This is Eileen Huang and Kalos Chu. You may know Eileen as an accidentally infamous figure on WeChat, and Kalos as the winner of his 7th grade class spelling bee—or, if those don’t ring bells, then probably from the open letters we wrote to the Chinese American community.
We never expected for the letters to explode as they did. The letters have received hundreds of thousands of reads on WeChat, and we’ve heard from journalists, authors, winners of the Civil Courage Prize—but most importantly, from children and their parents. From second-generation Chinese Americans like us, inspired to have these critical discussions for the first time, to first-generation Chinese Americans like our parents, astonished that we actually have something to say.
Not all of the comments were positive. Ranging from “I think you are misguided” to “you are being controlled by the CCP,” there were plenty of people who disagreed with us—and we’re okay with that. In fact, we’re excited about it! Disagreement is a symptom of healthy, democratic discourse, and this was always our primary goal: to get the conversation started, yes, between parents and their children, but also across the entire Chinese American community.
For much of our own lives, we’ve been okay with the conversation never happening to begin with, with limiting dinner table topics to the weather or school or whether the tofu was salty enough. But since these letters have come out, since we’ve heard countless stories of families discussing issues of race and identity and our shared Chinese American history, it’s clear that the conversation has, indeed, begun.
And the thing is, we don’t want the conversation to stop.
To that end, we’re starting “The WeChat Project”—a partnership with Chinese American where we’ll be releasing new articles about conversations we want to start. Given the moment we find ourselves in, these articles will begin with topics like police brutality or mass incarceration, but will eventually include topics like mental health, queer identity, and educational achievement. We’ll publish these articles here, on Chinese American.
And since the core of our project is to facilitate conversation, we’re committed to making sure every article has a direct, accurate, and accessible English/Chinese translation. We also recognize that, for it to be a conversation, we can’t be the only ones speaking. To that end, we’ll be soliciting responses from the community after every article. You must, however, be signed up for the email newsletter in order to respond.
You may think that we’re privileged, ignorant, uninformed, and entitled. We would, obviously, vehemently disagree. But even if we are all of those things, even if we don’t eat enough and play too many video games and never remember to sit up straight, we’re still your children, and we still want to talk to you. It is our hope that you choose not only to respond, but also to do the much harder thing—to listen.
Kalos Chu (firstname.lastname@example.org) Eileen Huang (email@example.com)