What does it mean to represent, what does it mean to be an American?
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang
Growing up, I was told that my Chinese name means “Victory for China” and I was destined for great things. When I was little, I thought that this meant that I would grow up to represent Taiwan or China in the Olympics. Never mind that I did no sports whatsoever, that I had zero understanding of the Taiwan-China divide, and that I am an American citizen. Still, the Olympics inspire every four years, even for those of us who know nothing about sports.
One of the things I love about the Olympics is how it brings to the foreground amazing images and stories of Asians and Asian Americans — real stories of real people — that transcend the lack of Asian representation in the media and bring people together regardless of race.
When my oldest daughter was in first grade, she and the other Taiwanese American girl in her class were very excited about staying up late (9:00 P.M.!) in order to watch Michelle Kwan ice skate in the Olympics. My daughter’s friend was even planning to invite Michelle Kwan to her upcoming birthday party. The other little girls in their class did not even know who Michelle Kwan was, but by the end of that Olympics, all the girls in that first grade class, regardless of race, were staying up late to watch Michelle Kwan. (Sorry Mrs. S!)
This year, there are so many Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander Olympians telling their stories, revealing the challenges they faced, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic’s anti-Asian American violence.
And I think about what it means to represent, and what it means to be an American.
For Vice President Kamala Harris, protecting voting rights is a priority, especially on the anniversary of civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ death. Asian Americans worked for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well as Section 203, the 1975 amendment requiring bilingual ballots. Today, Asian Americans continue to educate, register voters, get out the vote, and more. Voting is an Asian American issue.
“The right to vote is fundamental,” said Vice President Harris in a statement. “It gives Americans a voice in what happens in our nation—whether that is in our economy or our national security, our education system or our healthcare system. When more people have a voice, our democracy becomes more representative, and our nation becomes stronger.”