fter years of sleep-deprivation, hobo chic and ramen dinners, you've arrived! You're behind a walnut desk, backed up by a wall of framed sheepskins, hanging with colleagues in Armani and Prada, or at least Banana Republic fitted T's and Von Dutch jeans. Beware! You are now a prime candidate for identity amnesia. You know, where you start forgetting the people and things that made you who you are and sustained you through your long climb.
You're tempted to shuck off the messy hodgepodge of your past and remake yourself from whole cloth, preferably English lambs wool and Egyptian cotton, or maybe Irish linen and Italian leather.
Here are 10 great reasons to resist that temptation and get back in touch with who you are, a glorious by-product of the clash of two (or three, or four...) rich and dynamic cultures.
10. Asian food is hip.
Who dishes dirt over pasta or medium-rare T-bone steaks any more? Who cuts deals over paté-de-foie-gras or prosciutto and cheese any more? It's dim sum, baby! It's kalbi and sushi and pho! Do you want to be the Asian American known for sharing dusty little French or Italian places with colleagues who are dying to squeeze into that cool new sushi bar or that hot dim sum palace? Just how irrelevant do you want to become? Pick up power points by positioning yourself as the soju-sipping guru to colleagues eager to master chopsticks and the pronunciations of entrées in hole-in-the-wall Asian specialty restaurants.
9. Link your image to global business growth.
Chinese consumers, Japanese capital, Corean production technology, southeast Asian labor — that's where the action is in the strategic plans of the people who hired you. They're hoping you have solid ties to your ancestral culture and homeland and will be able to give them the inside track in seizing upcoming business opportunities. Don't pop their balloon by coming across as a WASP wannabe.
8. Be the centerpiece of your own interior decor.
As you progress in your career and life, the decorative objects you accumulate will send a clear message to all. There's nothing wrong with acquiring an occasional random conversation piece, but there's something goofy about looking like an alien in one's own crib. What kind of Asian American surrounds herself with English fox-hunting scenes on green felt or Louis XIV knockoffs? There's a good reason why art and antique dealers sell their best pieces to successful members of the culture from which they originate. By taking an active interest in your identity, you will naturally come to inhabit an environment that reinforces — not undercuts — who you are.
7. Enjoy the protection of your natural constituency.
Yes, I know — you strive to be colorblind in all your dealings. Wonderful. So do most of us. That doesn't change the fact that the world is full of opportunists who seek sneaky advantage by exploiting racial prejudice.
If you do become the target of racial opportunists, your best protection is the natural affinity of other Asian Americans. Remember how Asians of all nationalities rallied when Mike Woo's L.A. City Council seat was threatened by a cynical redistricting scheme? Remember how Hubert Vo's 33-vote victory survived a heated challenge thanks to vocal support from Texas's Asian voters?
You don't even have to be a politician to appreciate the power of your racial constituency. Remember how Asian Americans rallied to win freedom for Wen Ho Lee, the Chinese American scientist unjustly accused of spying? Remember how the Asian community pushed for jail time for Vincent Chin's killers? There are many more instances of grave injustices being prevented or remedied through Asian American solidarity. When the chips are down, other Asians may well be the only ones willing to come to your defense. The higher you climb, the more important is this protection.