Something happened earlier this week. I spoke up.
Disneyland posted this picture on their Instagram account to advertise their upcoming Lunar New Year Spirit Jerseys. I had actually just woken up when my friend Christine @dorkdujour messaged me about it. My initial reaction was: “White people modeling Asian merchandise. Lazy PR. Typical.”
I was annoyed. I couldn’t eyeroll hard enough. This wasn’t the first time that Asian people have been overlooked for campaigns that are literally written for them. My friend Shawny @shawnybobawny messaged me for clarification. She didn’t understand how an oversight like this could happen: surely there were Asian people in that office.
I told her, probably not. Unlike Hawaii (where she is from), there are just not as many Asian people in this field. Ultimately what ends up happening is that people gravitate towards people who are like them. That is human nature. But it takes a good person who is good at their job who is willing to work harder to make sure that they are representing all ethnicities.
I wanted to say something, but I was scared. Asian people are also raised to keep silent, keep your head down, eye roll, but dust it under the rug. Ultimately, I was worried about offending Mickey and ruining any future opportunities that might come my way. But the I remembered my conversation with Shawny and I realized that the vast majority of the population might not even pick up on this type of misrepresentation.
So I said something. I took a risk and posted a bunch of slides of my face on my stories telling my story. I talked about how this wasn’t a personal attack on Asian people, but rather lazy PR. I gave options of how Disneyland could have picked other Asian people to help promote a Lunar New Year Product. And lastly, I made it known that I am unashamedly Chinese.
Asian voices are naturally quieter. That means we have to band together to be heard.
Then something interesting happened. I started getting DMs from people in support of what I was saying. People who wouldn’t usually speak up felt like they could in a safe space. Conversations started happening and we began to feel less alone.
I learned something that day. I learned that Filipino people don’t even celebrate Lunar New Year. While I thought it was “good enough” just to have an Asian face represent “us”, I realized that this is further encouraging the mentality that “all Asians are the same”. Lizzi @whatuplizzard brought it to my attention that Disneyland has been making tiny changes that waters down the Lunar New Year Celebration. During the first year, the food booths clearly showed what cultures were being represented (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean). Now, they are random “Asian Inspired” foods that come from any ol’ Asian (fruishi is an offshoot of sushi, which is Japanese, who do not even celebrate Lunar New Year).
On the other hand, baby steps. I’m grateful that Disneyland/Disney California Adventure even has a Lunar New Year Celebration. My children’s traditions largely have to do with celebrating at themeparks so I am extremely thankful for this. This is a really great opportunity for Disney to tell Asian stories.
I shared about how my mom (#GrandmaPopo) kept our Chinese New Year traditions alive by going to our school every year to share our stories. She taught about the legend of the zodiac animals (did you know that the cat was there too?) and cooked yummy snacks like teem gok and shrimp chips. She taught my friends the Chinese names for foods and explained why they were traditional for the new year (shrimp 🍤 is “Ha” and sounds like laughter).
Now that I have my own kids, I’m realizing the importance of storytelling. It’s my job now to teach them our traditions in addition to making our own. I realized that their #AsianStories will probably be full of spending time at theme parks and adopting every Asian person as their auntie or uncle. We support Asians in entertainment because I know how much harder it is for them to go against the stereotype of being a doctor or accountant. We support Asian businesses because Asian voices are usually quieter because we’re taught not to speak up. I teach them what things are Chinese and how to differentiate between Asian cultures in attempts to #deBlanketAsian.
It will be interesting to see what traditions they remember as they get older. During this season of Lunar New Year (that will officially start on 1/25), I encourage you to share your #AsianStory. If we don’t tell our stories, they will never get heard and will be forgotten ❤️
Also, our amazing matching family outfits were designed by us and printed by @picturethisclothing. They are an amazing company that celebrates diversity. If you’d like to make your own unique creation, you can use code “LITTLEGRAY10” to save 10% .