Here Is My Story


“Yellow.” When you hear that, what do you associate it with? A color, happiness, or the sun, right? Not for me, it is rather used as a racial word. Using it would be like painting our skin with a sickly, mustard sheen or writing a nasty word on our foreheads. “Yellow” has long been considered noxious. Black is described as the color of an African American person. White is described as of an Caucssain person. When yellow is said to an Asian American then it’s used towards the color of our skin. The same when people pull the corner of their eyes and make fun of our slanted eyes. If you aren’t born in America or have lived here long enough then you are made fun of for your accent. If you are not born in America then you are told to “go back to where you came from.” Because I am not Caussain I am looked at differently by others. You haven’t heard my battles or what my mother went through to live her life as well as her future family in the free land of America. So, before you are quick to judge me, here is my mother’s struggles as well as part of mine.

In August 1981, my mom’s family of nine migrated from Vietnam and landed in Independence, Missouri. She and her siblings did not speak, write, or read a word of English. She was the middle child out of seven. The church sponsored her family since they were so large, and no relatives would take them in. They gave them food, clothing, and other donations. Relying on a government assistant was not enough for a family of nine, even with the church’s help. 

The winter of 1981, my mom and her mom would walk to the grocery store just so they could provide food for the family. Not only did they struggle to learn English, but winter was new to them. Where they came from there was no snow. My mom remembers being bullied by passersby. They would say hurtful things, such as, “You don’t belong here. Go back to Vietnam where you came from.” Then they would drive their cars fast to splash dirty snow on them. After several years, the bullying eventually stopped.

In 1983, my mom’s family moved to Kansas City, Kansas. She was 13 entering 8th grade. There was more diversity there and there were more opportunities so she was a cheerleader for her school. She was petite and lightweight, so she was always on the top of the pyramid. She had two best friends, May and Mia. May was from the Hmong tribe in Northern Laos. She does not speak Laotian but did speak English, so it was a good way for my mom to practice her English. On weekends they would play in the empty park behind the complex among other Asian kids. 

Mia was my mom’s protector. She and her family lived in a house across the housing complex. My mom’s entire 8th grade year, my mom was bullied by a girl named Angie. Angie was big, wide, loud with short blonde hair. All three of them were in a math class together. They did not have an assigned seat, so at the beginning of the class Angie would always sit behind her and pull her hair or “accidentally” bump into her or call her “chink” and be told “chink go back where you came from”. One day Mia saw Angie pulled her hair so hard that my mom almost fell backwards. Mia rushed in and punched Angie’s face. Luckily the teacher was not in the classroom since class had not started yet. After Angie got punched, Mia whispered something in Angie’s ear. My mom doesn’t know what Mia said to Angie, but she stopped bullying her except the occasional dirty smirk when Angie saw her in the hallway or in math class.

Towards the end of the eight grade, sadly, Mia moved away to Lawrence, Kansas. She moved because her parents got tired of driving for work from Kansas City to Lawrence and her brother wanted to start college at the University of Kansas (KU). She often wonders where May and Mia are at in life.

Several years later, my mom had a family of her own and enrolled in Baker University. It took her 18 long years to get her Master of Business Administration degree. After she graduated school in May 2010, she received a job offer right away from Wells Fargo, a fortune 500 company in St. Louis. They had offered her to be an IT Analyst. That’s when she knew she had fulfilled her promise that she had made at a very young age to better herself. 

That’s when she took my sister Ailaya and I four hours away to a two bedroom apartment in Valley Park, all as a single mother. Right away, I started 1st grade at Valley Park Elementary School, while my sister started 7th grade at Valley Park Middle School. 

In elementary school, I had to take a separate class from everyone because English isn’t my first language. It was called ESL, English as a Second Language. There were others like me that weren’t very good at English, and we would have to take an hour of that class every day. Each year we had to take a course test to see if we could pass and “graduate” from the class. I never passed the five years I lived at Valley Park, so I was stuck in there. 

I was bullied throughout all five years I lived there. I was constantly being told that I don’t belong there and was told “to go back where I came from” or made fun of my eyes being slanted and excluded from groups. I tried to talk to the counselors but all they would tell me was “ignore them and it will eventually be over.” They were no help and neither were most of the teachers. 

I remember my fifth grade teacher didn’t like me. At the beginning of the year she did, but not towards the middle. She would treat kids differently from me. She would be all bubbly towards others and smiley, but when she spoke to me her voice dropped and she became straight faced. She would rarely help me with work when I needed it. I’m thankful that I had friends in there so I would rely on them or my first and third grade teachers. Mrs. Ellis (first) and Mrs. Gritten (third) were definitely my favorites. 

Every summer, after school is out, I go visit my dad back in Kansas. After coming back from my dad’s in the fifth grade, my mom told my sister and me to throw away things that we don’t need and pack. She told us that we were moving in with Jason, my mom’s boyfriend of 7 years now, in O’Fallon. Although my life was kind of miserable , I was still upset that I had to leave the home I spent most of my life in. 

Within a two week span, Ailaya and I had packed our lives up. The four of us drove to a condo in O’Fallon and that’s when I started 6th grade at Fort Zumwalt South. I will say that the staff and students were amazing. No one treated me like any different from others. I don’t keep in contact with anyone that I met at FZS, but I still have them on social media. Although I spent such little time there, it was much better than Valley Park. 

A year later, my mom wanted a lake house, so that’s how I got to Potosi. While we were still living at the condo, my mom told me to pack my bags before I went to my dad’s because “the carpet cleaners were coming.” Me being me, I believed her and packed my things in boxes and trash bags. 

I went to my dad’s for two months for the summer as usual. My mom then told me I had to come home a week early to spend time with Jason’s parents. Of course I fought to stay with my dad since I only saw him once, maybe three times a year if I’m lucky. I then eventually said okay since they were old and we don’t see them much as well. During that week, without me knowing, my mom and Jason had taken all of our things to our new home. Once the week was over, Jason’s parents told me that “we have to stop by one of our friends to get fishing gear.” I said “okay” and then we took an hour ride to their “friend’s house.”

An hour later, we ended up in Terre Du Lac at Lac Shayne. All three of us got out of the truck and they told me to knock on the door, which I did. Next thing you know, my mom opens the door and welcomes me in with a big “hello!” I was caught by surprise and was shocked. She started giving me a house tour. She drug me up, down, and around the home for about 30 minutes showing me every little thing. 

In 2016, I started 7th grade at John Evans Middle School and began a new life. My first friend was Madeline Bradley. She came up to me and asked if I was new. I answered and we hung out with each other around school for a while and she introduced me to all of her friends. I didn’t notice much diversity, but I found my way around. I was always comfortable with anyone I met and constantly made jokes with them: like how I was so short, how I talked fast, how people constantly asked how tall my parents were, etc.

Those jokes never bothered me because I was so used to hearing them. One day someone mentioned something about my skin tone and how it was “yellow.” I wasn’t bothered by it but when several people said it or people would pass me a yellow crayon or marker, it slowly got to me. I can’t blame anyone too much since I never spoke up, but eventually the joke got old and stopped.

After the long two years, I finally made it to high school. Everyone knows me now. Well, at least the part that I show. Potosi High School has treated me like any other human being. I have made so many memories and made so many friends that I would never trade the world for. I’m thankful for everyone who has come in and out of my life. I have learned several life lessons here that I will use for the future. I know if I ever need help or advice in the future, I could reach out to a handful of teachers.

So I ask again, when you hear “yellow” what do you associate with? When used to describe race or ethnicity in the United States, the term “yellow” invokes an ugly past of abusive and legally covered racism directed at Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other East Asian Americans. That term is not what defines me, what defines me is everything that I’ve endured and have overcome.