Skip To Main Content

Custom Class: search-overlay-container

Find it fast

Custom Class: header-container

Custom Class: header-breadcrumb

Custom Class: hightlights-container

May DEIJ Reflection: Celebrating the Diversity of Ethnicities

May DEIJ Reflection: Celebrating the Diversity of Ethnicities
Asian, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Desi Heritage Month at TAS, we celebrate the wide range of different ethnicities, nationalities, and identities of persons from the continent of Asia and islands in the Pacific Ocean and the diaspora of people who have traveled from there. As we touched on at the beginning of the month, AANHPIDA is an umbrella racial term, and not all people from this Asia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, identify with this acronym. As with all identities, people should have the right to self-identify. 

This month, we are sharing reflections from faculty members of AANHPID heritage. We began this exercise by thinking about how they celebrate their identities, especially while living in Taiwan, and quickly discovered that the complexity of their identities and experiences are inextricably tied to how they understand themselves, the experiences they have had, and how they celebrate their heritage with their family.   

Thank you for your partnership as we seek to understand and uplift the diverse identities in our community. I hope the reflections shared below are thought provoking for you.    

As you read, consider the following questions: 

  • How does this story align with my own experiences of my complex identities?  
  • When have I felt like I was, or wasn’t, fully celebrated by others? 
  • If a friend or family member came to me with a similar story about the complexity of their identity, how might I react? 
  • What emotions did I notice first while reading these reflections? 


From Kim Dang, Middle School Classics & Latin Teacher

"My identity as an Asian-American woman is a rich blend of the vibrant cultures of my heritage and the unbreakable spirit of the strong women who have shaped my life.  

I was born in Boston, the historic birthplace of the American Revolution.  This setting imbued in me a deep appreciation for the values of freedom and resistance that define my identity as American.  My home city was also a center of the women’s suffrage movement in U.S. history, and is today governed by Michelle Wu, a Taiwanese-American woman, the first woman and first non-white person to have been elected mayor of Boston.  

Growing up Asian-American in Boston, a predominately white city, led me at an early age to encounter and combat society’s stereotypes as well as peoples’ assumptions.  Despite facing prejudice in my own country, I found a sense of belonging in my school community, where most of my peers were also the children of immigrants.  We hoped that some day, our ancestors’ journey on refugee boats would be regarded with the same reverence as the passage of the Mayflower pilgrims.

My parents came to Boston as refugees from Vietnam.  They struggled daily to start a new life where they had nothing and new nobody.  Yet, they not only survived, but thrived.  Though they were forced to leave their home country, they brought with them our family’s legacies of grit and perseverance.  They also brought joyful traditions of Vietnamese culture, from celebrating Tet holiday to growing fruits and vegetables in the yard of our very own house.

I have always been inspired by the experiences and stories of the remarkable women in my family.  From my mother and many aunties, I learned about resilience, compassion, and unwavering strength.  The sacrifices they made for me and our family are too many and too tragic to count.  As a child, I read about the legendary Trung sisters, who fought successfully to abolish foreign rule in Vietnam, and imagined that my mother and her sisters inherited their warrior spirit from the Trung.  I am truly grateful that they have passed this spirit down to me.

In embracing my identity as Vietnamese and American, I honor the legacies of the strong women who have come before me and the values of overcoming barriers, resilience, and determination that define both cultures."

From Andrea Dethy, Middle School Performing Arts & Dance Teacher

"Fluidity of Identity: A Personal Experience

Identity is a multifaceted concept shaped by personal experiences, cultural heritage, and the environments we inhabit. My journey of self-discovery and identity fluidity is rooted in a diverse cultural background and enriched by a lifetime of experiences across multiple continents.

My father moved from Shanghai to Taiwan, and my mother is a 10th-generation immigrant from Fujian. My husband's Canadian roots, with grandparents from Belgium and Scotland, add another layer of complexity to our family's identity. Together, Michael and I are raising two boys in a blend of Eastern and Western cultural influences.

Growing up, I was often asked, "Are you Chinese or Taiwanese?" This question is laden with historical and political nuances. While my heritage is Chinese, my upbringing in Taiwan gave me distinct cultural traits and a unique sense of identity.

My identity evolved as I traveled for studies and work, adapting to different cultural norms and integrating new cultural practices into my own sense of self. Living in different countries exposed me to diverse perspectives, helping me appreciate the fluid nature of identity. Each professional experience required me to navigate cultural differences and find common ground with colleagues from diverse backgrounds.

Our family embodies Chinese, Taiwanese and Canadian cultures, teaching our children to embrace their diverse heritage. We ensure our children learn about their heritage through stories, traditions, and languages from both sides of the family. We celebrate a variety of cultural festivals, providing our children with a broader perspective and encouraging them to value diversity. By attending international schools, our boys interact with peers from various backgrounds. Living on different continents has shaped their adaptability and resilience, allowing them to appreciate diverse social dynamics.

It's fascinating to watch our boys shape their own identities, shifting naturally depending on their location and social context. Our boys seamlessly adapt to cultural norms, developing an ability to blend in and feel at home in any setting.

The fluidity of identity is an ongoing journey, constantly reshaped by new experiences. My multicultural background, enriched by global experiences, has taught me that identity is a continuous journey of self-discovery. Watching our boys navigate their own identity journeys with fluidity and openness is inspiring, underscoring the richness of our multicultural heritage. Embracing this fluidity has allowed me to forge a unique and multifaceted identity that I am proud to pass on to my children."

From Pana Asavavatana, Lower School Technology & Design Coach

"I was born to a Thai mother and a Thai-Chinese father in Evanston, Illinois, but my early years were spent moving around due to my father's career. By age five, we relocated to Australia, Singapore, and finally, the Philippines, where I spent most of my childhood and adolescence. In Manila, I learned the local language and customs. For example, greeting elders involved a kiss on the cheek called "beso-beso," or performing "mano," a gesture where one brings their forehead to touch the back of an elder’s hand as a sign of respect. Respect was a fundamental part of my upbringing, shaping my identity deeply.

Each time I walked through the doors of my home, I adapted to Thai customs and tuned into what respect meant in this setting. This involved using appropriate tones and volumes when speaking, depending on the context and whom I was speaking with, and performing the "wai" greeting. In Thailand, respect is nuanced and multifaceted. For example, you lower your body slightly when passing by people to avoid interrupting them. The "wai" itself is an art form, with specific details regarding speed, hand position, and body posture that convey the depth of your respect. Additionally, understanding how to present yourself through dress is a significant non-verbal sign of respect. The way you dress and present yourself reflects how much you respect yourself and the care and gratitude you have toward the host of an event. This intricate gesture reflects one's respect for others and oneself.

As an adult, my career led me to various countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan. My upbringing as an expat made me naturally seek out and adapt to new cultures, understanding the importance of respect in each Asian society I encountered. Interestingly, being an Asian expat in Asian countries often led to assumptions that I was a local who inherently understood the language and customs. When it became clear that I wasn't entirely local, I still faced different expectations because of my Asian heritage.

Growing up in the Philippines, I often feel a special connection when meeting Filipinos, though I've sometimes felt "not enough" in my cultural understanding. For instance, at a conference, I found myself in conversation with a group of Filipino educators. When I shared that I had grown up in the Philippines I was asked about my knowledge of Filipino culture. My answers seemed insufficient to qualify me as "one of them." This experience reflects a broader sense of not being "enough" in any particular Asian culture, whether in Thailand or other Asian countries. I've come to accept that my Asian identity is uniquely mine—a blend of Thai, Filipino, Chinese, and American, shaped by my diverse experiences."