This personal submission is a part of the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project, a story series established to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at the UW.
Name: Tey Chao Thach
Major: Master in Social Work and Graduate Student Assistant for Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center
Identity: Khmer Krom
“To be visible is the essence of being a human. Everyone deserves to be acknowledged and recognized.”
“I speak Khmer. Most Khmer Krom people from South Vietnam are bilingual in Khmer and Vietnamese, with Khmer being their first language and Vietnamese their second. Therefore our dialect of Khmer has some Vietnamese loanwords.
Khmer Krom are indigenous people from Southern Vietnam, an area that used to be part of the Khmer Empire. Our brethren are the Khmer people of Cambodia. ‘Krom’ means ‘from below’ referring to our geographical location to the Mekong Delta therefore we are ‘Khmer people from below the Mekong Delta.’
To be honest I don’t mind being asked ‘What are you really?’ It gives me a chance to talk about my ethnic heritage, it gives me a chance to educate about the complexities and diversities within the box of what western culture has label as the ‘Asian’ race.
My personal vision for AAPI communities is to have honest conversations on what is going on in our community, by our community within our community, discussion on how we treat one another across ethnic lines, our complicated histories, our trauma, present day colonization that is happening in Asia right now, prejudices within the Asian community.
There is much dialogue to be had and we must acknowledge we have a lot of issues and things to work on. While I agree that unity is important, things must be broken down and analyzed to be rebuilt for a stronger foundation and for healing. A personal vision for myself is to love people without judgment.”