Eighteen year-old Raphael was in the produce section when we found him and asked him for a conversation. In these five minutes, he gives us his resolute takes on controversial issues from the Chinese government to self-segregation in schools to the definition of equality.
Samantha: Could we start with your name and cultural background?
Raphael: I'm Raphael, I'm Chinese, my parents were born in China, but I was born here.
Samantha: Okay. That's Raphael with a "ph"?
Raphael: Yeah. P-H.
Samantha: Like the ninja turtle.
Raphael: (laughs) Yeah.
Samantha: Okay, that wasn't a funny joke. Sorry. So, today, do you still feel connected to your Chinese culture?
Raphael: I think I'm pretty connected to it. I celebrate most of the holidays, eat the traditional food.
Samantha: Growing up, did you ever find it difficult to fit in? Or were you from a more accepting community?
Raphael: No, not at all. New Jersey has such a vast Asian population, so... It feels like pretty easy to fit in.
Samantha: So you never really faced any stereotyping or outsiderism?
Raphael: Not at all.
Serena: Oh, that's really great. Did you go to Chinese school when you were younger?
Raphael: Yeah, for a lot of years. It was unfortunate, not fun.
Samantha: Do you ever feel conflicted with your parents, do you have maybe more Americanized values that clash with theirs?
Raphael: Yeah, my mom still insists that arranged marriages are better for me.
Serena: She does? Oh my god, wow.
Raphael: She's like "Oh, when you're older, you'll understand."
Samantha: And are you going to listen to that, or...
Raphael: No, no. Of course not.
Serena: And how old are you now?
Raphael: Eighteen. Okay, well, she's not going to make me get an arranged marriage. She's insisting that I should, but she's going to let me have the choice.
Samantha: So going into more modern day, about accounts of anti-Asian violence and obviously hate crimes rising, how has your family's reaction to that been, and how has your personal reaction been?
Raphael: I insist to them that we don't talk about politics in general, but I don't hear a lot of their opinions. But I guess it's bad, I mean...
Samantha: Is there a reason you avoid politics?
Raphael: Because it's inflammatory and divisive and I hate talking about it.
Samantha: For my parents, it's hard to talk about U.S.-China politics because of how villainized China is to America, so maybe it's like that?
Raphael: It's funny, my parents hate China. To death.
Samantha: Oh, why's that?
Raphael: Because the Chinese government's corrupt and evil and they're holding millions of Muslims or something, right?
Serena: They hate the government only, then?
Raphael: Just the government. They enjoy the traditions and whatever, but the government itself... they absolutely hate.
Samantha: Do you ever visit China?
Raphael: I visited in eighth grade, maybe?
Samantha: Did you feel comfortable or out of place there?
Raphael: Um... I was just visiting my grandparents at the time. I didn't really know what to do, I guess I was kind of lost, so I just watched TV, right?
Samantha: Out of curiosity, are most of your friends Asian?
Raphael: Well, yeah, most of them are Asian (laughs).
Samantha: Do you think that's an issue?
Raphael: Um... No. As long as there are interactions between multiple races, like, it's fine. You should be able to choose who your friends are. And having Asian friends who have similar likes, similar culture, similar likes for pop culture as well, it's fine. Whatever.
Samantha: No, that makes sense. Yeah.
Serena: So our last question is with your own heritage, what would equality look like to you?
Raphael: Maybe it's selfish, but no affirmative action. And I guess... I don't know, just don't stereotype people? When you look at them, try to think of them... I might be mischaracterizing his words, but you know how Martin Luther King Jr. said to judge them by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. If you're going to hate someone, do it because they're a bad person, not because of their race.