Eddie Huang’s Fight for Asian Rights

Eddie Huang speaking at a Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month event. (Photo via World Journal)

Eddie Huang wears many hats. The lawyer turned founder of Baohaus, a New York restaurant specializing in savory Taiwanese steamed buns, won fame with his book “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir” (which was turned into an ABC hit series). But Huang told World Journal on May 16 that whatever he does, he always talks about the issues Asian Americans face, always complains, always is loud and always demands more. The reason? “I don’t need others to like me, but I need them to see me. I want equal rights for Asian Americans,” said Huang.

In an interview during Macy’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month ceremony, where Huang was a guest, the chef and writer recalled some emotional moments during the writing of “Fresh Off the Boat.” He said when he was in third grade, he asked his mother to prepare him a lunch like the white children’s because he didn’t want his classmates to mock him over the food. When he wrote about the memory as a 29-year-old, it still brought tears to his eyes.

“I was not upset for my own suffering. As a 29-year-old adult, when I looked back, I imagined if I had a child, and I had to work hard to bring food to him. But he didn’t respect the food I made and didn’t respect the culture I wanted him to inherit. When I thought about this, I couldn’t help wonder how my mom survived this,” said Huang, who choked while he was talking. “I really did tell my mom that ‘I don’t want to be Chinese’.”

Huang said once when he waited in a line to microwave his lunch, he was pushed to the ground by a white child who called him “Ching.”

“That was the first time I was called this word,” said Huang. “It was also a message from the universe that no matter whether you like it or not, you are Chinese. You have to face this. You have to either learn to be a proud Chinese by yourself or others will teach you to do so.”

With a foot in the entertainment industry, Huang said Asians have to make splashes in the entertainment and media fields, and quality is more important than quantity.

As for “Crazy Rich Asians,” the movie that has attracted broad attention even before its release because of its all-Asian A-list cast, Huang said he doesn’t like the movie itself. “If the audience takes it as the Asian ‘Black Panther,’ they’ll be disappointed,” Huang said. But he said he likes the cast, especially Awkwafina, the Chinese- and Korean-American rapper. “She is never afraid of being herself, and never tries to shape herself according to the expectations of others,” said Huang. “Awkwafina is Awkwafina. That’s what makes her unique.”

Huang said compared to “Crazy Rich Asians,” he likes “Better Luck Tomorrow” more. He said there were quite a few all-Asian and influential films before. He said Asians should make their voices in entertainment be heard through high-quality work, and quality is more important than quantity.

Huang also shared his view on the controversy caused by the white girl who wore a Chinese traditional cheongsam dress to her prom. He said Asian Americans grow up discriminated against in American society, and Chinese who have never had this experience won’t understand.

“Children going to school in China have never been mocked because their lunch is stinky and their eyes are small. And I had people throw sunflower seeds at me when I played basketball at school,” said Huang. “We had too much pain. And we cannot accept white people wearing traditional Chinese clothes after we had been mocked for many years. This is like someday white people get up and say: ‘Hey, I hope we are friends now. I want to wear your traditional dress.’ Sorry, I am not ready yet.”

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