My name is Jon — and this is my story.
I grew up in Asia. I was born in Thailand, grew up in Taiwan, spent a few months in Korea…then I moved to the suburban New York in the 7th grade.
Moving to America wasn’t easy. Well I thought it was. I thought every kid went through what I did. It was only a year or so ago when I realized that this was not the case.
Luckily I spoke English, but fitting in was difficult. I made lots of friends, but I never felt like I truly fit in.
Fast forward a few years until I started taking a deeper dive into the professional world. There were lots of incongruities between my personal cultural upbringing and the people around me.
I’m entering the advertising industry which isn’t really known for the diversity. Entering the job market and realizing that applying with my name on my resume as “Jon Park” rather than “Jung Min Park” gave me more call backs – opened my eyes to the realities of this industry.
There are no industry leaders or CEO’s that looked like me that I could look up to. I didn’t know anyone who would’ve warned me about the challenges I’d face. All I had was me and my family, and my friends who’ve supported me along this journey.
I remember during one of my internships, being completely unaware of how to conduct myself in the workplace and how I should be speaking with my boss. I know it’s not a huge deal, but it was really stressful at the time for me.
I put professionals on pedestals and expected to listen more than to question. It was just how I was raised. Speaking up during meetings is still a personal challenge.
Calling my boss by her first name was insane to me – and breaking the professional boundary and getting to know your coworkers on a personal level was another shock. Of course, I eventually got used to it, but I still find it difficult fitting in, laughing at the same jokes, or just clicking with my coworkers.
But those issues are minuscule in comparison to the representation of Asian Americans in this industry. We often buy into the myth of being the model minority and have become complacent about our cultural struggles.
I remember the middle school ridiculing and name calling after the Virginia Tech Rampage – I remember the straight disrespect people gave to my father who didn’t understand certain cultural nuances. I remember feeling closed-off, unwanted, and insecure because all my hard work and talents were minimized and reduced to me just being Asian.
I’ve chosen to block out these memories for so long because I thought everyone went through this – and thought that this was normal. Only when I joined a diversity program, I realized that these issues were real and the system was against us.
I could be here shaking my fist and continue to say that life is unfair. But that’s not my purpose with this blog. It is to generate awareness and spark that fire to tell all Asian Americans out there that it is okay to speak up against discrimination. We have to wear our culture with pride and continue to fight for unity, equality, and acceptance. We all have what it takes – and it’s being brave enough to step forward and pave the way for those to follow.