A friend wrote to me today, asking me how my being Asian affects how I work or think — for a presentation he was giving.
Granted, I was born and raised in the US — so I like to think of myself as no different than any other American. But I know that every group has its own identification of themselves in relation to other groups — diversity is a wonderful thing when called out and celebrated. At RISD we started something called RISDiversity because I believe that communicating the richness of a community’s diversity leads to a stronger community. So I briefly reflected a bit about this notion of being Asian and how that impacts how I might behave, and shared the following:
My one thought would be that we all love the story of the underdog. But specifically the underdog that is humble, and still remains humble even when the unlikely thing happens that s/he succeeds. Because more often than nought, the underdog’s role is to fail. Asian values are about humility — humility is a calming and welcome force in our chaotic world today, I believe.
Humility is always re-ingrained in me when I remember how I am the son of a mom-and-pop tofu maker from Seattle, and I worked along side them as a child. I learned what hard work is about — and it made me realize that no matter how high I might rise professionally, I will never be someone that could have worked as hard as my parents did at the tofu store. They taught me humility, just by being who they were and are.
I feel lucky to know many people of many backgrounds that resonate with my thoughts above … of their parents or relatives or friends. With respect, wonder, and love. And humility. Whether you’re Asian or non-Asian, of course. Human. Being. I figure that covers all of us. -JM