As a first-generation immigrant, I recognize the struggle that all immigrants face when integrating into American society. I was born in war-torn Laos and emigrated from a refugee camp in Thailand to the United States.
When we first arrived in this country, neither of my parents could speak, read, or write English. Growing up poor and Asian in the Fox River Valley in Wisconsin and in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War was tough. The city we lived in was so small that we were some of the first Asian faces to ever live in that community.
Living in a new country, surrounded by a new culture, and speaking a new language was tough, and the feeling that you don't belong made it tougher.
Despite this, I embraced my new home, went to school, and even joined the Girl Scouts. However, I still didn't understand why people treated me differently. Why my family would often get called "chink" or "gook," and were often blessed with showers of spit or trash as we walked to school.
In the words of my mother, "No matter how American we become, we will never be able to change the shape of our eyes, the texture of our hair, and the color of our skin--someone, somewhere, will never like you because of the way you look."