You’ve heard about Jeremy Lin. The so-trendy-right-now Asian American basketball player for the New York Knicks. Much of the buzz isn’t just about his excellent skills as a team player, but also because of his underdog status: he’s Asian in a sport where Asians typically are overlooked. Asian Americans have a new face, a new role model, a new idol to call their own.
I am not one of these Asian Americans.
Yes, technically, I am Asian American. I was born in San Francisco and am of Asian descent (Chinese and Filipino, to be exact). But, I grew up between Manila and Hong Kong, and have an American(ish) accent. So I’m an Accidental Asian American. Growing up at an international school in the Philippines, I believed that the reason I didn’t fit in very well was because people did not understand my Asian American culture.
So when I moved to the United States in 2002, I started getting involved with groups pertaining to Asian American interests. But I just never really felt like I belonged. I felt like I was an invader whose story just wasn’t one of being recognized. My experience growing up in international schools had isolated me from Asian American experiences and cultural norms.
When Wong Fu Productions and other Asian American artists exploded onto the scene, there was (and still is) talk about how they are chasing their dreams and representing Asian Americans after they’ve been overlooked by mainstream Hollywood. Now, the same is happening with Jeremy Lin representing them in mainstream sports. I’m happy for the Asian American icons and what they’ve accomplished, but here I am throwing in the towel, saying I give up. As it turns out, I am Asian, I am American, but first and foremost, I am a Third Culture Kid.
So here’s my question: “Where are all the Third Culture Kid heroes?”
The first person people point out is Barack Obama, and then others such as Kobe Bryant, Tim Tebow, and Amy Tan. However, they are heroes that we recognize in the the vein of “Oh by the way, she’s a TCK too.”
But, what I’m wondering is, where are the Third Culture Kid heroes who are recognized, first and foremost, as coming from an international background? Where are the heroes we can relate to?