Originally from Connecticut, Sophie studies pharmacy in New Jersey, which is where our editors met her and asked her for an interview. She guides us through her perception of identity, from growing up in a white suburb of Connecticut to finding acceptance and solidarity among new friends.
Samantha: Could we start by getting your name and cultural identity?
Sophie: I'm Sophie and I'm Chinese-American.
Samantha: Perfect. Do you still feel connected to your Chinese heritage today and are there any ways you engage with it?
Sophie: Yeah, so like I grew up speaking Chinese with my family, I went to Chinese school. I still speak Chinese at home. And I mean I'm living on my own right now, but I still cook all the food my mom used to.
Samantha: Growing up, do you think there was ever some difficulty with fitting in? For me, I'm fortunate to attend a high school with such a diverse body, but it wasn't always like that. So what was your childhood like?
Sophie: Of course, I grew up in a predominantly white town in Connecticut, like the suburbs of Connecticut. And, um, yeah, I definitely used to get bullied a lot, especially in elementary school before kids were like woke. Yeah, like you know, like your typical "Your lunch is stinky" stuff. It's not like the biggest deal ever, but it was like not great for growing up. But I've been going to Rutgers for the past three years, I'm at the pharmacy school. Um, so yeah, now all my friends are Asian. So it's definitely a cultural shift but I like it a lot.
Serena: Do you think your perception of your identity has changed now that people are more "woke"?
Sophie: Yeah, I guess. Because before, I'd always hide it as a kid. But now whenever I have my white friends over, I always cook them Asian food and they never make weird comments. And if they did, I wouldn't be friends with them.
There's also that aspect of Chinese culture. Or not just Chinese culture but other cultures being fetishized and everything, which I don't love? But like, you know, it's like... it's okay.
Samantha: Yeah, and it's wonderful to see Asian cultures become mainstream, obviously things like K-pop and food, but also some more subtle media. How do you feel about that kind of representation?
Sophie: Oh, I love it. So much, yeah. There was always a little bit of Asian representation but there's so many musicians now that I look up to that are Asian. Like, um, Michelle Zauner, she wrote "Crying in Hmart"? It's a book.
Serena: And we’re in Hmart right now?
Sophie: (laughs) Yeah. I love that book. I think people like that are really really great, and then they're really changing the cultural landscape for us.
Samantha: Moving more into modern day, we've talked about woke people, but there's also talked the more upsetting reason why people are becoming more woke. What's been your reaction to this, since you mentioned to live by yourself?
Sophie: For me, I do surround myself with predominantly Asian people. So I'm always a little more wary when I'm walking outside and everything and when I'm going to places that are not super Asian? But I feel like that has just always been in my head since growing up in such a white area. My parents, they're like kind of paranoid about it. They'll always tell me to be careful when I'm going outside, they tell me to have pepper spray and all that. Which, everyone should have pepper spray.
Samantha: Shoot, maybe I should get some.
Sophie: Yeah, you really should have some. But, yeah, I also think there's a lot of internalized racism in the Asian community. A lot of us like to kind of, you know, kind of play the oppression Olympics a little bit. But we're really here on the same cause, there shouldn't be any competition.
Samantha: Sure. And last question, do you think your own, I'm guessing more Americanized, values ever conflict with your parents?
Sophie: Yeah, I definitely tried when I was a teenager. I was fully, you know, very... what's the word. I would like conflict with my parents' cultural values a lot. In terms of, you know, "I want to hang out with my friends. I don't want to go to school right now." Like very basic stuff. But like now that I've been living on my own for a little bit, I understand the value, and I understand that even though there are cultural differences, there a lot of ways we can deal with that instead of arguing with everything.