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Embracing the Language of Power

Written By: Kevin Tan on July 30, 2008 No Comment

My path to literacy has been a relatively smooth one, if you define literacy by the Western notion of being able to read and write. I was born into a family speaking primarily English, and it is no surprise that my English is virtually flawless. You would never be able to tell if I was a first-generation Asian American or a fifth-generation Asian American, but in personal introspection I have realized that I gave up a cultural and ancestral literacy to gain mastery in the language of power.
My actions are justified from a utilitarian approach, simply because there is little additional benefit to knowing Mandarin Chinese in the United States besides personal satisfaction. Society typecasts unfortunate individuals who do not know English as stupid, dumb, ignorant, or all of the above. But from the perspective of pride in your own ancestral background, not knowing your parents and your ancestor’s language, culture, and custom can also be construed as the greatest example of ignorance. Blindly following society’s mandates results in an individual’s loss of self-worth and significance. It is not a coincidence that those who embrace their cultural heritage have a robust, strong sense of pride and confidence in their abilities, the very same characteristics that America holds in the highest regard.
I now realize the importance of rediscovering one’s past and embracing both historical past, present, and future. It may be a difficult task to retain the language of power in America while searching for my ancestor’s proud Chinese legacy, but if we cannot take pride in our lineage, what can we really take pride in?

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