Celebrating Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month
While well-intentioned, it can be perceived as cliché and contrived to spotlight the stories of minorities during a specified month or period of time (like Asisan Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for example). Not because listening to the stories, triumphs, and struggles of marginalized people isn’t invaluable, but because real inclusion requires energy and compassion every day of the year. This is something that we consciously (and constantly) work to deeply engrain into our culture at Yeske Buie, and we value every opportunity to have uncomfortable conversations in pursuit of true equality.
That said, we welcome any opportunity to highlight the special people on our team, and in this space, we feature Assistant Financial Planner, Rachel Shin, and Client Service Administrator, Dorothy Navales, who vulnerably share their thoughts and experiences as Asian and Pacific Islander women in the US and in the financial planning profession. Thank you for being you, Rachel and Dorothy.
Please share a little bit about yourself and your cultural heritage.
“I am a Korean American woman who was born in Orange County, California. My mom was born in Busan, South Korea and lived there until she moved to America at the age of 28. My dad was born in America as my grandparents had moved from Seoul, Korea to start a new life in Orange County. My household was mixed with traditional Korean culture and Korean-American culture which obviously has a lot of overlapping similarities, but differences as well. Korean culture has a huge emphasis on a commitment to family, respect for your elders, and respect for everyone in general. This has had a deep impact on who I am as a person as everything I do and aspire to do is to provide and give back to my family, and one of my deepest values is to respect others and I truly believe I fully live that value in my everyday life.”
“I was born and raised in the Philippines. The cultural heritage of the Philippines is unique as it was influenced by surrounding Southeast Asia, China, Spain, and the US throughout its history. My diverse cultural heritage has shaped me to be an open-minded and understanding person that easily adapts to different environments and embraces people from different backgrounds. Filipinos highly value education as many believe that having a good education provides opportunities that will lead to a more secure future. Parents are willing to make enormous sacrifices to send their children to school rich or poor. Filipinos take pride in their families so whether you are part of the immediate family or belong to the third or fourth generation, you are treated as a family member. Sometimes, even the closest of friends are considered family, too. Filipinos are very resilient. In times of calamities and catastrophes, Filipinos always manage to rise above the challenge. Instead of wallowing, they manage to pick themselves up and look to the optimistic side.”
“One of my favorite Korean traditions happens the morning of New Years day. The entire family gets together to eat a delicious soup called tteokguk for breakfast. This soup is one of my absolute favorites as it has marinated beef, rice cakes, green onions, and is topped with cooked eggs. Eating this soup together with the family and loved ones is believed to grant us good luck for the year! My personal favorite part and a twist my family has added to the tradition is to say something you appreciate from the year before, and what we are looking forward to for the coming year. This has been a tradition in my family since I can remember!”
“Similar to other Asian cultures, the family is the most important social unit in the Filipino society. Cultural traditions include strong respect for the elders and family gatherings to celebrate festivals, birthdays, and reunions. Filipinos help one another without expecting anything in return, so that undertaking their tasks and responsibilities becomes much easier. Filipinos love to sing and dance. This is the reason why karaoke has become so prevalent. As part of our recreation, Filipinos spend quality time with their families belting out new and old songs. It’s part of entertaining and making people welcome to our family.”
What challenges have you experienced because of your heritage? What lessons have you learned from these challenges?
“A challenge I have experienced, along with many other cultures I believe, is the lack of knowledge that surrounds mental health. My family has had a hard time in the past fully understanding when I told them I have anxiety. They thought that maybe I was working too much, just stressed out, or wasn’t getting enough sleep. It wasn’t until they had observed moments of my heightened anxiety where they truly understood that my anxiety was “real.” My parents are amazing people and I love them to death, and I fully understand that mental health was never talked about in almost all Korean households when they were growing up. There was a negative connotation to “mental health” as many people equated that to “being crazy or going crazy.” Because I am able to understand my parents’ upbringing and their lack of knowledge and education in “mental health”, it allows me to practice empathy and explain things to them in a way they can understand and I am so appreciative that they are now open-minded when listening. The biggest lesson I have learned is that although some topics have not been commonly discussed in the household in the past, that does not mean that it always has to be that way going forward. The most important thing is to initiate the conversation while practicing empathy and to be ready to understand where everyone is coming from as everyone is shaped differently based on their past experiences. The more we have these conversations, the more natural it will feel, until it becomes a frequent and reoccurring conversation.”
“The Philippines’ cultural heritage takes pride in hard work and strives to make life better for the family and the next generation. However, the culture tends to be relatively passive and that can sometimes be a challenge in our modern society. None the less, we learn to be resilient and always manage to rise above the challenge.”
What do you hope to see in workplaces and social communities to more fully embody a culture of inclusion?
“What I would love to see in the workplace is a continued push to hire people from underrepresented backgrounds. I would love to see more people who look like me in all sorts of positions in various companies. To live in a world where it’s common to see people of color and of diverse backgrounds in positions of power or running successful companies is something I am passionate about, and furthering that objective is one of my missions. I believe that social communities should push to celebrate the traditions and the important events of our cultures and make it a safe place for people of color to simply be, and to have the opportunity to express themselves fully and freely.”
“Over the past two years, it has been disheartening to see the rise of hate crimes targeting the Asian American community in response to the Covid pandemic. With that being said, I’m hopeful as I watch the communities of which I’m a part have been working to build awareness and shed light on these challenges so that we can all continue to work to find common ground. When we can connect, we can grow together. And sharing our stories is a big part of building connection with each other.”
Thank you for taking the time to engage with us on this topic, and many thanks to Dorothy and Rachel for their openness and vulnerability. We so value the opportunity to continue building a community that believes in diversity, inclusion, and equality, and we all reap the benefits of having so many different perspectives on our team and in our community. The future is bright – Live Big!