September 17, 2021

Are Asians POC?

Illustrated by Joelle Padgett
Illustrated by Joelle Padgett

    With the discussions of racial theory being such an impassioned subject, influenced by politics and personal experience, I have attempted to stay quiet on the entire matter. Truthfully, I thought this was a subject that I was not qualified to speak about. Having this mindset, I struggled with an impressive writer’s block, doing everything in my power to avoid a topic I considered myself unfit to write about. 

It was during this time that many started to feel comfortable voicing their thoughts on race, colorism, and demanding accountability. Somewhere in these people’s descriptions, the phrase “person of color” credentialed them. Of course, they could talk about these issues! They were the exact people it was affecting! I celebrated to know that after so long, these topics were being discussed, and I didn’t blink an eye at the phrase Person of Color (otherwise known as POC).

That is until I started pondering what the acronym stood for. Who was considered colored? How big was the umbrella of people it covered? My biggest question: 

Are Asian people, even those not culturally “black”, considered people of color?

The dictionary definition of POC, “anyone who isn’t white”, leaves a lot of room - perhaps too much room - for interpretation. And though I’ve never been able to check off the “white” box on an official form, I thought for sure that I didn’t fit under this definition. 

My main reason for believing this term did not apply to me is because I felt it was privileged of me to do so. After all, a considerable amount of Asians, specifically Chinese, are thought of as “comfortable in between,” or even described as “exotic.” Besides a belittling joke or comfortable ignorance of our cultures, a large number of us have never faced the degree of racism that people with darker skin experience on a horrendous basis. This “lack” of prejudice led me to conclude that Asians, or Chinese at the least, probably shouldn’t go addressing themselves as people of color. 

But still, the question nagged at me: are Asians POC? In comparison to automatic biases, lower expectations, and schemes designed to trap groups into generational poverty, Asians have lacked many struggles that people of (darker) color contend against. Only one thing still bothered me - Asians aren’t white. Shouldn’t that baseline qualify us? 

Maybe, in all honesty, this little description wasn’t worth all this mulling over. Did it matter at the end of the day whether I could use this expression? I found that it did matter to me. “Person of color” wasn’t just a term that meant I wasn’t white. To use this term meant that I had even more of a reason to speak up about issues that not everyone would relate to, but provided me with a soapbox for those who do experience these struggles. 

Declaring myself to be a person of color allows me to acknowledge and raise awareness of my rich ancestry. With this as a pulpit, I can boast of the complicated history of my home country China, while at the same time, being a spokesperson for the mistreatment this group of people has faced. These transgressions include the discrimination that led to the creation of Chinatowns or the belittled subject of Chinese underpaid employment and trafficking. From my perspective, being able to use the term POC allows me to speak of the past, its mistakes, and push towards effective change for the future.

I understand that POC is an imperfect term. Overuse threatens it to become useless, while blatant misuse will cause mass misinterpretation. This acronym’s definition has morphed throughout the context and cultural practices of those using this term. For example, in South Africa, a country that experienced the United Kingdom’s colonization, “coloureds” (their version of POC) refers to any one of a local small ethnic group or those who are multiracial. In the United States, this term has become associated with the social justice movement and politics. Activist Loretta Ross even credits the beginnings of the derivative term WOC (Women of Color) to the political National Women's Conference. Here several women of different ethnic backgrounds coined the term to refer to the collaboration of women who shared the struggles of being a “minority.” So, as other terms have become obsolete due to their offensive natures or throughout cultural and linguistic progressions, I am aware that this term and its associations in the future may not align with my own, or your own, personal beliefs. 

However, to share my understanding and [current] opinion, POC as a term should be treated as nothing more than an umbrella to group those with similar experiences. “Person of color” is a valuable adjective not as a credential, not for those who are “worthy” of the term, but as a means to connect with those whose stories reflect our own. With this in mind, my future focuses for this blog are veering slightly from adoption awareness to the thoughts of a transracial adoptee navigating these complex topics. 

July 17, 2021

There's No Place Like Home Fundraiser

Just recently, on June 17, The Newest Flower was featured alongside several other books by Maine authors to fundraise for the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers, which also happens to be the organization receiving all the book's profits. 

The event, There's No Place Like Home, by the end, raised nearly $30,000! With this money, the Maine Children's Home will continue their impact in the surrounding communities and programs, including their various efforts in the adoption and foster care systems. 

Once again, in my mailbox, I received another lovely thank you note, and I wished to share and extend the thanks you readers as well. Many of you have watched and supported this book's journey, and I hope each of you realize the effects of your contributions. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Maine Children's Home for Little Wanderers and its mission, visit their site at

June 4, 2021

In My Mailbox

Recently, I was given the opportunity to share my book The Newest Flower to a lovely 2nd grade class through Zoom. To my surprise, in my mailbox barely a week later, were several lovely thank you letters that I thought I’d share, in hopes that they make you smile as much as they did me.

Some excerpts:

”Thank you for telling us about adoption.”

”Thank you for sharing your message [and] reading to us.”

”Thank you for raising $ [money] to help those in need”

”Thank you for putting extra fun in with the find the creatures challenge.”

These type of responses, along with educating our future generation about loving each other regardless of appearance, is my favorite part of being an author, and I thank each of you readers for allowing me this type of platform.

P.S. If you are interested in arranging a speaking engagement with me, feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to get in touch!

May 7, 2021

"I Am What Happens Next"

Titles, while important and useful, have a sense of permanency, as if once they are there, the subject incapable of being changed. But as a writer, I know that a single word cannot define anything completely, so titles, in their simplest form, are merely structures to what has already been developed.

However, throughout time, this has been reversed. Suddenly titles aren’t something that describe who we are, but instead, they define who we are. In the adoption community, this truth is even more evident. Here, it is easy to see that adoptee is not just a characteristic, but has become a part of personality.

This seven letter word, adoptee, supplies the gaps left by answers unreachable, parents not present, and the hurt held onto. For an adopted person, this word is a shield used to cover up the missing pieces they see in their life. Except, along the way, this shield has morphed into a prison. And the saddest part is that they have the keys to unlock it, if only they realize what lays beyond.

What lies beyond is not a life where adoption doesn’t play a key, because as long as they live, adoption will be an aspect of life - a part of their story. But, if brave enough to unlock the prison door, this title adoptee will no longer have the ability to dictate control over life.

So dear reader, if this applies to your life, let me be your guide. As I tell my story, I hope you grip your key and take the step to unlock your prison.

My journey brings us back to the origin place, where in the past, the hurt began to manifest and seep into my identity. This is the point where the “adoptee complex” truly begins. For me, this is in what I suppose to be a slightly overpopulated outdoor waiting area of the local hospital. Around are the rise and fall of citizens conversing in Mandarin, everyone coming and going just as do the conversations. This is the city of Guangzhou, and this is where life as I know it began. And this is where I must return to.

Sitting in one of the colored chairs is a younger version of myself. However, she is not the six week old infant that would match this setting. Instead, I am faced by a toddler, about three years in age, the version of me who is about to be adopted. My hurt, something I protected with the shield of adoptee, stems from the setting. But my complex stems from what is about to take place for the toddler version of myself. Both of these elements are equally important, and both need to be reconciled with.

“What happens to us next?” No longer is the toddler alone, but instead, she’s gesturing at a small wrapped baby who lies on the hard chair, seeking medical attention. Along the way, this small child has become the protector for the helpless baby, and right now, the shield protecting them is the title orphan.

But they don’t need a shield, and you don’t need a shield that will eventually morph into a prison. Instead, it is your job to face your younger self, who represents your first shield you used against the hurt, and speak the truth.

So to me, I must look at my younger self and answer her question to the best of my ability, to ease her and subsequently, free myself.

“I am what happens next.”

For all my imperfections, for every mistake I have made and will make, every aspect of my life, including but not limited to my adoption, is what happens next, and while it’s not perfect, I look at how far I’ve come since I was a three year old. Look at all that and ask, “Do I need my former self trying in vain to define what happens next when she doesn’t even know who I’ve become?”

I hope your answer is no, and I hope that you have the ability to be completely honest with yourself. By reflecting and speaking these truths until you believe them, if you are in a prison, you have the key and the courage to step out of it.

March 13, 2021

Fueling Misperceptions

According to the U.S. Census, only 1.3% of Maine’s population is of Asian ethnicity. If these statistics are compared to the 1.3 million people who live in the state, that means that there’s only about 17,000 Asian people in Maine, which sounds large, but it really is not. Due to the large percentage of this group that reside in the inner cities, many people I know, who live more rurally, have met very few Asians in their lives.

To me, this poses a very startling realization. In the circle of people I know, which is admittedly small, I might be the only Asian person they’ve ever really known. And while this does not seem particularly profound in itself, I daresay it is. Because of my singularity, I hold a responsibility to represent my culture, and possibly, influence the way which it is perceived.

For example, I, a Chinese American teenager, have struggled with acne in the past. However, one might look at me, notice that I am of Asian descent, and assume that is a trait of the majority of Asians, without further knowledge or research. This particular assumption is for the most part harmless. It is a deduction based on unverified facts and what this person has observed. However, sometimes these assumptions are not just about acne. Sometimes these assumptions are spread to the entirety of an ethnic group, causing hurt and misunderstanding.

This is important for us to realize because the way we act has the ability to fuel or dispel such perceptions.

You see, when we interact with people, especially those who don’t know us as well, we are not just representing ourselves. In these situations, our behaviors are the representation of our cultural group, ethnicity, etc. Why is this? Each person, thing, or experience influences one’s perceptions of the world, and for us who are “minorities,” we not only affect how they view us, but also, how they see all of our ethnicity as a whole.

And while every person should live with a mindset of responsibility and hold themselves with integrity, I feel that for those belonging to a minority, this truth is even more so applicable.

Truthfully, whether people care to admit or not, we, as humans, group people together by any factor that can possibly be compartmentalized. This, for better or worse, applies heavily to aspects such as ethnicities, especially ones that are foreign to us.

Is this about forming unfair, unjust perceptions? Yes. Does prejudice play a major role? Also yes. However, this is not a matter of them, we cannot control them and trying to do so will only spark anger and division. Rather, this is a matter of you and me. Whether we like it not, our actions and behaviors can and will affect the perceptions of others.

The responsibility we hold has the power for radical change, in both us and others. In our actions, our speech, and our relationships, we can be the embodiment of millions before and around us, and this is a power both motivating and potentially dangerous.

My intention is not to intimidate but rather to inform and, hopefully, encourage change in each of you, regardless of your ethnicity. I urge you to reflect on yourself and ask, “Who do I represent? As a representative, how am I portraying them? Are my actions doing their part to positively present the bigger culture I belong to, or are my actions able to fuel misperceptions?”

January 4, 2021

Letting Go

Here’s the thing about death: there’s a certain amount of finality to it. But there’s also another type of grief, sometimes more complicated than the grief that death carries. This is the grief of a person who is still alive. And yet, this type of loss is something we can face multiple times in life. So why exactly is this experience, the act of letting go, so hard to bear? How do we get through this?

The first question is easier to answer than the second. Why is it so hard to let someone go who is still alive? Oftentimes, this is so hard because we have the knowledge that they are still alive. And we, as hopeful creatures, hold onto them because we know it’s still possible that they will return to us. Logic only goes so far, and when we are in an emotional state of turmoil, we have a higher chance of entertaining hopeful fantasies. These, however, can sometimes be the root of our inability to let go.

Now, I’d like to be clear. I do not mean that we should stop being hopeful. Instead, I would like to differentiate hope and hopeful fantasies, two very different ideas with drastically different effects.

Hope is gentle; it is warm. This is the feeling that envelops us in the dark and provides a light. Like an invisible companion, hope keeps us focused on the light in front of us instead of the dark.

On the other hand, hopeful fantasies are as simple as this: still fantasies. Made up by our idealistic minds, these daydreams immerse us. When we dive into these figments of reality, we play with emotional fire. With our minds as the ultimate author, we can create a world where the hurt didn't happen, where the darkness is convenient. And this is a dangerous state to be trapped in.

I’m writing this post because I’ve had a hard time with this lesson. In fact, I’ve been struggling with it for almost four years. In sixth grade, I had a friendship breakup, and I just recently was able to let go of the hurt, and subsequently, the person.

Why was I unable to let her go? There are two big reasons:

  • My identity was not strong at this point, and I allowed her to become part of my identity
  • I knew logically she was gone, but I comforted myself with an unhealthy coping mechanism of hopeful fantasizing.

These two factors largely played into my struggle. As I stated, my confidence was, well, in a word, not matured. Unlike today, I relied on my friend as my “friendship spine” instead of making my own definition of friendship. In doing this, I allowed myself to be morphed into something I couldn’t hold together without her. This dependency wasn't healthy and limited my growth.

The other factor was that of my fantasies. I got twisted into a world where we were still friends, where she was still a part of my life, and the fallout hadn’t happened. And this held me back a great deal.

I knew these were unhealthy, so why exactly did I keep coming back to them? The answer is simple: this fantasy world was very attractive to a lonely person. They submerged me into a tangle of webs, so deep down, that I could not find the end of the rope. Our minds, the most powerful part of who we are, then provides us with these fantastical escapes. And because of this, I continued to flirt with the unhealthy attachment.

So, I had to let go of these worlds. And I’m not going to lie; it wasn’t easy. Sometimes, I would fall back into these patterns. But today, I can look from the shore and see how far I’ve come. Because during this time of “letting go,” I have not only found closure but also a clearer definition of what is healthy in a friendship.

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