Chinese-American actor and author, BD Wong, spoke at Fountain Street Church on December 4 in a talk titled: Racial Self-Image and the Model Minority Myth. The event was sponsored by Grand Rapids Community College as part of the Diversity Lecture Series.
The audience consisted of BD Wong fans. Everyone was interested in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and his other work. But that didn’t stop Wong from talking about what matters most to him–family. Wong recounted his upbringing to the audience and his struggle as an Asian-American man. He talked about how his parents were “constantly afraid of losing [part of their] culture.”
Wong talked about his son, the balance between Asian and American cultures, the support of his teacher and mentor to become an actor, and his journey of self-discovery especially when he realized he was gay.
I was disappointed to see a sea of faces that could not relate to the Asian-American struggle. There was a Q&A session after Wong spoke. The questions ranged from what BD stood for, the shows he was in, and his homosexuality. My question was the only one related to race and the model minority myth.
I learned a lot that evening. I learned that there’s no clear answer for how to balance the Asian and American cultures. I asked Wong how he would keep the Chinese culture alive for his son. He doesn’t have a Taiwan to visit like I did; his parents were 2nd generation Americans. I spent two years, almost three in Taiwan. What I learned from Wong is that you are who you are regardless of ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation. Everyone is as unique as their fingerprints and there will be stereotypes but you do not have to be ruled by them. Work with the stereotypes to work for you, not against you. And the most important lesson is to be proud of your background, your identity, and express yourself fully in that capacity.