Unapologetically Asian [Creating Space]

creating space

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! Can you believe it’s already November? October flew by WAY too quickly, but I have been looking forward to this day for quite a while. Today is the start of November’s Creating Space series. I have several amazing ladies lined up to share their experiences with racism and faith in America. Be sure to join me every Wednesday for a new post on Creating Space.

Today I have Kriselle joining me on Hugs & Lattes to talk about her experiences growing up Filipino American and going to a small, Christian school as one of the few Asian students on campus. I met Kriselle through blogging several years ago. While she no longer is blogging full time, she has some pretty exciting things happening in her career.

Creating Space

Tell Me A Little Bit About Yourself

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I grew up in Los Angeles in a suburb of Los Angeles. It was a very diverse neighborhood. My parents immigrated from the Philippines in the 80s; I was born here, so I am Filipino-American. English was my first language. After my parents divorced, I grew up going to a Baptist/Christian church when we stayed with my dad, and a Catholic church when we stayed with my mom. I didn’t grow up in a “fully Christian” environment because of this, and it wasn’t until college that I lived in a pretty Christian environment all day, everyday.

I know that you lived in Australia for a short period, how did Australia approach race and culture differently?

Here in America, you have a lot of people who are Hispanic, Latin American, and black American. In Australia, you are going to find more people who have a Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. Black people in Australia have immigrated from Africa. I noticed that Australians are more accepting of the Muslim and Sikh religions. It is also more natural to have intercultural friendships in Australia, whereas in America, homogenous friendships are more common. I will say, though, that Americans are more open to talk about race.

creating space

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

While I was made aware that I was considered a “minority” in society, it wasn’t something I thought about a lot when I was younger. I grew up identifying with my ethnic background (Filipino) because there were so many of us in my hometown, but when I went to college, I identified with my Asian background. My college was predominantly white, so I realized that I could stand in solidarity with my other Asian brothers and sisters.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

In college, people thought I was an immigrant or an international student because I was so unapologetic about being Asian. There was one guy that knew me for 3 years before he realized I grew up here in California. All of these microaggressions really opened my eyes to the true state of America today and caused me to reflect on my own views of race and microaggressions I may even have said in the past.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

What I love about being Filipino American is the food and language and motherland. It’s all so rich and now that I’m older I really want to preserve my culture and pass it down onto my children. Even though I hated it as a kid, I want them to grow up eating rice and sinigang or adobo like I did and I want them to crave it the way I do now. I want them to know the food but even more so, know the language. I even downloaded a keyboard for Baybayin, the pre-colonial Filipino script. It’s not in use at all anymore, but it makes me feel more connected to my culture.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

The hardest things for me to wrestle with in Filipino culture is the desire to be white in skin tone. As a kid I was made to think that darker skin was “bad,” and my parents bought tons of whitening products for my sister and I. Whitening soap, whitening lotion, whitening deodorant, even baby powder. When I played tennis in high school and got really tanned from being in the sun every day, I was called ugly. Pair that with both Philippine and American media both portraying primarily light skinned people (and in America white people in general), and you got some self-hate. I wanted to be whiter so I could be more well-liked and be seen as beautiful and it’s only in the last maybe two years or so that I’ve really started embracing my skin at every shade and being intentional with not feeding into that mentality. It’s been a long and hard journey to remind myself and decolonize my mentality of whiteness as “better,” but it’s been a great time of growth because now I love my skin and really try to empower other people of color to love theirs too. I’m a #magandangmorenx.

creating space

Racism and Faith in America

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

A big issue that we don’t realize we face is minimizing and sometimes ignoring the experiences of people of color in the Church. For instance, at my Christian school, they tried to say they didn’t need a department of diversity. The department was created to create a safe space for people of color as well as educating others who may not be aware or really comprehend the experiences we go through and how we operate. It’s not to be anti-white or anything like that, but rather, to give those who are marginalized a place to feel safe and to feel at home.

In the larger picture of the Church, I rarely see pastors speak up about racism in the midst of tragedy, and it truly makes me sad. People of color make up a large portion of the church, and we just want to know that our pastors see us and intentionally make a point to remind us that they care about us, especially our black brothers and sisters in Christ. Many think it’s a political issue to talk about race, but in reality, it’s the lived experiences of people around us, and we as a Church need to do better in caring for these marginalized groups.

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

I’ve had questions like “Where are you really from? When did you learn English? When did you come here?” When I was in college, I was passing out fliers for a diversity event on campus and as I handed this guy a flier, he said, “Diversity is for black people.” I would have people say and assume Asians were the “better” minority, or people would say they are colorblind.

What were you experiences discussing faith and racism in America with your peers?

Reflecting back on my time in college, I definitely did feel like an odd one out at times because I was so passionate about talking about issues (aka race) that people weren’t so comfortable talking about. I like to think that people didn’t intentionally do that, but I do think that it affected people’s interactions (or lack thereof) with me.

Thankfully, I had friends that did talk about these issues with me, but none of them were in my major classes because almost all of them were Psychology majors, so in my communication classes (I was a Communication studies major), if something in regards to race came up, I was always the first to speak out but I could definitely feel the vibe in the room of people feeling slightly uncomfortable. I also think people weren’t used to an Asian person (a girl much less) going against the stereotype of “submissive” and “quiet” Asians, even if they didn’t consciously think that.

However, outside of school, I think that I’ve had some really great conversations with friends of mine about how faith and race come together and how we should approach it. I’ve had these conversations with both white people and people of color. I think that we really need to keep having these conversations and keep loving others the way Jesus loves.

creating space

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

Unity looks like love. And God is love. Unity is acknowledging everyone’s different life experiences and cultures and loving them through every part of life. It is talking about the hard topics because we care about one another. Unity is celebrating what is different about everyone.

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

White people need to call out other white people. Call them out, even when it hurts. Some activists would say, “Call them out, it doesn’t matter how you do it.” But since we are Christians, I would say you need  to call them out and speak in love. Another thing you can do is allow room for minorities to speak, but don’t make them speak if they are not comfortable in doing so. Take on the burden of helping them out. We are burdened with racism every day, so it helps when you take on the burden of speaking out. For instance, if you get into a conversation on Facebook where you have called someone out for a racist comment, don’t just automatically tag in your friend of color to participate in the conversation. It takes vulnerability to talk about this, and it’s tiring, so sometimes we don’t want to say anything for the sake of our sanity and sometimes even our safety. Sometimes people of color don’t speak up to keep themselves safe from people who might come after them for speaking on their own experiences, so it’s important for white allies to come by us and fight with us.

A big thank you to Kriselle for speaking out in a hard, but necessary conversation. Join us next week as we talk with Asaake about her experiences growing up in Nigeria and in America. 

I’m Kriselle, 23, married, and a creative entrepreneur who loves to help others start and run their businesses on a budget. I am a fighter for representation in media and am fighting against eurocentric beauty standards to promote that beauty comes in whatever shade you are. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, my mini-podcast, and at GG Creatives 

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