When our NC Eat & Play team discussed how we would support AAPI Heritage Month (Asian American Pacific Islander), we knew we had to go beyond the Asian food scene here in North Carolina. This is an important month because the team behind NC Eat & Play is made up of proud Asian Americans and they have great stories and perspectives to share.
With the rise of violence against Asians in our country, we’ve been personally invested in the #stopasianhate movement and working behind the scenes to keep the conversation and action going.
Del Scheitler, our marketing and publishing leader says, “One of the first things that many Asian Americans are dealing with right now is learning how to use our voices. For most of our lives, many of us have acclimated/assimilated into society. Some of us, like Mary Pruter, spend time fighting for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, and injustices, but to fight for Asian voices to be heard and say, “enough!?” That’s a new “wokeness” for many.
Del and Mary share about the “Model Minority Myth”
The myth of the model minority is based in stereotypes.
It perpetuates a narrative in which Asian American children are whiz kids or musical geniuses. Within the myth of the model minority, Tiger Moms force children to work harder and be better than everyone else, while nerdy, effeminate dads hold prestigious—but not leadership—positions in STEM industries like medicine and accounting.
This myth characterizes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding group who have achieved a higher level of success than the general population through some combination of innate talent and pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps immigrant striving.
What’s so bad about the Model Minority Myth?
While most people agree that negative stereotypes of Asian Americans are harmful, some still question the harm of the model minority myth.
What could be so bad about being part of a group that’s seen as being successful? Like all stereotypes, the model minority myth erases the differences among individuals.
Meet our first team member, Mary Pruter
Mary is our web genius. She is the Multimedia Director for an agency she and Del started together that is helping NC Eat & Play grow.
Mary: I am of mixed race, both Filipina and white. As with many I know, my mom married a military man, and not more than a few years we were moved back to the States. I’ve always known I was Filipina. For school parties, I was always requested to bring lumpia. I was surrounded by “aunties” and “uncles,” as we respectfully called elder Filipinos (regardless of actual relation). All the other Filipino kids were my cousins.
Despite being surrounded by a strong Filipino community, I never really learned much about life in the Phillippines. Tagalog was constantly being spoken around us but I never learned. Most kids I know didn’t. I was pushed to embrace being American. My mom and my aunties and uncles all wanted a better life for their children. Assimilation was key to our acceptance and our success.
As an adult, I often think about what would have been different if I learned Tagalog. I wonder how much closer I’d be to my mom being able to have conversations in her native tongue. I keep thinking, one day I’ll learn. One day, I’ll sit and learn the history. I don’t want that part of me to disappear with my mom.
I wish as a kid that I had realized the importance of learning my full history. It feels almost insurmountable now. And I hope with Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, more kids learn that early on.
Why is AAPI Heritage Month so important?
Mary: I think it’s always important to celebrate communities with which you identify with. It can be easy to focus on how non-inclusive things can feel when they happen. And if it happens regularly, cultural celebrations like those during AAPI Heritage Month are a great way to feel renewed and welcomed.
How do you plan on celebrating the month?
Mary: As a creative, I love supporting the arts. I’m a big fan of PBS. They’ve got a great lineup of interesting and engaging stories that tell various AAPI perspectives that I look forward to catching every year.
If you get a chance, I’m looking forward to the story of the Donut King, a Cambodian refugee who built a multi-million-dollar company. I do love donuts. I will also partake in an Asian-Foodie Tour with the team!
What are you doing to contribute to AAPI Heritage Month?
Mary: Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m a big fan of women’s soccer. My team? Of course, NC Courage. Since moving to Raleigh in 2016, I’ve found a new passion for women’s sports once NC Courage came into town.
As the President of The Uproar, one of NC Courage’s most active supporter groups, we are passionate about activism. We are sharing stories and highlighting organizations that are helping AAPI voices be heard and lives be protected.
What is one thing you hope is achieved this month?
Mary: I hope we continue to share good knowledge and love and keep that going. As Del said, we are finding our voices when it comes to our Asian pride. It’s not like we never had it, but finding the confidence to say, “enough!” is empowering when so many voices scream with you. And yes, I’m really looking forward to our Asian-foodie tour!
To learn and share in knowledge together, check out these organizations on the front line.