Racial Awareness at CHS – Austin Zhuang


Esha Radhakrishnan

Q: What ethnicity are you?

A: I’m definitely Asian American, but specifically I’m half Cantonese and half Taiwanese American.

Q: How did your ethnicity affect as you grew up?

A: I grew up in a white neighborhood, and this was obviously seventeen years ago. My neighborhood was full of white people, and not many Asians inhabited that area. It was mostly Mexicans and white people in the place that I grew up, which was South San Jose. So when I went to elementary school there, up near downtown, I constantly got criticized by many other kids and my classmates for being Asian because there weren’t that many Asians. So I was constantly bullied and called names, and sometimes I would be called stereotypical names, like, “You’re yellow,” and or anything like that. That was the environment that I grew up in and got used to, so it had a negative impact in my life; it made me feel like I wasn’t part of the majority and was just considered a minority in society.

Q: Did you develop a certain mindset based on your experiences growing up?

A: Well, the only thing was, at that time we were considered as a minority and we were looked down upon [as if] everybody else was better than us. Now the [public] views us much differently, but back then we were looked down upon and many people assumed stereotypes about us [like we are] hardworking and have higher expectations than anybody else and that even as small children we had higher standards than anybody else. I guess my mindset was that I needed to be better than anybody else. I mean, I grew up with autism, so I didn’t have the ability to do so.

Q: What are your views on the various ways people of different races interact at Tino?

A: I feel like the diversity at Tino is really accepting. Tino students are accepting to each other and respect the culture and differences that their friends have. Cupertino is inhabited by tons of Asians — we’re like sixty percent or even eighty percent of the population — so diversity is real, and we respect and love each other, and that is what makes Cupertino special in a way that many other schools aren’t. Cupertino has way more opportunities for you to pursue your passion, like music or computer science. Cupertino is a big family.

Q: Do you notice any drawbacks caused by the large scale of diversity at Cupertino?

A: I wouldn’t say that there are too many drawbacks to the racial diversity here at Tino, particularly [how] there are many different individuals from many different cultures, but sometimes it depends on each person and how they look at people. I think that most Tino students feel and think of others as a unit. In general, we tend to look at things more from the outside than the inside, but we need to look at the world from a broader scope.

Q. Have you witnessed any instances of where racism has still found a place in a community as diverse as Tino?

A: I guess, I mean, racism and stereotypes still exist. However, in the past four years that I been here, I haven’t seen anyone get offended or get called names or make racist remarks to anyone. That’s because Cupertino is a really diverse community and the Bay Area, it isn’t any area for racists to hate. I mean California is a really diverse place and so is Tino, but from my experience I haven’t seen any racist or bad perspectives in our community.

Q: How has your culture shaped you as a person?

A: Even though I am born in America, the way that my culture has shaped me is by helping me know who I am, and know what I take pride in. I’m half Taiwanese and half Cantonese and I take pride being apart of those two and being from my parent’s roots and I’m glad and I’m proud to really carry the labels and that I’m not just someone is just Chinese and has those stereotypical names like “Oh they have high expectations” as I just said and higher expectations than anyone else and many loads of AP work. I try to tell my friends that this isn’t who I am and that Chinese people or Asian people are like this, but they’re not. Many of my friends who go to mostly white schools, I tell them that this isn’t me and that the stereotypes aren’t our culture. My culture I helped shaped my identity. It’s good to be different.

Q: Has it been difficult for you to maintain your cultural identity?

A: Sometimes it has, I mean not particularly in this community because there are their other Asians here too. But I would say that in other communities it is much harder for me to maintain my identity, and assimilate into my culture. People would see me through stereotypes and use me to reach their goals for them.

Q: How has your perspective of race changed over the years?

A: I would say that over the years, my perspective of race has changed, so before I knew what race was, I thought of it as like oppression against minorities,  and it still is today, but it’s more stereotypical racial stereotypes that have really changed the way that I see race and other ethnicities as well my own. Back then it used to be oppression against minority groups, and it still happens today, sometimes I see it getting worse each day like in the news you can see police brutality and everything happening with Black Lives Matter. The way that I see race is that you want to be open about race and you don’t want to cover or hide who you are. Don’t let anyone judge you based on your race or based on what they think of you as a group of a specific race. Now I see race as a good thing that it is diverse and should be encouraged to prosper. I would be more encouraging for others to stand out for your own race no matter, even if anybody calls you weird names. It’s more worth it than standing behind closed doors and fearing your identity. I think it’s time to express who you are and that you shouldn’t be afraid of your own culture.