Racial Awareness at CHS – Julie Hoang

Aishwarya Laddha

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Julie Hoang has been a secretary for Class Council and is involved with DECA, fashion club  and VSA.

Q: What ethnicity are you?

A: Vietnamese.

Q: How did your ethnicity affect the way you grew up?

A: It didn’t really affect me personally; I never faced any personal form of discrimination. Growing up, I lived in Singapore, and I thought the population there would include more Chinese and Malaysians, but I went to an “American” school, so there were a lot more Caucasian kids. I was kind of the outcast. I only lived there for two or three years, but even then I didn’t face direct discrimination. But I definitely did feel like the outsider there.

Q: How did your experiences in Singapore translate to your experiences here?

A: Well, I was born here for starters. I went to Sedgwick Elementary School, so transitioning back here I was a lot more comfortable. I’m not saying I was glad that I was part of the majority race here, but it definitely did make me feel more confident in ways. I could find people of the same ethnicity to relate to and talk about stuff that people of other cultures maybe wouldn’t understand.

Q: Did you ever notice any differences in the way others treated you as a child versus someone else?

A: Not growing up in my neighborhood in Singapore nor here, but when I would travel to visit my family in Texas and West Virginia [. . .], the majority of the population there was Caucasian and African-Americans, so there would be times where I would feel discriminated. It wasn’t that my family would get treated differently directly but when, I remember in 7th grade, my family and I would go to the mall in West Virginia, and my mother would ask, “how much is this bag,” and the [sales associates] would say the price and add, “Sorry there is no discount on this,” because you know, that’s a stereotype about Asians.

Q: Did you develop a certain mindset about your race or other races based on your upbringing or experiences?

A: When I came back I started hanging out with Asians, kids of the same ethnicity as me, but for a lot of them, I feel, some people would call them “white-washed.” Especially after transitioning into middle school, people assimilate, trying to fit into society and the norms. I was not necessarily embarrassed of my ethnicity, but I didn’t embrace my culture either.

Q: Do you feel like, looking back, you would want to do something differently?

A: To make up for my middle school years when I was not really embracing my culture, I would have joined clubs such as VSA and International Club earlier to really get a sense of my culture.

Q: Has race ever been an obstacle for you?

A: I think, personally for me, it didn’t restrict me from opportunities when people were discriminating against me. I think it was more of my own mentality that restricted me. I would tell myself that because I’m Asian, stereotypically I was born short, so I couldn’t try out for a particular sport, so restrictions like that were more from my own mentality.

Q: Do you think this self imposed mentality comes because of societal pushes?

A: For the most part, definitely, from stereotypes, social media, and tv shows—the way the media portrays particular races. Even though sometimes what the media says is not meant to be offensive, it still invokes this mentality in a way.

Q: Cupertino is very diverse, in comparison to most places; what benefits and/or drawbacks do you see to having this mix of ethnicities?

A: I guess one drawback is that, especially when we leave for college, for those venturing out in the real world, it’s going to be difficult for them to assimilate into communities that are not as diverse and accepting as we are.

Q: Have you ever noticed any instances of subconscious racism within our Cupertino community?

A: Yes, I have, but they usually aren’t meant with bad intentions, but even among friends we make jokes, like, “you’re asian which means that you have good grades,” or, “you’re caucasian which means that your parents don’t care.” I think we tell ourselves that these are made for fun. Personally, I don’t find them offensive, but I can see how people can take it offensively. I feel like jokes like these don’t come with bad intentions.

Q: Have you ever felt discriminated or singled out for your race?

A: Not necessarily.

Q: Have you ever noticed other people getting singled out?

A: I never saw it directly or personally, but I do get the sense that it does happen. I’m not saying it is acceptable, but racism still exists out there. In our community, I’ve never seen it, though; I guess that is because we are so diverse for the most part, we are very open, very liberal.

Q: How do you think you’ve developed your cultural identity living in Cupertino versus if you had lived in a much less diverse community?

A: I think because we are in such a diverse community, we embrace a lot more clubs on campus such as International Club. We hold international week, which is really great for encouraging people to have a sense of pride in their cultures. There is this Vietnamese town in San Jose, called Tully, and it has a lot of community events, especially during Lunar New Year. So living in this community as compared to living somewhere else definitely allowed me to embrace my culture because there are so many opportunities to be exposed to it.

Q: If you could go back to talk to your younger self, what would you tell your younger self?

A: Don’t be embarrassed, embrace your culture. I would tell my 6th grade self that you don’t have to assimilate yourself to fit in with other people.

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Racial Awareness at CHS – Julie Hoang