Before I began college, my dad told me that I’d end up being friends with those who were like me—that I’d stick to my “own kind.” What he meant was that the people who I’d surround myself with would all be Asian, a stark contrast to my high school best friends. My high school friends were made up of a handful of white boys and one Vietnamese girl, all within a high school class of 450 where I could count all the Asian students on my hands. I didn’t believe him at all. However, as parents often are, he ended up being right, for the most part. I still believe that friendship isn’t something that you can force. My high school best friends are still some of my best friends today. When it comes to being homies, it’s about whether you and another person click! For me, click!-ing with somebody else just seems to be a lot easier for me when I’m with another person of color.
At the core of any good relationship are commonalities, whether that be mutual experiences, upbringings or interests. In terms of the friendships that I’ve made since coming to campus, the majority of them have formed as a result of my involvement with Michigan’s Vietnamese Student Association, pushing myself into the larger Asian/Pacific-Islander American community as a whole. Most of my friends here are Vietnamese. We recognize that a shared cultural understanding exists between us that is essential to how we interact with one another. There’s a certain level of comfort that pervades my interactions with these individuals—it comes with not having to explain certain references or already understanding the things that one another may figuratively and literally bring to the table (see: nước mắm, or fish sauce, for example). We click! a little easier. That doesn’t mean that we are only aware of what makes us similar. What is more important is that we remain open-minded. Comfort should definitely exist within any relationship, but what I cherish more is the ability to learn from our own unique experiences with and beyond those who share our backgrounds.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve introduced myself to others as half-Vietnamese and half-Chinese. I am fully aware that my perspective is not the same as those who may be Asian, Black or Latinx. Despite these differences, I’ve found a sense of unspoken solidarity among my peers of color. We don’t homogenize our identities as “others,” rather we value the unique spaces that we occupy as individuals within our own communities and among people of color as a whole. I believe that we tend to click! more often because we are open to listening and learning and speaking out about how our identities matter. We click! because we’re down for new experiences without judgment or condescension or tokenization. We click! because we know that our identities are distinct and diverse and we know not to treat them with anything less than the utmost respect. When my dad said that I would stick to my own kind, I don’t think that’s entirely true.
We just, y’know...click!