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: Priscilla Kyu
Major: Master in Social Work; Co-Founder of Social Work Asian Pacific Islanders (SWAPI) student group
Identity: Burmese Chinese American
“My vision is to live in a world where ALL AAPI communities are heard, embraced, and celebrated.”
“Growing up, I tried to make sense of my ethnic and cultural heritage. Not quite Chinese. Not quite Burmese. Not quite American. I would listen and understand the adults in my family speak Burmese and while I understand, I never learned to speak the language. My father thought there was no benefit to teach me Burmese, that our success would come from speaking English fluently. Little did he expect that today I am taking a Burmese language class here at the UW!
My parents brought their cultural traditions to the U.S. with hope to pass onto their children. For nearly two decades, my mother would deliver her prayers in Burmese for good health and prosperity for my sister and I. As the eldest daughter, it was my task to recite Burmese chants to each of the gods in the home before we could eat.
My mother, second generation Chinese Burmese, was the last of her six siblings to leave Myanmar (Burma) for a better life in the United States. My father, who is ethnically Chinese but was born, raised & educated in Myanmar, could not claim citizenship and therefore could not be employed in higher level occupations that provided sustainable wages.
Recently I was asked, ‘What kind of Asian are you?’ I sensed that while they didn’t mean to be offensive, they certainly came off that way to me. I responded, ‘The way you asked is very disrespectful to me. If you want to know about my heritage, you can ask me about my heritage or how I identify. I think it would only be fair that you share about your heritage in return.’”