Editor Note: Gloria Hu is a High School Program Director at TANG (Taiwanese American Next Generation). TANG is a four-day summer conference for Taiwanese Americans and their allies. In contemplating meaningful programming and our engagement with issues of identity formation and community-building, the author expresses the importance of Taiwanese heritage to her own convictions and hopes for the community.
A Letter to My TANG High Schoolers
To my beloved TANG campers,
I am so lucky to know you. You are an incredible group whose self-awareness and relational skills put my high school self to shame. Though we only meet for three precious days each summer, I hope you carry our love and affection through the other 362 days of the year. In caring for you as the next generation of Taiwanese Americans, you have pushed me to think about what else I hope you carry with you from TANG- in your convictions, in your relationships, in the mundane. And in realizing the enormity of my hopes for you, I am both ecstatic and terrified.
When you hear of another Black body brutalized by law enforcement,
I hope you remember the dehumanization of the police state and of martial law.
When you hear religious leaders stand behind an unjust administration,
I hope you remember the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan’s resistance to corrupt and oppressive rule, and that dissent too, is faithful.
When fellow Asian Americans criticize their own for political complacency,
I hope you recognize this as untrue, and doubly untrue about your own community. I hope you remember the Taiwanese American activism that shaped a democracy across the ocean. I hope you feel in yourself a pull to continue the legacy of Asian American activism, long preceding the largest waves of Taiwanese migration to America.
When a friend tells you that your Taiwanese identity is no longer important in America, that Asian Americans must band together for political action,
I hope you feel, in that moment, the double erasure inflicted by living as a minority in America and by the political agenda of another East Asian country. I hope you recognize the irony- and lack of meaning- in giving up your individual identity to create a more “powerful” whole.
When you learn the horrors of 228 and the White Terror, and when you feel your chest tighten with anguish and resentment,
I hope this is not the only time you feel this way. I hope you react the same way to injustices you see carried out around you.
When your parents or grandparents tell you this would not be okay back home,
I hope you go back to Taiwan, love the people, and realize back home today is not back home twenty years ago. I hope you understand that immigrant time warp is only one of the reasons your family isn’t always right. I hope you are proud of Taiwan’s leadership of a variety of progressive issues, including LGBTQ+ rights, access to healthcare, and female representation in politics.
When you are mired in the web of unspoken norms that you follow to survive and fit in and thrive in America,
I hope you are inspired by today’s Taiwanese, who have been decolonizing and reclaiming their culture from waves of invaders- invaders who told them decades upon decades that their own culture was never enough.
When you are weighed down by familial expectations, and when you feel constricted and powerless on the road set out for you,
I hope you realize that communities do not escape intergenerational trauma and the wounds of immigration unscathed. I hope you refuse to be collateral damage, and that you feel free to reject the toxic, oppressive elements of your inherited culture.
When you feel that you are not enough, or that you have no right to claim the label of Taiwanese American,
I hope you can trust us when we tell you that being accepted as Taiwanese American is not about language or filial piety or involvement in the community or activism- that we celebrate you as a Taiwanese American for living just the way you choose.
Most of all, I hope you can say “I know who I am, and I can own where I came from.” And I hope that because of this knowledge, you can love yourself and your journey all the more.
TANG welcomes anyone who wants to experience a loving Taiwanese community, regardless of age, race, religious or political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender expression, and disability status. For more information and to sign up for our 2018 Summer Conference (July 1-4), click here.