July 4th marks an annual celebration of American independence from the British. Any student of the public school system has heard the monotonous stories of heroic American heroes signing the Declaration of Independence, fighting for freedom, and forging the United States. Yet, for many Asian-Americans, this date symbolizes a division within our cultures and beliefs.
I was born in New Jersey and raised in Pennsylvania. Like most Chinese-Americans, I participated in the standard public education on the weekdays and Chinese school on the weekends. Outside my household, I spoke fluent and accentless English, while within the home, I communicated in broken (but understandable) Chinese.
July 4th epitomized this divide. I am American, but July 4th was not a fight for my independence – I am sure many other Asian-Americans feel the same as I do.
As I write this post, I reflect upon my experiences as an American thus far in my life. Currently in college, I fully experience an American lifestyle while remaining rooted in my Chinese background. For my birthday, my friends and I explored New York Chinatown, where I introduced them to the wonders of dim-sum cuisine. They returned the gesture by surprising me with a giant birthday cake, as American as traditions come.
When I began my summer internship here at Metro Insurance, I once again surrounded myself with Asian Americans. Flipping back and forth between Chinese and English, the office felt like a second home. Furthermore, I’d argue nothing reflects the combination of two cultures more than an office of Chinese-Americans selling insurance policies.
If you asked what July 4th meant to me last year, I would’ve provided a bland, generic answer regarding American freedom that resonated very little with my person. Now, this is not the case. American freedom fosters cultural growth. While I won’t be hosting a July 4th party anytime soon, my family and I will still enjoy a local firework show. This freedom allows for the best of both worlds – the dim-sum and birthday cake – while creating separate spaces like Metro Insurance where the cultural in-betweeners can develop community and family.