Letters to Home
My interest in art began at a very young age when I realized that art has the potential to connect people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and languages. I got a first-hand experience of the power of creation while I was growing up in the Bay Area; it was often difficult to communicate with my mom because she spoke limited English, and I spoke limited Cantonese as a child since I was learning English in school. Over time, we both grew and learned each other’s respective languages through crafting together - whether it be art, food, or spending time in the garden we found a way to communicate primarily with gestures and images while teaching each other words and phrases along the way. Because I couldn’t fully connect with my parent’s cultural background and their memories of their home, Hong Kong, and because I was an outcast at school due to my oriental features, I didn’t really feel like I fit in anywhere. To this day, I find myself fascinated by cultures from all over the world and feel a responsibility to fight for equal representation of these ethnicities and cultures so that people don’t grow up feeling as isolated and out of place as I did when I was just a kid.
As we continue to develop as a society in the United States, cultures and ethnicities mix together creating new generations. We are growing more culturally aware of ourselves and the traits that make us unique from each other. For some, these unique traits are points of pride and things that make them proud to be Asian, Black, Mexican, Indian, etc. However, for some these unique traits are points of “purity,” or in other words, traits that make them better than everyone else. This extreme pride in one’s ethnicity that leads to the discrimination of people from other countries is known as xenophobia. While our modern entertainment and news media do not constantly spread racist propaganda, they do not make a conscious effort to have an equal representation of ethnicities and cultures from around the world either. Our media is so “white-washed” that when a person of color is featured on the news, cast in a movie or TV show, or appear in a music video they are more likely to be criticized for the tone of their skin, accent if they have one, and other physical features they have no control over. Although xenophobia is a widespread, global issue, it is still a learned behavior that is passed on with each successive generation - which means that it can be unlearned with time and education.
With this project, I aim to bring awareness to the xenophobic comments and experiences that immigrants and people-of-color suffer on an everyday basis. I decided to present these comments and anecdotes as postcards in the mail because letters and mail are something that we receive whether we like it or not, just like xenophobic comments. The anecdotes and comments I have chosen to be apart of this project were all taken from Twitter but I omitted the user’s icon and username out of respect for their privacy. I chose to pull these experiences from Twitter because it is a social media platform used all around the world, where people speak their minds freely without hesitation. An additional symbol I incorporated into this project is the blue butterflies which represent the migration of people from around the world to the United States. Butterflies migrate from cool temperatures to warm temperatures, the way that people will flee from poor living conditions to a foreign land to seek better living conditions. People will often flee their countries of origin due to poverty, violence, government corruption, etc. and come to the United States to seek out a better lifestyle. However, the deeply rooted xenophobia in our society and the lack of education or exposure of other cultures and ethnicities from around the world are preventing immigrants and people-of-color to feel as though they belong. The title of this piece, “Letters to Home,” represents people-of-color and immigrants explaining the hurt that they have to deal with on a regular basis to our American society. As if to ask, why is our home so filled with hatred, and how can we change it?