Laura Chi Hood '91: Asian American History IS American History
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
It's the perfect time for us to help level up AAS at Stanford
Growing up in a conservative suburb of Houston, TX, I was keenly aware of my Asian American dual-universe existence - one in an "all-American, overachiever" academic universe and the other in a traditional Chinese home where speaking to my parents in English was never an option.
As a young child, I thought that Asians didn't "count" as American because I rarely saw any representation on TV. Kate Jackson, the actress who played Sabrina on "Charlie's Angels", looked kind of Asian, so naturally, she was my favorite. The variety show revolving around Japanese pop duo "Pink Lady" in 1979 gave me some hope, but, alas, it only lasted 6 episodes. I didn't realize how important Asian representation was until I saw "The Joy Luck Club" on a big screen. A long 25 years passed before any of us saw another big US studio film with an Asian cast. I will 100% always stop to watch "Crazy Rich Asians" when I see its listing as I scroll through channels.
During my 2-year stint as a Theme Associate at Okada House, the Asian American themed dorm, I saw many common threads of Asian American experiences among my fellow classmates. I also learned about the long history of Asian Americans in the US, a history that I didn't know existed until I got to Stanford. I hadn't heard about the hardships of late 1800's/early 1900's Asian immigrants on the West Coast or the Chinese Exclusion Act until I was cast in a production of Genny Lim's "Paper Angels" as part of a revival of the Asian American Theater Project in 1988. I remember watching "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" as part of Residential Education in Okada, the Asian American Theme Dorm. It left me in tears and disbelief.
Over the 30 years since graduating, my participation in Asian American activities in the Seattle area waxed and waned, depending on how busy life was at the time. Sprinting on the treadmill of high tech in the '90s left me fuzzy memories of long hours in the office, crazy ship parties, and little time (I'm terrible at work/life balance) for much of anything else.
This on-going pandemic imposed a harsh, involuntary slow down of life as we know it. Quarantining stripped away extraneous noise so we could take a good look at our priorities. Like everyone else, I'm tired, and it's not just because we all have to navigate the new COVID normal. I'm tired of feeling "othered". I'm tired of worrying about my elderly parents as they go about their daily errands. I'm tired of not seeing more diverse leaders where laws are being created for the whole population. We need a seat at the table! *I* know Asian Americans played/play a big part in making the US successful; I also know that the majority of people do not have this knowledge. I believe that our country is ready to learn about its multifaceted history, from unique perspectives. I want to see new generations of leaders who understand the full depth of how America was built and how the Asian American experience fits into it! This is why I'm supporting the Stanford Asian American Endowment Initiative.
Laura Chi Hood
Stanford BA Psychology '91, Communication '91
Co-founder, Undergraduate Chinese American Association (UCAA)
Theme Associate, Okada House, Asian American Theme Dorm