Preserving cultural heritage is one of the most important contributions that individuals can make — but all too often, the value of a culture is overlooked or is simplified in order to create stereotypes and generalizations about its people.
Preserving Asian cultural heritage in a unique and truthful way requires a lot of work. It requires people from many different ethnic groups and countries to come together and provide their own interpretation of what true Asian culture and history entails.
Currently numbering over 18 million people, Asian Americans make up a substantial part of the U.S. population. Although 2.5 million Asian Americans speak Chinese in the home (making it the second-most common foreign language in the U.S., after Spanish), the majority of Asian Americans today come from a variety of different backgrounds — from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan (just to name the most prominent ethnicities).
Considering that it’s so difficult to narrow down “Asian cultural heritage” in this environment, why are so many people dedicated to the cause of preserving Asian customs and Asian cultural events in the U.S.? Well, for starters…
Because the U.S. is a country built from immigrants
Understanding the cultures of the people who first inhabited the Americas will help unravel the many social issues that permeate the U.S. today.
To reduce xenophobia, which is the fear of or discrimination against people from other countries
Reducing fear of one foreign culture may not directly reduce fear of another culture, but it does have a positive effect in the long run. Once people realize that their earlier fears were inconsequential and inaccurate, they’re more likely to realize that other groups of immigrants and “outsiders” deserve to be understood and accepted.
To understand history
History textbooks will try to tell you that the past is made up of facts; of dates, places, people, and events that can’t be disputed. The truth is a lot more complicated — ever heard of the phrase “History is written by the victors?” There’s usually a lot more under the surface that the “losers” remember and pass on through generations — and it matters just as much.
To have a sense of belonging
Understanding your personal heritage is important for getting a sense of how you, as an individual, can contribute to a larger cause and really make a difference. Additionally, understanding the background of others around you can be even more valuable.
Being able to perfectly define Asian cultural heritage — especially as it exists in the U.S. today — is virtually impossible. Every individual will have a different experience and interpretation, and that is okay! What matters is that we remember that each culture and each experience deserves to be remembered and honored.