we want to maximize your impact, we have to start thinking about Hear Our Voices in business terms. We have to start viewing Hear Our Voices as a company that is selling a product. Kyler said, what are we selling? That doesn’t make any sense? All our content is free on our website. Anybody can read it anytime without a price. So, we’re not really selling anything. We’re not making any money. I thought about it a bit and got back to him. I said, we are selling something what we’re marketing in our products. It is political and social activism, which seems unconventional. How could that really be a product? I thought about it and I said, we are making a huge impact on many people’s lives around the country and many Asian Americans around the country. And that in and of itself is a product in a way. By successfully marketing our stories and successfully marketing our speakership events and successfully marketing our legislation projects, we will be reaching more people. And by reaching more people, we will be doing and having a greater social impact.

Our vision is now a blend of Kyler’s vision and my vision. Hear Our Voices is still a vehicle for social impact and it is a vehicle for change. And it is a vehicle to ensure that we can have greater Asian representation in media and education and all these things. But at the end of the day, the only way to achieve that is by successful marketing and innovation and successful outreach, because there’s simply no way in reaching as many people as we have now — 17,000 — without successful marketing strategies. I think that’s really something beautiful about learning business principles that is just so universally applicable. You wouldn’t think that we would be running Hear Our Voices [like you] run a company. That you would be using any of the business principles that I learned back at my Leadership in the Business World program today for something that seems as socially driven as Hear Our Voices. But it truly is something that you can be used in any field.

I found that some of the marketing techniques I learned back at LBW have helped my journey at Hear our Voices and have helped us expand readership. Connecting with our audience was a huge one. Being Asian American isn’t a monolithic experience. My experience as an Asian American is not going to be the same as somebody else’s experiences as an Asian American. And so, a big focus for us when we were marketing things was, how do we appeal to all the different types of Asian Americans out here? One thing that we had to do was diversify our staff. In the beginning, we started out very East Asian-heavy; lots of Chinese and Korean backgrounds. We said, this is not our only readership base. So, we started recruiting more South Indian authors. We started recruiting authors who were of mixed descent so they could write more about their experiences. And in this way, we reached a much broader audience. So simple things like that. Kyler might not have thought about that when he first created Hear Our Voices, because he was focused on doing good in the world and fighting back against the increase in hate that we saw during the pandemic. But for me, I saw it as an opportunity to create a product that isn’t really on the market. And that is Asian representation in the media.

Wharton Global Youth: Your legislative lobbying proved to be a huge benefit to Hear Our Voices because you ended up winning a couple of grants, right? I’m wondering how you’re applying that money to the project and also where things will be going in the future?

Albert: Yes, it was a great thing. One of the most notable grants that we were able to win was the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. Well, Kyler won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. And that gave us a $1,000 stipend to pursue a lot of different things. The biggest thing was simply upping our social media. Social media is such a huge marketing trend now. There’s been a huge boom in digital content creation, digital marketing and Instagram allows you for a small fee to pay for all these different promotions that you can get and to get featured in advertisements and to have more user analytics. That helped us a lot. We revamped our logo, and it simply allowed us to broaden our network reach.

Looking off into the future, we’re hoping to work on more legislative projects. We’re hoping to get the bill about Asian-American history being taught in schools passed in other states besides New Jersey. Funny enough, our bill in Arizona is on the docket right now. I know Kyler might be flying out pretty soon to go testify to the Arizona legislature, which is really cool. We’ve already made plans for succession, finding a new editor in chief now that [ours is] graduating. I know Kyler will certainly be staying with the team. I will have to see how my freshman year college schedule pans out. I think we’ve been able to build something that truly lasts. When we first founded Hear Our Voices back in our sophomore year, we couldn’t have imagined that it had gone on for already two years. We couldn’t have imagined that we would reach 17,000 readers. And we couldn’t have imagined that when we graduate, we would still be doing it.

Wharton Global Youth: Can you read a passage from your magazine that you feel is particularly powerful?

Albert: Yeah, for sure. There is an article in our most recent issue. It was an article from one of our writers who talks about learning her ancestral language, because her parents immigrated from India. And they had always encouraged her to learn their language; to learn Urdu, but she kind of rebelled against it. And now she’s looking back on her early years and wishing that as a child she had taken Urdu education more seriously and learned it now.

Here’s the passage: “So by choosing to learn the language, not of what we have, but of what we’ve lost, I fall back into a fluidity it is in my ancestry to fight against. If adaption is the art of hardening, then to be liquid is forgetting how to let go. Not to be ignorant, but to turn towards what you know you cannot keep and remain there for as long as you can push against the flow. With every word I can’t pronounce and every conversation I don’t understand, I’m reminded of how far away India is from my family. Every reminder is a testament to how memory has always been our greatest enemy. It’s only memories that have kept Karachi and Agra alive with us, and alongside them, all of the pain my family has endured for so long.”

This passage really, really spoke to me. For a lot of Asian Americans like myself, our parents encouraged ourselves to learn our mother tongue. And when we were kids, we really didn’t want to. It was boring sitting through language lessons and all this type of stuff. And now I’m able to speak and hear Chinese fluently, but I can’t read or can’t write it, and a lot of me wishes that when I was a kid I took that seriously. For a long time I was very ashamed of my Asian ancestry, to be honest with you. I hated the way people looked at me in public whenever my parents spoke to me in Chinese. I hated the snickers from my classmates when yet another teacher inevitably butchered my last name. I really didn’t want to be Asian. I never saw myself on TV. I never saw myself in sports or in movies or in writing. I never saw myself on the news. I felt invisible in a way, and I wanted to disassociate with my identity in any way that I possibly could. So, for a while, when people asked me the three biggest identities [I carried] around, despite Asian American definitely being one of them, I didn’t want it to be one of them. I didn’t want to be Asian American.

Over the last few years, that has drastically changed. I remember [having] a conversation with my father a few years ago. We had dinner and he was telling me how when he was a college student, he decided to walk from Nanjing all the way to Beijing to deliver medical supplies to protesters on the front line of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which for context is like walking from here, New Jersey, all the way to [the state of ] Georgia on foot. As he described his heroics, from facing down the barrel hole of a communist soldier to trekking through the desert barefoot, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride. You know, for once, it felt cool to me to be Asian American. I realized that my Asian ancestry is a rich and colorful tapestry. My parents were the first in a Millennia to leave China. It would be a shame if I were to lose contact with thousands of years of tradition, history and culture. It would be a shame if I were to lose so many connections to my legacy and my descent. Which brings me into now this article, which talks about losing contact with your language. It is somewhat of a shame to me that I have lost this part of my culture and lost a part of who I am because I was ashamed of my identity. I never want an Asian American to have to live through that and when they get older, to have to regret that. I want many young Asian-American kids to embrace our identity; embrace who they are. I think that truly is the main mission of Hear Our Voices. For a lot of kids my age, we’re very proud of being Asian American. And we wish we could have embraced it more when we were kids. And so that is, I think, the importance of representation. I think that’s the importance of making Asian Americans say, hey, it’s cool to be Asian American. It’s okay to be Asian American, because there’s so many other Asian Americans out there who are doing amazing things and there’s no reason for you to ever feel ashamed of that.

Wharton Global Youth: Let’s wrap up with our lightning round. Try to answer these questions as quickly as you can. Something about you that would surprise us?

Albert: I’m actually a very avid flutist in my free time. I’m a flute major at Juilliard Pre-College and I’ve been playing flute for about five, six years now.

Wharton Global Youth: In 10 years, where do you hope to be?

Albert: Hopefully, a young entrepreneur that’s creating a product that can have some impact on politics and benefit society as a whole.

Wharton Global Youth: What is your favorite emerging business trend?

Albert: Digital marketing is a favorite of mine. I think TikTok has really perfected this formula. It’s so addicting to just scroll through. And even though I don’t like spending a lot of time on my phone, it’s really crazy the outreach that social media has had on our lives and how it can sensationalize and make viral even the smallest stories and the smallest of products.

Wharton Global Youth: What might you be caught binge-watching at midnight?

Albert: I’m a big Game of Thrones fan. I read the books when I was a kid growing up and I’m a little bit disappointed by how that last season ended, to be honest with you, but you know, I’ll happily binge-watch season one through seven with no complaints.

Wharton Global Youth: A businessperson you would most like to invite to lunch and why?

Albert: I would have loved to invite Steve Jobs over for lunch one day. I read his biography growing up and his business-leadership style was really interesting to me. He was kind of a jerk at times, to be honest. But he was so obsessed with efficiency and perfection and aesthetic design that he always spoke to me as a more artistically inclined person like myself, as a big flutist. And to see someone bring that level of creativity to a more technical field, like computers, was always really fascinating to me.

Wharton Global Youth: Albert, thanks so much for joining us on Future of the Business World.

Albert: Thank you so much for having me. Pleasure talking to you.

Conversation Starters

Does Albert Zhou’s story of increased Asian-American representation resonate with you? Why or why not? Share your story in the comment section of this podcast transcript.

Albert says the beauty of business principles is that they can be universally applied, even in a socially driven project like Hear Our Voices. Have you approached an unconventional project with a business mindset? How? Share your story in the comment section of this transcript.

Does the passage from Hear Our Voices that Albert reads speak to you? Take a look at some of the magazine content on the website. Can you find a poem, passage or piece of artwork that affects you? Explain how.

Why is it important (or not) to include Asian-American history in U.S. history curricula?

26 comments on “Fighting for Greater Asian-American Representation in Media and Education

  1. First, I would like to appreciate the courage that Albert Zhou has to speak up for the Asian-American community. When I was reading this article, this attracted my immediate attention, for the similarity of the experiences that I had experienced.

    Born in China, I was exposed to Chinese culture and language for over 15 years. Traveling all the way from China to the States by myself last year to attend a boarding school in Connecticut was worrying. I was homesick, lonely, and finding it hard to fit in with the American food and culture. As time moved on, I made more friends, and started to find this experience exhilarating and transformative. Studying alone in a foreign country has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, forcing me to embrace the unknown and explore my own capabilities. Through this experience, I have not only expanded my academic horizons but also discovered my own strengths and passions. The challenges and triumphs I have encountered along the way have shaped me into a more confident, adaptable, and globally aware individual.

    Despite all the benefits, there are a lot of challenges that I face as an Asian person living and studying in the U.S. While I have not experienced the fear that Albert talks about stemming from Asian misrepresentation, pervasive Asian stereotypes have made it more difficult for me to find my place at my boarding school. I have a lot of American friends now, and, growing up in China, I can confidently say that my American peers’ understanding of China is totally different from reality. One of the most shocking things that they’ve said is the fact that they think China’s internet shuts down at 10 p.m. due to regulations. I was largely confused about where they got that information, and they said it’s from the internet. Comments like these have made it hard for me to feel like a true part of my school community.

    I believe education is key to promoting a true understanding of Chinese culture in America, and I was happy to read that Albert’s political advocacy has contributed to the New Jersey legislature becoming the second state to pass the bill that would mandate Asian-American history. I think this type of education could make a significant change in understanding. In my opinion, the only reason why the Americans had those stereotypes is because they don’t have a basic understanding of China. All the information they gathered is from the internet, often from TikTok videos and other social media platforms.

    The internet can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, false information can misguide people and foster their prejudice. On the other hand, it can also increase our understanding of other countries. That makes media representation rather important: advocate for fair and balanced representation of Chinese individuals in the media, encourage the portrayal of diverse and nuanced characters that challenge stereotypes and showcase the richness and diversity of Chinese culture. If my peers better understood that daily life in China, for example, isn’t highly regulated and has many similarities with life in the U.S., maybe they’d see we’re not that different.

    I think Albert’s achievement is fantastic. With the promotion of Asian-American history, I believe that the stereotypes will disappear, or at least decrease, as they learn more.

    • As a student who has also faced transitions in my life, I have a similar yet much different story than you. Born in Korea, I lived in Korea for about ten years. Leaving Korea, my time in China was confusing and different for me at first, but all came together when I decided to gradually adapt to a new home. Coming back to Korea is where the problem started, I did not want to leave my area of comfort. Planning to go to a boarding school as well, I tried a summer camp in the U.S. to get an idea of how the United States is. The trip being a month, I excitedly attended the summer camp that a particular day school hosted. As I arrived at the camp, it was honestly difficult for me to feel at home, being the only Asian at school. Some students from the school indirectly disrespected me by calling me out, despite the fact that there were many new members present. Noticing all this, even with the uncomfortable situation, I tried to make good friends, and enjoyed my time spent at the camp. If there is anything that the camp taught me, it would be the importance of delivering my social skills and being able to make friends with people who may not initially like me. It also offered me the advantage of being able to adapt to new environments easily, much like you did.

      I understand your challenges in America, particularly given the discomfort that can arise in a short period of time. This is why I admire Albert’s work and courage as well. Using art and writing, Albert not only gives the perspectives of different individuals but also illustrates (literally) the clear point of view, of how each artwork can be intrepid differently. Through the lenses of numerous different people, people will resonate with the hate being spread more than they will ever do with a disturbing piece of news. Individuals tend to dismiss disturbing news with casual sadness or go with the problems. With artworks, it can be different, with people analyzing the artwork and deeply thinking about the problems and how someone experiencing this might feel. Going alongside this powerful way to demonstrate what is happening to the people, and the discomfort, soon with Albert’s contribution I hope Asian hate decreases.

      Picking up how information learned in social media can largely contain misinformation, is when my friend in China thought that Korean people eat dog meat. This was hilarious to me, since back in the old days of war, Koreans did not have much to eat, eventually feasting on dog meat. Discontinuing this unlawful practice, this information is false in every part of Korea, eating dog meat is banned. I can clearly see how social media can be a fun active way of learning things, but we have to realize that not all information taught in this realm is true. Most can be clickbaits and shocks to gain fame. In all honesty, this is not the most significant concern that I have seen, but it can be a dangerous stunt when performed incorrectly.

  2. I think what Albert Zhou has done is amazing, and I am excited to explore this outlet of representation. In a world that is becoming more globalized, it can be very easy to lose our cultures. What Albert said about languages specifically resonated with me. Growing up, my family always wanted me to learn Hindi, and I never wanted to. I already felt like the odd one out, and I thought I would feel more ostracized if I spoke in Hindi. I was born in Madison, Wisconsin and there was not a large Indian population. As I’ve moved around the country, I’ve developed friendships with many other Indians. Suddenly, I hear them speaking in their native tongues, or I go to parties and hear other kids my age speaking in Hindi. Now, I feel like the odd one out because I can’t speak it.

    This is why representation is so important. In 2020, a show came out on Netflix called Never Have I Ever. This was the first TV show I had seen that featured an Indian main character where they were not a walking stereotype – a nerdy kid with an accent who got made fun of. Instead, she was a relatively normal, relatable teen who fell in love and went to parties. The show featured Indian family dynamics, traditions, and languages. You could ask almost any South Asian teenage girl, and they will tell you this show means something indescribable to them because of the unique representation it gave us. This is why what Albert is doing is so important. Had this kind of representation been around when we were younger, maybe Asian Americans would not feel so embarrassed of our cultures, especially in areas that were majority white. Instead, we grew up with characters like Ravi and Baljeet on Disney Channel. I saw them get bullied for their accents or being smart, and I wanted to be the farthest thing from them. This is what the people around me saw Indians as, and it is a view that has stayed with most people even if we don’t actually fit this vision.

    In a time of fear and anxiety for East Asians, Albert Zhou gave them an outlet to speak but also for people to relate to. It showed people they were not alone. Just reading this article alone makes me feel better when I don’t feel “Indian enough.” The article Albert talked about with the girl from India resonated with me just as it did him. I hope as the world evolves, we can gain more representation that portrays Asians as people – people who experience every feeling on the planet and act in ways that aren’t consistent with the stereotypes thrust onto us.

    • Anya, your personal insights profoundly resonate with me. Just like you, I too grapple with feeling not ‘Chinese enough’ or ‘Indian enough’ – a sentiment you’ve eloquently expressed.

      Every person is a unique entity, endowed with their own attributes and identities that should not be tethered to pre-set cultural norms or family traditions. Instead, we should aspire to discover and shape our individual identities, embarking on personal journeys untethered by societal constraints.

      Our world is not governed by simple binaries. We do not exist merely within black and white parameters, but in a spectrum where myriad shades of grey and other colors coexist. Within the vast umbrella of our shared global cultures, each person cultivates a unique cultural matrix, interweaving a vibrant tapestry of experiences, values, and beliefs.

      Viewed from afar, these tapestries might seem homogenous, an illusion of uniformity within our collective cultural framework. However, like examining a masterpiece under a microscope, a closer look reveals a diverse spectrum of distinct, individual threads. Every thread contributes to the larger pattern while retaining its individuality. This intricate interplay leads us to the realization that we do not exist in monochrome, but in a kaleidoscopic array of spectra. The uniqueness of each individual is an indispensable part of this vibrant tableau, and it’s this diversity that makes each of us irreplaceably unique.

      As we navigate our globalizing world, let’s celebrate this diversity and work towards a more inclusive representation that truly reflects our varied and unique experiences.

  3. Albert Zhou’s story can empower many individuals with similar backgrounds who have experienced the impact of underrepresentation, including myself. “Hear Our Story” highlights the need for Asian representation in social media, economics, and politics, which is a crucial step towards inclusivity and diversity. Increased representation can also break stereotypes and provide a more accurate portrayal of Asian Americans.

    In my school, Asians are commonly seen as “nerds,” “GPA 4.0 achievers,” or “math lovers,” to the extent that Asians involved in theatrical productions or chorus programs are overlooked. These stereotypes gradually build up over time, and eventually, Asians become automatically associated with being “unfun.”

    Although I was born and raised in China, I did not inherit the geniusness of solving math equations, nor did I ever obsess over memorizing the 100th digit of Pi. Instead, I was interested in music, where I would be inspired and energized by the power of lyrics. Being the different kid sets me apart from the rest of the population. While they repeat hundreds of tests, I’m drilling my dance moves in the studio; while they practice a singular type of problem for two hours, I’m writing my next song arrangement; while they read a vocabulary list ten times, I’m improving my music beats. However, the stereotypes persist: Asians and Asian-Americans dominate the STEM field, while Asians in the arts are barely seen.

    Albert’s story emphasizes the importance of Asian representation in social media, as it combats discrimination and false impressions based on biased political news. Genuine representation enables a deeper understanding of the challenges and experiences Asians face, resulting in a more empathetic and equitable society.

    • Hi Hongting! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences associated with Asian stereotypes.

      I agree with you that Asian individuals often face prevailing stereotypes that homogenize and oversimplify the experiences of this diverse group. As an Asian American sports enthusiast myself, I find your frustration relatable when others disregard your involvement in art and assume a preference for STEM subjects due to biases. I also admire your efforts to promote Asian representation in art, such as theatrical productions and chorus programs, and your active engagement in these fields.

      However, it is important to be mindful of the way we present these issues while advocating for a more diverse and accurate portrayal of Asian Americans. When addressing stereotypes, there is a risk of inadvertently reinforcing them by using a binary perspective or normalizing these stereotypes. Phrases like “while they practice a singular type of problem for two hours, I’m writing my next song arrangement….” can create contrasts that might imply those who align with these stereotypes are wrong or inferior. This can lead to the marginalization of individuals in the Asian community who enjoy academics and reinforce the assumption that the majority of Asians are boring because they study in “uncreative” ways.

      Diversity within a community means there is room for pursuit in art, STEM subjects, or any other fields of interest. A balanced representation does not exclude any experiences but emphasizes that they coexist within the community.

      So, please continue sharing your unique experiences and interests just as Albert’s Hear Our Voices magazine encourages authentic storytelling! These vibrant elements of your life and passions demonstrate the true diversity of the Asian community. However, let’s ensure we don’t unintentionally reinforce biases or undermine those who align with stereotypes. Together, we can effectively paint a more realistic and inclusive picture of our community.

  4. This article’s title immediately caught my attention because Asian American representation was the main discussion point in a recent meeting in my school’s Asian cultural club. Albert Zhou’s description of the difficulty of representing the Asian American diaspora really resonated with me because of the issue’s relevance in the communities I myself am a part of.

    Even though I live in New York City, an area known to be one of the most diverse in the world, the majority of the students in my school are white or Asian. With the rise of recent Asian American hate crimes in the city, you’d expect a similar increase in my school, which was still in the midst of adjusting to online learning over the pandemic. However, the opposite managed to happen. My school’s Asian cultural club’s membership grew exponentially over the course of several months, and would regularly hold Zoom meetings or send emails offering resources and ways to help during the extremely tumultuous year. Although it seemed like anti-Asian sentiment flourished in many parts of America during this time, our club only seemed to thrive.

    Every Friday afternoon, I would log onto a Zoom meeting with a link that my Chrome would soon end up auto-filling for me, and see the faces of people I would soon learn to know and love. We would talk about our weeks, make instant ramen together through poor-quality Zoom video cameras, discuss recent Asian American events, and relate them to our own experiences. Once school became in-person again back in 2021, its meetings only became more interactive and fulfilling — I really felt like I was part of an Asian American community in my school, despite the harsh environments Asian Americans had to face just dozens of blocks away, sometimes in my very own neighborhood. I acknowledge that having an environment to be comfortable in one’s Asian American skin in my school is an extremely privileged experience, and it’s not to say I never felt oppressed or ashamed of my heritage outside of school, but at times it really felt like I was in a hub, unbeknownst — and I will admit, at times willfully ignorant — of how my school’s Asian cultural club didn’t fully represent a true Asian diaspora as the club’s name seemed to suggest.

    Although my school’s Asian cultural club has almost three hundred members, a large majority of its members are East Asians such as myself. This fact isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, but similar to Albert’s project, the club did not fully allow for or cater to those who weren’t East Asian, or honestly simply those who weren’t of Chinese, Korean, or Japanese descent. As Albert mentioned, being Asian American will never be a monolithic experience. My school has its very own South Asian cultural club in addition to our Asian cultural club, and while the clubs often work together to coordinate meetings or events, it’s clear there’s a difference between the clubs and their member base.

    In our Asian cultural club’s recent meeting on Asian American representation, which we held as a joint meeting with our school’s South Asian cultural club, we discussed these nuances. To have a club that is meant to fully represent the Asian American experience is impossible — we come from different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. Some of us were born in China but have completely lost the language, while others have grown up surrounded by their culture’s music, traditions, and beliefs.
    Albert’s publication, however, brings to light the voices of individual Asian artists and writers. These unique, individual, experiences about their Asian American backgrounds and relationships to their culture, strained or deeply intertwined, is what, in my opinion, is what collectively channels a true and authentic Asian American experience.

  5. I don’t think an article/interview ever struck so close to home as this one did. While hearing Albert’s responses and personal experiences, I couldn’t help but relate to my own. Even halfway across the country from New Jersey, in Los Angeles, California, Albert summed up what I have been struggling with these past few years, especially following the pandemic and spike in Asian hate crimes. “I hated the way people looked at me in public whenever my parents spoke to me in Chinese.” When I was in lower school, my Halmoni (Korean grandmother) who spoke very broken English, would walk into school to pick me up. When she spoke, she carried a thick accent, a badge of her Korean identity and immigration to the United States. I didn’t think anything of it–she would talk to me and speak with my friends as I waved goodbye and walked with her. However, it was soon enough that my friends started impersonating my Halmoni’s speech and native tongue. My non-Asian peers would giggle as they would point out to me that she talked differently, while they began speaking in an overexaggerated form of what seemed to be broken English, even when they threw in a “Nǐ hǎo” (Chinese word for hello).

    As an Asian American of both Korean and Chinese descent, I felt Albert when he said, “I really didn’t want to be Asian. I never saw myself on TV. I never saw myself in sports or in movies or in writing…I felt invisible..” Growing up, I loved acting. I was in just about every single school play and would find myself reciting lines in front of the mirror from a Disney Channel show I was watching. I was more extroverted, always finding an excuse to have fun and would often receive comments from my teachers that I talked a little too much with my classmates during class. I remember watching each new Disney movie and show, ones that my friends would non-stop talk about. “You look just like her.” “You’re hair is just like Liv’s on Liv and Maddie!” “You are literally Emma from the show Jessie!” These are all comments relating to the protagonist on some of my favorite shows that would be said to my white peers. I watched as the same Asian character in each show walked in with her glasses, pin straight hair, textbooks that lined her bookshelves, violin in her hand, and either an introverted, docile persona, or a “math freak” and know-it-all personality. Back then, maybe I found solace in seeing that same character in every show, but now I realize that those characters were only meant to feed into the stereotypical view that others have on Asians. Overtime, my interest strayed away from the acting and performing arts world, as I was not able to relate to any character who not only looked like me, but who shared the same love for so many other hobbies other than “math” or the “violin”.

    Similar to Albert, when I approached high school, I didn’t know what to expect. Through both my History classes, the Asian American experience was never covered. Albert said, “It was difficult to sit in classrooms and see all these people that never looked like me and really have no idea what my cultural heritage was like, and what my people generations ago were doing here in the country.” In the realm of education, the absence of teaching on Asian American history exacerbates this issue. The very brief mentions and superficial coverage of Asian contributions and struggles in the curriculum creates a significant gap in understanding of Asian American experiences. This lack of knowledge not only hinders my ability to connect with my own heritage, but also perpetuates a sense of invisibility and marginalization, just like Albert felt. It becomes so challenging to establish a confident sense of my own Asian American identity when the narratives of Asian Americans are overshadowed by dominant narratives.

    The only class that has been the most impactful on me so far through my sophomore year, has been this year’s English class, where we read Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Min Jin Lee has quickly become one of the most influential faces of the Asian American writing community, where she writes about her experiences being a Korean immigrant, and often places herself into the shoes of her characters. So, when I found out from my English teacher that the department was planning on removing Pachinko from the curriculum because its writing style was “too simple to analyze”, disappointment grew within me. The one piece of my identity present in the learning curriculum was going to be stripped away.

    Like Albert, I took part in a social justice movement called PhotoVoice: Love in a Time of Hate, where a group of AAPI teenagers came together to individually take photos and capture love in our lives during a time following the pandemic. We then attended the Teaching for Justice conference in California as the panel, where teachers from all over the country asked us about our work in PhotoVoice, our experiences with the lack of Asian American & AAPI voices in our education system, and how we believe educators can incorporate more diverse perspectives into the classroom.

    I love the Hear our Voices magazine and movement, and it is so inspiring to see other Asian Americans taking a stand through art and expression. I believe that there definitely needs to be more spotlight on our history, since the path to unity and anti-xenophobia begins in education and being exposed to the experiences of others from their perspectives.

    Albert shared the same thought that I —along with many other Asians—also thought. “I didn’t want to be Asian American.” Through the inaccurate representation of many of us in social media, film, popular tv shows, in the classroom, and the lack of inclusion for Asian American voices, I did not want to be Asian American. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to love math without being told I should be good at it. I wanted to be loud without being told that they thought I was quiet at first.

    Now that people like Albert are stepping up and asking for more of our voices to be heard, I only want the opposite. I want to engage with the Asian American community within my school, and outside of it. I want to learn to do what I love and continue to break boundaries. I want to reach out to people like Albert and take part in the fight to be heard. Now, I do want to be Asian American and I am proud to be.

  6. The Covid-19 pandemic was the explosion of a volcano, the spewing lava being the many detriments that had insidiously plagued this nation. The disease neglected no one, and in almost every household, people were reminded everyday of the vacant seat across the dinner table. However, it became worse, when it was not only the disease that was a danger to citizens, but their own fellow neighbors as well.

    As an Asian American myself, I have witnessed the silent prejudice and mockery that seems directly targeted towards Asian communities, even before the events of Covid-19. My last name, “Shim”, had been abused in a multitude of ways, cruelly twisted into new meanings that I never knew existed. They attached multiple prefixes and suffixes, making fun of something so unfamiliar in their own language. Classmates urged me to share my Korean name, only to incessantly torment me with catcalls incorporating the foreign appellation. It came to the point where I suppressed sharing my Korean name, the title of a whole half of my heart, when I live in a nation where individuality is endorsed. It was not until the events of the Covid-19 pandemic that I realized that every other Asian was enduring the same hurdle, some encountering even worse discrimination than name-calling.

    The subtle actions and the predisposed mindset against anyone not the “right color” had always been present, it had just retreated into a shadowy corner of our minds. These appalling acts of violence are not sudden as some think and have only brought the face of discrimination to the center of the court, in front of all eyes to see. Yet some still continue to heap hate on the burdened shoulders of Asian American citizens, many more despair as victims, and others choose to ignore the news.

    Kyler and Albert Zhou’s magazine Hear Our Voices was a timely step against unconscious bias. It gave a voice to the cries, anguish, and agony that all Asian felt inside and a chance for those discriminated against to speak up and share their suppressed feelings to the entire world. It offered a whole identity for all Asians Americans, and served as a relief for the casualties. As Albert says, one of the main purposes was to “feel that there were people out there who cared about the Asian-American experience” and that they were not alone in the fight. Most importantly, it gave them a feeling of personal acceptance, if they could not achieve acceptance in society. This magazine will most definitely be a major factor in the fight against Asian hate, but I’d like to take a step further in their purpose as a magazine.

    The magazine’s efforts to promote Asian writing and art provides awareness to Asian Americans that their voices are heard. However, cultural awareness only goes so far to assist younger citizens, including teenagers and young adults. Adolescents are more vulnerable to these discriminatory attacks as they undergo puberty and begin to see the world through unfiltered lenses. According to a study done by the National Library of Medicine, amid the rise of Asian racism, depressive symptoms among teenagers have increased drastically. Since adolescence is a stage of rapid brain and social development, Asian hate cuts the already strung cord, imploding upon their own family and social networks. The magazine could expand from the sole purpose of spreading culture to focusing on aid for those most exposed to Asian hate. Such aid could include encouragement and provide ways to preserve mental wellbeing. Thus, Hear Our Voices could be a way of fostering acknowledgement of Asian heritage while additionally anchoring on assistance for those in the present.

    I believe that this magazine could also augment their scope by focusing upon equity in economics and civil affairs. For the last 26 years, the National Institutes of Health has spent less than 0.2 percent of its budget for clinical research on Asian Americans, even though Asian Americans have the fastest population growth rate as an ethnic group in the US. Yet, not many have the heart to speak up about these unfair allotments. Going beyond medical services, Asian Americans are not granted as many public services as they should when compared to their population. In New York City, when Asians comprised a tenth of the population, only 1.4 percent of the city’s total spending was allocated to their ethnicity group. Such discrimination is present almost everywhere in the US, and this magazine would be able to promote awareness about not only culture, but equity in their rights and privileges. Taking this further step would prove advantageous in assisting the unjust situation currently, while maintaining the magazine’s original goal.

    As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” In my eyes, the hands of many, both physical and emotional, strikes not just the nose, but wrenches the heart from any semblance of joy and peace. It causes torment to the mind, a haunting phantom that grips the mind until their eyes lose life, their feet lose energy, and their hearts lose vitality. This is not the idealistic country immigrants dreamed of when they saw the nation’s shore. The instant they step foot, they are lost in quicksand, in bewilderment and anguish when nightmares leap out of their once pleasant dreams. Racial discrimination was never eradicated, it was only silenced. Now that it has surfaced once again, every citizen must realize that it is far past time to confront it. In our current state, this nation is not worthy of what is inscribed in the Statue of Liberty. Instead of fulfilling the promise of being able to breathe free, they are suffocated until they cannot speak. We created these demons, and now we must collectively destroy them.

    Pew Research Center (

    National Library of Medicine (

    National Library of Medicine (

    NBC News (

  7. I deeply appreciate Albert’s responses–not only because of how inspirational they are, but because of their relatability.

    One of my earliest memories from my childhood, probably the most formative, was during the “bring your kid to work” day at my mother’s workplace. Upon arriving at the company building, I met with all of the other children that were brought in. The first realization that I made was that the other kids at the table were overwhelmingly white. As a young Chinese girl, I felt somewhat isolated, yet determined to make new friends. However, as the parents left to continue their workday tasks, a boy at the table started making the “slant eye” gesture (commonly a racist mock of Asian Americans) at me. I heard another boy chime in, calling me “Kim Jong Un.” I couldn’t see what was happening as I had already held a children’s book in front of my face to cover the tears streaming down. I never told my mother about the events of that evening, and I also never returned back for another “bring your kid to work” day.

    Reflecting on this moment, I think that it shaped my identity more than I would like to admit. Being exposed to hate at such a young age can be damaging to one’s development of cultural pride. As Albert expresses, I too “was very ashamed of my Asian ancestry” once upon a time. Worst of all, I gave up learning my family’s native language, eventually convincing my parents to let me drop out of Chinese school.

    I also know the “shame” of being “ashamed of my identity,” as Albert did. I know the shame of letting go of my tradition, my language, and my culture because I wanted to “fit in.” After everything that had happened, I am most devastated by the regret that I face: the regret of not being able to communicate with my grandparents, the regret of missing Chinese traditions because of my shame, and the regret of turning my back on such a vibrant culture.

    However, my relatability to Albert does not stop at our shared struggles with identity, for I also have initiated my own social advocacy project to empower myself and those like me. Even more, it involves work with the media! More specifically, I am the Executive Producer of my own podcast, which focuses on the intersection of women’s rights and other social justice topics. In fact, one of our episodes even discusses representation in the media. Albert mentioned how Asian Americans are often depicted as “submissive” or “not very vocal.” This comment reminded me of a stereotype that I researched in preparation for my podcast–that stereotype being the introverted Asian American female in many cinematic pieces. For instance, take Lilly Onakuramara from Pitch Perfect and Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls. Both characters fell into the trap of this stigma surrounding Asian Americans. In my opinion, the way that certain groups are portrayed in the media are critical to how they are viewed in society. As an example, the “angry Black woman” trope commonly used in movies and television shows has stigmatized Black women to the point where these women feel the need to act “calmer” to their peers (in order to evade the stereotypes). Similarly, if Asian Americans see themselves portrayed as quiet and submissive, I believe that they would act accordingly to fit this mold (and let their opinions go unheard). For this reason, I hoped to dismantle the misrepresentation of Asian Americans in the media and explore its intersectionality with feminism in my podcast episode. Overall, this project has helped me raise my voice and learn how to appreciate all parts of my identity.

    Although, I must say that I differ from Albert in that I have not taken the “business” approach as he had with Hear Our Voices. Truthfully, I had not even thought about this method in promoting our episodes, but it does sound intriguing. Albert’s ability to take his project to the “next level” through a business lens has led him to amazing accomplishments, such as grant money and tens of thousands of readers. I suppose what I am trying to say is this: Albert inspired me. While my podcast does already have an active social media presence with an emphasis on advocacy, he has motivated me to start thinking about my podcast’s next steps in a more business-like fashion.

    Thus, I end with this: Albert’s words have made me feel less alone. I am no longer the isolated girl at the table, rather, an outspoken advocate for social justice and a podcast producer. So, Albert, if you can read this…thank you for initiating Hear Our Voices and for letting me hear yours.

    • Excellent comment, Jessica. I want to thank you for both your honesty, and your willingness to be vulnerable. I really believed you touched on some influential and heart-breaking moments that define a lot of Asian-American children throughout the country.

      Your comment specifically about the desire to stop Chinese language school really stuck with me, and I really want to expand on this idea. I think one of the most unique experiences about growing up Asian-American is the barrier of language and the severance from your mother tongue. While I spent the first four years of my life fluent in Korean, by age ten, I had lost almost all of it, my fluent “annyeonghaseyos” replaced with “hellos.” Additionally, the worst part of the loss of Korean was the fact that I was not only complicit, but active in its loss.

      As my mother watched me lose my Korean, she would try to speak to me in Korean––a desperate attempt for me to hold onto it––but I refused to listen. Instead, I would respond in English, and eventually, she gave up.

      As I grew older, my relationship with the Korean language became more complex. While I can currently fluently read and write Korean, I can not fluently understand or speak it. In the world of academia, there are constant discussions on post-colonialism and its effect on this generation, and I truly think a lasting effect and a lasting trauma that colonialism has on its victims is the stripping of language.

      In America, student education is steeped in the European Enlightenment, and therefore, those who live outside the “occident” are taught by people who perpetuate the loss of both their language and culture.
      It is only recently as I face the detriments of my loss of language––my inability to speak to my grandma although I know she won’t be around much longer, the disconnect I feel from my home country, the dissonance I intrinsically feel from my extended family––that I have come to understand how deeply intertwined language and identity are.

      Your comment also on the fact that you have not taken the “business” approach I believe is very honest of you, and also something that remains in the Asian-American community. In the desire to fit into the model-minority, there’s the desire for Asians to remain quiet and not make “conflict.” As I have taken the actions to create my school’s first anti-racism club, I have also had people come to me and ask why I am “disturbing the peace.” This truly brings the needed attention to stories like Albert’s and my own: we need to vocally advocate about the actions Asians-Americans take to demand their own representation and take up the space that they deserve. It is only through education, awareness, and inspiration that the future of not simply Asians, but all POC, can truly feel connected to their culture.

      Ultimately, I want to thank you for your comment as it truly touched me and many others.

  8. For a significant part of my life, I grappled with my Asian identity. Much like Albert, I felt discomfort every time people cast curious glances at me while I conversed with my mother in public. When I invited friends over, their recurring question, ‘Why is your mom yelling at you?’ when we were merely discussing dinner plans, was a source of deep embarrassment.

    My cultural heritage became a burden I carried with reluctance. I shied away from inviting friends to my apartment, haunted by the fear of their reaction to the scent of raw meat hanging in our laundry room or the floral bedsheets adorning my room. This fear acted as a barrier, preventing me from expressing my true self and forming meaningful friendships.

    My discomfort extended to my own culture and religion. I found myself wishing for my family to be more ‘normal,’ to consume ‘normal’ food instead of peculiar dishes like chicken feet or century-old black eggs.

    This growing distaste led me to distance myself from my own culture, and I found myself becoming ‘white washed.’ I abandoned my own identity and culture, striving to blend into the environment around me. I adopted the typical polo shirt, backwards hat, and Crocs, and transformed my hairstyle from a middle part to a fluffy traditional white boy haircut.

    However, during the coronavirus pandemic, when hatred began to circulate against the Asian population, I felt a strong sense of unity with those who looked like me. From rarely seeing any Asian actors on TV to witnessing my own people being abused and beaten up, I was filled with a righteous anger.

    The next day at school, I was confronted with racial jokes and comments about the culture I had so despised. I was torn. Should I continue my ‘white washed’ persona and join in on the Asian hate? Or should I stand up for the culture and religion I was born into?

    Looking back, the answer seems glaringly obvious, but at the time, I was so consumed by the desire to fit in with my friends and peers. It was a period of my life I look back on with regret.

    Fortunately, I chose the right path and stood up for my culture. Every time someone disrespected my religion and culture, I defended it. I no longer cared about how others perceived me. As a result, I made new friends in the Asian community and joined the Asian Pacific Islander Club at my school. I helped organize events such as Asian food-themed lunches and participated as a panelist, addressing my peers and their parents at school. I shared my personal journey of rediscovering and embracing my Asian identity.

    In the face of adversity, I found my voice and my identity. I learned to embrace my heritage and use it as a source of strength. I realized that my culture is not a burden, but a badge of honor that I wear with pride. I am not just an Asian living in America; I am a proud Asian American, fighting for greater representation in media and education, just like the individuals in the Wharton article. My journey has not been easy, but it has shaped me into the person I am today, and for that, I am grateful.

  9. Hi all, thank you for your supportive feedback — it truly means a lot to our work. As the founder of Hear Our Voices, I’d like to invite you all to a reach out to us at for more opportunities to collaborate and contribute to our work 🙂

  10. I think what Albert Zhou is doing is just amazing. I was born in India, but I have lived in Connecticut since I was 10 months old. Even though I have known kids here since kindergarten, it still seems to feel like I am one of the odd ones.

    In my school, there isn’t that many Indians. Whenever I want to have someone to talk too, that will relate to my experiences, there isn’t really that many people to choose from. I have always been in the minority but I still try to fit in. When I try to fit in or be normal I get called ‘basic white boy’ but when I don’t, I get plenty of racist comments and jokes towards me and ‘my kind’.

    I also started to get embarrassed whenever I would have to eat Indian food during lunch because it wasn’t what most people considered ‘normal’, so I would either just leave my lunch box in my bag and have school lunch, or I would throw out the food and starve for the rest of the day.

    Nowadays, people are starting to learn more and more about Asian cultures but if it was like this back when we were younger, maybe Asian kids wouldn’t be so embarrassed to embrace their culture.

  11. I would like to thank Albert Zhou for saying the words that many Asian Americans are afraid to say. Twenty six million Asian people currently call the United States home so it’s very important to have their voices be recognized.

    Personally, I was born in China to two Chinese parents and a very Chinese family. As a kid, I took great pride in my culture and would recite Chinese literature in front of the little bathroom mirror in my apartment. Chinese New Year fireworks were something I greatly looked forward to. I remember dragging my grandma by the hand as I ran down the steps of our apartment building to join the other kids and grandparents outside to dance and celebrate the new year. Moon cakes, dumplings, dragon dances, those were what comprised my childhood. So, when the bomb was dropped on me that I was moving to America, my little toddler self reacted in the most logical way a kid would respond; I cried. The warm big tears running down my cheeks was for the family that I’d be leaving behind. It was for my loving grandparents who’d let me sleep in their room when I got in an argument with my parents, it was for my uncle who took me anywhere I wanted, it was for the grandmas of the apartment building who raised me when my parents were gone for the whole day working. It was for my home.

    With my dad’s encouragement however, I finally felt ready to leave. My parents did everything they could to help adjust me to the environment before I started kindergarten. By then, I already felt excitement instead of dread like I thought I would. I was so overjoyed to meet the news kids. I thought I’d make lots of friends on the first day, but as I walked into the school building carrying my little disney princess lunchbox, I was greeted with everything except for kindness. Some girl from another class looked at me and just started laughing. They mocked me. They mocked my accent and my words. Why? I was just a little girl. I was a kid just like the rest of them with the same excitement of having her first day of school. Why was I the one people ran away from screaming “monster” when I tried approaching them to play?

    By the time I reached third grade, I was already used to their harsh words. I understood what to do and what not to do. I never brought Chinese food to lunch anymore, everyday I packed myself a bland sandwich just so nobody would call me names for the food I ate. I learned to disconnect with my Chinese culture as much as I could. On Chinese New Year, I purposely didn’t wear red so people would stop calling me a “stuck up Asian freak.” I erased every single aspect of myself that I owned before. I erased the version of myself that I loved, but society hated. Was it worth it? Was it worth changing myself into someone I didn’t recognize for 2 seconds of approval by a stranger? To a naive 10 year old girl, it was.

    I was in sixth grade when I first got social media. It also happened to be the time that covid quarantine started. The first lesson I learned from my year and a half of isolation is that people on twitter are awful. Almost everything I saw when I opened that app was hatred towards my people; “bat eater” “yellow “covid starter” and even deeper hurtful accusations. When those hurtful words filled my screen, I thought of my hometown. I thought of the grandpa that sat on a park bench everyday, handing out band aids to kids who hurt themselves playing with a warm smile. I thought of the lady who manages my neighborhood pool and would sit around for hours past closing time just to keep me company. How could anyone hate such kind people?
    I thought things would stay this way until I enrolled myself in a Chinese class in middle school. Entering that classroom for the first time almost made me cry. The music my teacher lightly played in the background and all the decorations reminded me so much of home. As the course began, I unconsciously was very disengaged with the class discussions and work because that’s what I’ve trained myself to do all my life. See something Chinese? Disassociate. My teacher noticed this in me however and she set up a meeting. She asked me what happened and with tears brewing in my eyes, I told her everything. I told her about how much I missed my hometown and how I haven’t gone back in almost a decade in fear that people would make fun of me like they used to. Her kind words she said to me that day have stuck with me for life.

    Now, as a high school student I embrace my culture with a smile. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and I’m very glad that I didn’t realize it too late. Chinese class is now my favorite and I’ve met so many amazing people who I built a community with. I bring Chinese food to lunch now, I celebrate Chinese holidays with great pride just like I used to, and next summer I’m going back home for the first time in a long time. Albert and I share a common goal. We both believe that culture is never something that you should hide from others. Nobody’s validation or “love” is worth setting aside your traditions for. Real love is acceptance, find the people who accept you.

  12. I’ve either been too Asian or too American. I was born in the US; however, I never had a connection to the country. Soon after my birth, my family moved to India. I spent the first ten years of my life there.

    My brothers and I went to an international school for elementary school – however, almost everyone, regardless of where they had grown up, had an American accent. My family members always teased me about my more American-sounding accent. Even when I spoke my mother tongue in my country (Hindi), which came out into broken phrases, I sounded foreign. For middle school, I moved to the Middle East. Again, I went to an international school. However, things were different. Not many people had strong American accents, and I was one of the few South-Asian students who grew up in a South Asian country. Many peers approached me and told me about how they always felt embarrassed that they couldn’t speak their mother tongue and how lucky I must have been to be fluent. How was I supposed to tell them that I couldn’t communicate beyond the level of a five-year-old?

    I currently attend a boarding school in the US. In our South Asian Society club, when we all bonded over our shared culture, people would turn to me and a few others who grew up in South Asian countries for translations of words, names of events or food, or the meaning of song lyrics (since many other students grew up in the US). Sometimes I stared at them blankly and acted as if I had never heard of that word in the part of the country I was from. Other times I would give a loose definition – my ego and pride would not be crushed today.
    In my ninth-grade English class, we had a project where we had to write about an aspect of our identity. I was the only South-Asian person in my class, which might have given me the confidence to write about my South Asian identity. When I learned I had to share one of my pieces with my peers, I was INTERNALLY SCREAMING. I would have to read a personal piece of writing, and I was scared of opening up to them. In a class of twelve, I was the eleventh person to read. I took a deep breath and read my piece about my mother tongue. I spoke about how I was once fluent in Hindi before completely shutting down from the language. When our class ended, a classmate walked me to our cafeteria while discussing the pieces everyone had read. To my surprise, she told me she was glad I chose the one I did and how much she related to it.

    I enjoyed reading the comments on this article- Anya mentioned the show “Never Have I Ever,” which I relate to and love. This article helped me reflect on my Asian-American Identity and how it differs and relates to others – I’m excited to learn more about Albert, Kyler, and the Hear Our Voices team!

  13. Picture this: I’m a 14-year-old boy growing up in the vibrant state of New Jersey, seeing my Indian culture only truly being represented in one town across the entire state. As I journey through my education, I can’t help but notice the glaring absence of Asian-American history in our U.S. history curricula. It’s as if a part of my identity is being overlooked, brushed aside, and forgotten. When I receive a bad grade on a test, people question my abilities, expecting me to excel based on my Asian descent. These experiences have ignited a fire within me to explore why it is crucial, no, vital to include Asian-American history in U.S. history curricula. I want to dive deeper into this pursuit, fueled by the urgency for representation, cultural understanding, and dismantling harmful stereotypes. Albert’s story portrays these same ideals, as he talks in a more extreme way about how a lack of education in cultural diversity often leads to lethal hate crimes.

    I yearn for representation, a reflection of my heritage in the annals of American history. Asian-Americans have been the architects of remarkable accomplishments, their stories woven into the fabric of our nation’s tapestry. Few people in our classrooms know about the infamous Ramanujan, who founded the basis of the algorithm to find pi, or S. H. Raza, an Indian artist who reinvigorated the practice of art using simple shape designs. The ideology and legacy of Mahatma Gandhi inspired the great Dr. Martin Luther King, who drew directly from Gandhi’s principles. The monk Swami Vivekananda and his eloquent address to the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 was never a part of the textbooks I learned history through. It was Vivekananda who captured men and women from across the world and introduced Hinduism to them. These figures and many more have pioneered groundbreaking scientific discoveries, created breathtaking works of art, shaped policies, and fought for justice. Their contributions deserve recognition, their triumphs celebrated. By including Asian-American history in our U.S. history curricula, we give voice to the countless untold stories, shedding light on the diverse tapestry that defines America. Imagine a world where cultural understanding is not a mere ideal but a tangible reality. Including Asian-American history in U.S. history curricula fosters empathy and cultivates a deep appreciation for the struggles, triumphs, and traditions of diverse communities. It breaks down barriers erected by ignorance, allowing us to see the shared humanity that unites us all. Through the stories of Asian-Americans, we unlock the door to a world where cultural diversity is celebrated, cherished, and embraced.

    Stereotypes have a way of etching themselves into our perceptions, weaving a web of prejudice that stifles progress. As an Asian-American student, I have faced my fair share of stereotypes and the weight of unfair expectations. But by teaching Asian-American history in U.S. history curricula, we arm future generations with knowledge. We enable them to challenge preconceived notions, break free from the shackles of bias, and build a world where everyone is seen for their individual merits rather than judged by sweeping generalizations. People often don’t even bother to ask me how I did on my exam, or how my semester grades are looking. They simply assume that I did fine, I’m good at everything, and I don’t do anything in my free-time except study. While this used to feel amazing, I more and more realized how my passions in music and volleyball were never seen. When people look at me, they think I don’t know what a scoreboard is, or that I don’t know the first thing about singing techniques. They see me as a horse with blinders that looks only at academic results, failing to understand that I am more similar to them than they realize.

    The pages of history should not be confined to a narrow viewpoint. They should be a gateway to a multitude of narratives, an invitation to explore the world through different lenses. Asian-American history breathes life into the stories overshadowed by dominant narratives, encouraging critical thinking and empowering students to question the status quo. By broadening perspectives, we equip future leaders with the tools to understand the complexities of our past and present, shaping a more inclusive and harmonious society.

    As I look inward, I realize the profound impact that Asian-American history can have on shaping my identity. It’s about more than just history; it’s about validating who I am and instilling a sense of pride in my cultural heritage. When we see ourselves represented, acknowledged, and celebrated, it creates a powerful sense of belonging. Inclusive curricula not only empower Asian-American students like myself but also pave the way for us to become active contributors to the fabric of society, proudly carrying our heritage forward.

    The urgency is undeniable. Our education system must rise to the occasion, embracing Asian-American history as an integral part of U.S. history curricula. We need the mosaic of cultures, the untold stories, and the journeys of Asian-Americans to breathe life into our textbooks. By doing so, we create a path towards a more inclusive, empathetic, and united future. Albert has lit a fire for our torch, but we must carry on in the fight for integrating Asian-American culture as part of a social normality. Let us embrace the past, standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, and together, shape a brighter tomorrow where every voice, every history, and every student is seen, heard, and celebrated.

  14. Off the bat, I would like to commend Albert for his courage and willingness to speak up for the Asian American community. His efforts for the Asian American community, however big or small, will always be remembered and respected.

    I felt a connection with Albert as I was reading through the article. As a fellow Chinese-American, I felt as though we had a lot in common. Similar to Albert, I originally went to a school that had a predominantly Chinese population in Chinatown, New York before I moved to a more suburban area of New York City, where Chinese and Asian representation was low within the community. And this lack of representation wasn’t noticeable at first. When I first entered this new and unfamiliar community, everyone was friendly. People wanted to get to know me and family, kids my age wanted to hang out everything seemed like it would in a normal community. Even when the first few COVID-19 cases landed in NYC, things still seemed normal. People within the community would look out for each other. Things such as giving masks to families that weren’t able to purchase them, sharing gloves, disinfectant wipes and sprays, and even toilet paper was common within our community.

    But when the pandemic came into full swing, with schools and businesses being shut down, and families being forced to quarantine at home, the dynamic of a normal neighborhood was destroyed. My family was one of the few Asian American families within the neighborhood that we had moved into, meaning that we stuck out like a sore thumb. And in a time when a deadly virus was spreading amongst families, and the media generalizing this virus to a specific country and ethnicity, it was difficult for the public view to stay unchanged. News outlets would specifically mention that the virus originates from China. President Trump even famously tweeted about the coronavirus and used the name “China Virus” for the deadly epidemic. In general, I noticed a gradual decline within my family’s “likableness” within the other families in the community.

    This portrayal of the coronavirus within the media, really brought about a bad reputation for the Chinese population in America. My family, like many other Asian American families, all experienced this change. For me personally I had noticed that there was an increase in dark humor, usually racially based, within my friend groups. For example, during this time I would use an app called Discord to keep in touch with my friends. We would be able to speak through voice chat, and whenever they would hear anyone cough through their mic, the first thing to follow that cough is the phrase “China Virus”. Other things along the lines of “Bat eater” and “sickness spreader” were all things that I have heard and seen being used to describe Asian Americans, whether it is through voice chat or in public.

    During this time, I felt as though the entire world was against me. Not only were some of my closest friends distancing themselves from me, but also the media seems to antagonize the Chinese American community within America. And it is because of this that I feel such a strong connection with Albert’s mission. As I get older, I start to realize the lack of Asian American representation within modern media. Although some of the biggest Hollywood movies in recent years have had Asian American protagonists within them, their representation of Asian culture within these movies have been either inaccurate or lacking. Movies such as “Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings”, a blockbuster Marvel film, have stories that are generally based in Asian culture. But all of these cultures with rich historical value are portrayed in stereotypical ways in order to meet the Hollywood standards. And this need to meet certain standards that are set solely for monetary gain causes the public view of Asian culture to be skewed and inaccurate.

    The concept of “the right thing for the wrong reason” is reflective of the representation of Asian American within the media. Oftentimes movies or TV shows would add one or two asian characters in order to create an appearance of diversity without any genuine inclusion. So in turn, this means that although the media did the right thing of wanting to represent more of the Asian American community, they did it for the wrong reason of wanting to seem like they have diversity within their cast. This concept of tokenism has been used in films for decades. Films would usually depict Asian Americans in two ways. Either they are smart and nerdy and driven solely by their school education, or they are either good at martial arts or some form of instrument. This type of generalization of the Asian American community within films and media leads to stereotypes to form about asians.

    Being that I live in New York City, I liked to believe that the Asian American community is fairly well represented due to the diverse population within NYC. But reality hit me hard after I moved away from Chinatown and into the suburbs. Now, instead of having people of similar ethnic backgrounds as me going to my school, it was people of a completely different ethnic group. And now, I was no longer the same as everyone around me, but rather, I was that one special Asian boy that was expected to know how to play the piano, make straight A’s in school, know how to do Kung Fu, and because I was tall, I was supposed to play basketball like “Yao Ming”. Many of these stereotypes could be avoided, if only we had not only more representation of Asian American culture within the media, but also accurate representation.

    Furthermore, I sympathize with Albert’s goal of bringing more Asian American representation within education. Albert had noted during his interview his experiences, similar to many other Asian Americans including me, with his parents wanting him to learn his mother language. This struck home with me because I had practically the same exact experience as Albert. I could still remember vividly how while all my other friends would be at home Saturday morning watching cartoons, I had to make a 1 hour trip from Queens all the way to Manhattan Chinatown in order to go to Chinese school. From 9 AM to 12 PM, we would go through reading, writing, and pronunciation of simplified mandarin characters. And from 12 PM to 2 PM, we would practice using traditional writing brushes (毛笔 Máo Bǐ) in order to write and memorize Chinese poetry.

    At the time, I hated how I had to spend half my Saturday going through extra school, when I could’ve been at home doing something more fun. Growing up I thought that every Chinese kid went through the same thing that I did. But after going into high school, I realized how important the skills I learned were and how special I was to have these skills. More than half of my Chinese American friends at school weren’t able to speak Chinese, and of the few that were able to speak Chinese, only 1 or 2 of them could read and write.

    Although Chinese is a foreign language that is offered at Bronx Science, many of my friends didn’t feel comfortable taking that class. They felt as though it was embarrassing for a Chinese person to be taking a beginners Chinese class. Many of them wanted to learn Chinese but decided to take Spanish or Japanese instead. In order to provide my friends with the opportunity to learn Chinese without “embarrassing” themselves I started up a Chinese Learning Club within our school. I gathered a few of my fluent Chinese speaking friends that were also able to read and write, and we created a safe area for Chinese American students to reconnect with their mother tongue and a place for students of different cultural backgrounds to learn about a new language.

    I strongly support Albert and his mission that he is pushing for. I hope he knows that he isn’t fighting alone and that there are others out there that are helping to push for more Asian American representation within our society.

  15. As an Asian-American, while listening to this interview on the podcast, I immediately felt my experiences resonate with Albert’s words. His experience, particularly, his journey to find pride in his Asian heritage, is one that I find both inspiring and motivational.

    As I look back at my memories, I find the most unforgettable ones to be during my childhood years, an influential period for me. Attending a predominantly white elementary school in New York meant that I was often socially disconnected from the rest of my class. Unfortunately, this situation led to various remarks made about me, ranging from my anti-social behaviors to, unfortunately, my race and heritage. From peers claiming that I couldn’t see them due to my “small eyes”, to people asking me for math answers (which I frequently didn’t have), I had grown a bitter chord in my heart – one that was ashamed of myself and my ancestry.

    Furthermore, this shame led me to distance myself from my culture, which looking back now, was a change that I deeply regret. Growing up with strict Asian parents meant that I always had to be the best, or at least try doing so. So, when the time came for me to be enrolled in Chinese classes, I also tried to be the best. However, just because I tried didn’t mean that I had self-doubt in my actions. As I rehearsed Chinese characters out loud to my parents at the dinner table, I often condemned myself and my culture to a rank of inferiority, one that was perpetuated by the incessant, racist comments made during my childhood.

    Now reminiscing on these experiences, I entirely regret not spending as much time integrating myself into my culture. As a result, when my grandparents eventually passed away, my inexperience in Chinese led to a language barrier that at the time, shook me to the core. That event served as a turning point for me; I finally realized what it means to be proud of my heritage – to honor those who have passed, and to preserve their memories. As of now, I am proud to say that my heritage is something I carry along with me to every room I walk in. From small things such as preserving my Duolingo streak in Chinese to arranging service projects for AAPI month, I no longer shy away when my Asian background becomes the topic of discussion.

    Now listening to this podcast, I can’t help but feel deeply impressed with the work that Albert and Kyler have done. A unique aspect that their magazine has brought to the world of business is the intersection between marketing and social advocacy. Seeing marketing as an innovative way to produce social change is a new outlook on the applications of marketing and business. By successfully marketing their magazine, they are “selling more free products”, particularly, influencing more Asian Americans to share their voices with the world instead of being silent. This particular connection is extremely crucial as it displays how successful marketing, especially popularized digital marketing, can be used for justice and representation in media.

    Especially now more than ever, I know that this selfless pursuit will be able to help many Asian-American children grapple with their identity and their heritage so that they will never be as embarrassed as I was to hear remarks about the food I brought to school, the clothes I wore during Culture Day, or the language I spoke when my parents picked me up from school.

    Ultimately, as I conclude, I am glad that I no longer seek validation nor form my identity based on remarks from other people. Growing up as an Asian-American should be a journey of pride, not of shame, and I am glad I found my voice reading this interview, and I look forward to the vast improvements that Hear Our Voices will continue to produce in Asian-American lives. I know that my younger self would be grinning from side to side with joy reading this article; realizing there are people just like him, and that he isn’t alone in this world, teaching him to finally be prideful of his culture and heritage.

  16. Albert Zhou’s creation of the magazine, Hear Our Voices, is one that is powerful to someone who is part of the Asian American community. It demonstrates his strong mindset and determination to raise awareness and address an important issue. From something that you could say stemmed from his mother’s paranoia to all these different incidents of hate crimes occurring, Zhou and his friend Kyler’s attempt to bring awareness and representation to the media through a magazine is empowering.

    Discrimination and hate crimes towards the Asian community is one I am very familiar with, relating to Zhou’s perspective. The issue being the lack of Asian American representation in media and education. My sophomore year of high school, the peak of the infamous “coronavirus” was a clear demonstration. My freshman year of high school was held remotely, forcing me to not be able to gain the full high school experience. As school returned to regularity, I made it my goal to join my school’s basketball team.

    This season was an unforgettable one. I ended the season being the 6th leading scorer in my city. Despite my accomplishments, one game in particular, forever ingrained in the back of my mind. I mean, I was 15 years old and racism was something I was not foreign to. But discrimination was something I hadn’t faced too often. Sure, schools we played against mocked us by calling us nerds, due to my school’s reputation for academic excellence. But this game was different.

    My team walked into the school, carrying our undefeated title. Deep down, we all knew that this game would be intense. The first thing I noticed when I entered the gymnasium was the tension within the crowd, booing at us immediately as we walked in. As I walked past the crowd, one comment stood out to me like a sore thumb. Something along the lines of: “#1 is Asian, we got this in the bag y’all.” My team and every other team’s stats along player stats were available on the Internet. The number on my back, being the number their coach had told them to look out for. I shook this comment off my shoulder and began warming up for the game.

    The referee blew his whistle, signaling the start of the match. I heard the crowd making fun of my last name, Chen. What was there really to make fun of? The crowd was wild, shouting obscenities and racial slurs not just at me but my whole team. I found this ironic in a way due to the fact that we were all wearing masks due to the covid outbreak. As we closed the game off winning by 3 points, the crowd waited for us outside. My coach along with a few of my teammates’ parents had to clear the crowd before walking us to the train station. This whole game and experience was a signal of ignorance.

    Part of me doesn’t blame the way these kids were raised. Yes, parenting does contribute a big portion to the way an individual behaves. However, I believe that the crowd, students my age, were simply not used to seeing an individual with my skin color scoring on the court, let alone making it onto the team. Media is a big part to blame, who am I kidding, even Jeremy Lin’s NBA career was short lived. In today’s day and age, media is what serves as entertainment for millions of people. But it is also a way people learn, reminding us of the incident with people injecting Lysol to prevent catching covid.

    Due to the rise of social media and media coverage, the covid outbreak was one that led to an increase of hate crimes and discrimination against the Asian community. This situation that I had faced was just an example to a small degree compared to the situations many others had faced. Children, especially those who may have “absent” parents learn a lot from social media, from scrolling on Tik Tok and to simply surfing the web. Hear Our Voices was created to remind us about the ignorance and hate that is present in the media and in our world today, steps taken by Zhou and his friend can help us all make a positive change in ourselves and in our society.

  17. First and foremost, I’d like to thank Albert Zhou for his inspirational story and contributions to the Asian American community—but especially the Asian American community in New Jersey.

    As a Korean American high schooler who has grown up in the same state, I couldn’t help but be struck by the profound parallels between Albert’s journey and my own. I, too, had begrudgingly endured the obligatory “language lessons” at my local Korean school every Saturday throughout my elementary years. Seeing little point in retaining a language I barely spoke, I viewed the experience as an unnecessary extension of school. While my classmates reveled in the leisurely embrace of weekends and indulged in their slumber, I found myself summoned prematurely from mine, shackled to the obligations of Korean School.

    Much to my parents’ consternation (but to my sheer delight), I escaped the confining walls of my Korean School upon entering middle school—newfound sense of freedom, or so I believed at the time. Yet, akin to Albert’s experience, the burden of shame associated with my Korean identity persisted, casting its long shadow over various facets of my life. I winced as the discordant notes of my abba’s (father’s) imperfect English reached my ears. I hastily flung open our windows in a futile attempt to dissipate the pungent aroma of my harrabuji’s (grandfather’s) kimchi before friends arrived. I discarded my umma’s stinky mandu (dumplings) during lunch so as not to offend my classmates’ nostrils. I desperately bleached my yellow-tinged skin with whitening skincare products, dyed my boring black locks into a platinum blonde, and attempted to enlarge my suspicious “slit” monolids with double-eyelid tape. I, too, felt “very ashamed of my Asian ancestry” as Albert had described.

    It was not until the onset of high school and an unforeseen decline in my halmuni’s (grandmother’s) health that I confronted this lingering shame head-on. After bravely enduring the ravages of skin cancer and arduous rounds of chemotherapy in Korea throughout my middle school years, my halmuni’s health rapidly deteriorated, leaving her incapable of speaking, moving, or breathing freely within a matter of weeks. And just as suddenly,I found myself preparing to bid farewell to my beloved halmuni during a poignant FaceTime call.

    Despite possessing a rudimentary grasp of the Korean language, I discovered that fluency eluded me. As I reflected upon previous FaceTime conversations with my grandparents, I realized with a pang of regret that I had always been the passive recipient of their inquiries, lacking the vocabulary to initiate meaningful conversations myself. Confounded by my linguistic limitations, I found myself restricted to uttering the trite phrase “Saranghae” (I love you), a sentiment that, though genuine, felt inadequate and devoid of the deeper connection I yearned to express.

    Now, fast-forwarding to my junior year, a time when my halmuni is no longer with us, I have embarked upon a journey of rediscovering a language that deserved far greater attention from me. Instead of responding to my parents’ Korean queries in English, I have made a concerted effort to reply in the language they hold dear. Even in the face of gentle teasing from my parents regarding my pronunciation,I persevere, determined to embrace the richness of the Korean language, even with my distinct American accent. Rather than watch shows in English, I now join my mother in indulging in her beloved K-dramas, immersing myself in the vibrant narratives that reflect the cultural tapestry of our heritage.

    Yet, perhaps the most transformative aspect of my journey has been the profound sense of fulfillment I have found in collaborating with fellow Asian American peers—like Albert—who share a fervent desire to give back to our community. As the lead graphic designer of AYCE (Asian Youth for Civic Engagement), an online organization with a mission parallel to that of “Hear Our Voices,” I have come to recognize the significance of amplifying my Asian presence rather than seeking to erase it from my daily life.

    Thank you again, Albert, for sharing your journey and inspiring others to embrace their identities. Your resilience and determination serve as a powerful reminder that our voices matter and can make a difference. Let us continue to stand together, united in our shared experiences, and work towards a future wherein Asian Americans are not merely represented, but respected, esteemed, and accorded the attentive ear of society at large.

    • Katie, I was really touched by the experience that you have shared with me. As a fellow Asian American, I would say that I had similar experiences to you, growing up. As a Chinese American, I was sent to Chinese school on Saturdays, similar to how Korean School is what kicks off your weekend. And I believe that the younger version of me had a similar mindset to you when you were younger. I was an ESL (English as a Second Language) student up until 6th grade. But unlike other ESL students though, I was neither proficient in English nor my native language. “Chinglish” (mix of English and Chinese) is what I used to speak at home and at school. At home, I always felt comfortable speaking, because my parents and siblings could understand me. But when I went into the school, the atmosphere completely changed. Now I became the weird kid that didn’t know how to speak English. And it was because of this judgment that I got from my peers that I started to resent my heritage as a Chinese person. I found myself purposely speaking less and less Chinese both at school and at home, until the point that the conversations that I held with my family and my friends were in complete English.

      How does this have anything to do with Chinese school you may ask? Well let me tell you. There were a few years in my childhood, when I hated the fact that I was “yellow”. Similar to you, I felt ashamed of the way my eyes looked, the color of my hair, the food we ate, and my native culture in general. In these few years of my childhood I tried to avoid having anything to do with Chinese culture. I can still vividly remember scenes of a younger me in the Chinese supermarket, begging my mom to buy me Lunchables instead of packing me homemade traditional chinese lunch. But however hard I tried to “escape” from my Asian heritage, it routinely pulls me back into its grasp every Saturday. Chinese school acted as a harsh reminder to me that I am still Chinese.

      I am sorry about the loss of your grandmother, but I found it extremely heartwarming how you were able to use this as motivation to rediscover the language that you had left behind. I had always wondered how other Asian teenagers that forgot their mother tongue found their way back to it or were motivated to learn it again. I, personally, am still on this road to finding my way back to my mother tongue. I have found that becoming friends with native speakers of the language is really helpful, because many of them prefer to speak in their native language and the vocabulary that I am able to hear from them is far more advanced than the words and phrases that I would use. And as someone that has been able to rekindle their love for their native language, I would like to ask you if you have any pointers or tips for keeping myself motivated to relearn the language.

      I also couldn’t help but notice that you were the lead graphic designer of AYCE. I had heard about this organization from a few of my friends at school, and also looked into the missions of the organization. It is to my understanding that AYCE wants to increase political engagement among young Asian Americans and push for activism within the Asian American community. I did have a few questions that I hoped you could answer for me. I understand that the younger generation is the future for our country, but why don’t we push for activism and political engagement within the older generation as well? Many Asian American voices aren’t heard when it comes to politics because a majority of the older Asian American community aren’t educated on things such as political engagement and activism. Even my parents, who have both been through some form of schooling in America after immigrating here and both fluent in English, still struggle to wrap their minds around politics. I feel as though AYCE as an organization has the necessary tools to solve such an issue.

      Katie, I really enjoyed reading your comment for Albert’s interview. Your dedication to relearn your native tongue was extremely motivational to me. And I wholeheartedly support you and the mission of AYCE. I would love to give a helping hand in this program if it were ever needed.

      On an ending note, I would just like to pay a little tribute to all the effort you put in to include Korean words into your comment. Although I am still on my way to relearning my native language, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities within some Korean and Chinese words. For example, the word for father in chinese is 爸爸 (bà bà) which is really similar to the Korean word 아빠 (abba). The same goes for the korean word 엄마 (umma). It sounds relatively similar to the Chinese word for mom which is 妈妈 (mā mā). I’m not sure if it is the same for Korean people, but Chinese people refer to their grandma and grandpa from their mom and dad’s side of the family differently. We call our grandma on our mom’s side 外婆 (wài pó) and our grandpa 外公 (wài gōng). For our dad’s side, we call our grandma 奶奶 (nǎi nai) and our grandpa 爷爷 (yé ye). The phrase 我爱你 (Wǒ ài nǐ) is the phrase for “I love you” in Chinese, but whether in Chinese or Korean, I think the phrase “I love you” will always be understood, even if you aren’t proficient in the language.

  18. Albert spoke about how social media has amplified hate and it deeply resonated with me: “I think social media has really sensationalized a lot of things now and so it’s so accessible to see horrific incidents happening”. He is correct. Social media has allowed for messages of hate and violence to travel farther than ever before. However, we can also use social media to spread love and the message that we are all equal. We’re all human and entitled to the same inalienable rights and social media can be used to highlight that. A few friends and I have actually started this. We have created an organization dedicated to achieving racial equality. We are using social media to spread awareness as apps such as Tik Tok and Instagram seem to amplify any message that gets put on it. Thus why not use them for good? This quote from the podcast especially resonated with me because of this. Yes, social media has violence spread across but together we can help change the message social media sends. We can help those younger than ourselves grow up in a better place and feel equal.

  19. “For a long time I was very ashamed of my Asian ancestry, to be honest with you. I hated the way people looked at me in public whenever my parents spoke to me in Chinese.”

    When I was reading this, I could literally feel this deep and sincere feeling of inferiority. Spending two months in a summer camp in the Midwest of America left me with an unforgettable experience.
    I had been learning English since the day I was born, reading magazines and comic books that American kids read, and watching Marvel and The Simpsons. I thought I could fit into the US society without any difficulty. It wasn’t until I actually went to the States and attended a summer camp with no Asian faces showing up that I realized a whole different story.
    Initially, I was excited and confident, speaking with an American accent, and being pretty proactive.
    However, it turned out to be really frustrating. I would see white boys having a lot of fun and I, with a face that was different from theirs, tried to join them. However, it felt like there is an invisible wall that was preventing me from being accepted by the group. Even though I could sense their attempts to be kind, in the end, it didn’t seem that way. I even heard some whispers behind my back criticizing me for being somewhere I supposedly shouldn’t have been.
    Imagine how frustrated I was for not being able to make any friends in the first two weeks. I used to be very extroverted and talkative, but at that time, I was excluded from any group and forced to sit in the corner and watch them spend a great time with friends.
    A strong sense of inferiority and shame overwhelmed me because of this Asian label. Every night in the dorm, I almost cried out, asking why I have this ethnicity. As a student who will study and very likely live in this nation in the future, I have been so nervous and worried about what my life would be like as an Asian living in the US.
    Until I came across this article, I felt blessed to know that there are people now who are fighting against this prejudice and making exciting progress. I can’t appreciate more about what Albert has done and has been doing. It is not only a great showcase of the Asian American community but also an encouraging signal for all minorities and new immigrants in the country.

  20. “I didn’t want to be Asian American.” When Albert said this it really resonated something in me. All my childhood, I took pride in being who I am, but as I got older and experienced more, I didn’t feel the same about myself anymore. My parents would berate me for something that I did saying that “I am Asian, I am Chinese.” I shouldn’t act like the way I am. While the pledge in the morning during school or the national anthem made me question if I am even American. All through out those years, I would go back and forth between what seemed like two completely different identities. However, as I grew older, I found many people like me, I found my community. Anyways, just hearing that again really brought up some negative feelings and memories. Memories that I realized now a lot of people like me experience, too.

    Therefore, the project Albert is conducting is really impactful to many people like or unlike us. I’m sure many people will agree with me on this. So, thank you Albert for representing our community more.

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