Carolyn Quan Lee (TRANSCRIPT ONLY)

[00:00:00] I just so I can test the levels real quick before we talk. Could you just tell me you. Your full name and what you had for breakfast this morning.

[00:00:10] Carolyn Kwan Lee and I had yogurt and fruit and hot tea.

[00:00:17] Thank you so much. And before you began I’d just like to sort of I know I know Dmae brought you here to record this interview but I just want to get it sort of made clear that that you had permission to record this interview and edit and use it to use it in this documentary.

[00:00:32] Lee: Yes. You have my permission.

[00:00:35] Alan: Appreciate that. Oh so my first question is how did how does the idea of the model minority affect your own life.

[00:00:46] Lee: That’s a very interesting question because at a young age it was a good thing right. And just like assimilation was a good thing. And the model minority meant that yes you stood out in a positive way but there are a lot of bad things that can come out of that because you are saying that you have to be a certain way and you’re still pigeonholing people. Rather it’s whether it’s a good one or a bad one it’s still pigeonholing and it’s and it’s profiling and it has people make assumptions of me there. They look at me and they think that I’m this nice compliant little not little but a woman now. But and then when I start talking and they hear me hear me raise me and my wife says oh you’re really passionate and so wow you’re not like. And then they just stop. Right.

[00:01:42] So yeah I think when I was younger it was again a positive thing. But certainly as I become an adult it isn’t it isn’t it isn’t positive at all. It’s still a negative because you’re pigeonholing people and that is just not a good thing.

[00:02:07] Alan: And so do you still feel you mentioned this really would you still feel pigeonholed.

[00:02:10] No.

[00:02:14] Lee: I think somewhat. Yes. Yes I do want me to expand on that. I mean people always ask Oh and I make a joke now because people are always saying oh I bet you’re really good at math.

[00:02:35] I have I have family members that are all you know engineers. But that’s not me. I’m the other way I was I became a journalist also. And and but people always made this assumption that I must be good at math because of the way I look because I’m Asian because I’m that model minority and I’m not.

[00:02:57] Alan: What is your own background growing up what was your perception and experience with members of the African-American community.

[00:03:10] Lee:What was my experience and….

[00:03:12] Alan: Like you know where did you grow up. Were a lot of African-Americans where you grew up what what did you what were you raised to. You were trying to just get like a sort of anti-black s within API communities. But it’s different for everybody. Like right right depends on where you grew up what your values were growing up and who you grew up with. I’m wondering what was what was your context.

[00:03:32] Lee: Growing up. I grew up in Northeast Portland and I went to Parkrose high school and actually we really well first of all it was back then. Unlike now it was very white in that neighborhood and there were there were a few Asians scattered here and there and a few black African-Americans.

[00:04:03] And as you know. When I was in high school we were in a play and a musical called West Side Story and most people have probably heard of that and pretty much everyone was white except for a couple of people. And I was one of the cast members and they partnered me with biracial African-American young man. So we were the only two people of color and then they put us together so it was back then it was it was. I remember kind of laughing Oh yeah well I guess it makes sense because we’re both you know from non-dominant culture. I didn’t say non-dominant and culture but we’re both minorities.

[00:04:46] But you know when you think about that that’s that’s pretty racist doing that.

[00:04:55] Alan: Were you raised. So for my for myself for example you know and I grew up in a different place and different time but like I basically had certain images of what African-Americans were like whether it’s like being told one of his California like don’t go to Oakland or like don’t or you know rap music is like this bad thing you know like like being raised with certain ideas of what African-Americans are like. I’m not suggesting that everyone has had that experience but I guess what I’m trying to get at is like what are what are the ways that anti blackness exists within API communities in your own experience. Or maybe maybe it hasn’t been your experience you know and like I I do want to say what been like.

[00:05:36] Lee: Well growing up I have it it’s pretty much a rainbow we have my Jewish uncle and I have the African-American uncle and an African-American cousin. Well my my Asian cousin married an African-American man so I consider him my cousins. And they’ve been married for over 30 years and so I guess we’ve really interwoven. And also there’s a few people from the dominant culture going there too. Yes. And I think maybe that could be atypical maybe not this day and age. But when I grew up maybe that was a little bit less so. And I know that there were some of the elders in the family that would have negative things to say but they’d have a negative and negative things to say about whether you were born in the old country or you know or whatever. And anyone who is different from an American born Chinese. Let’s see. When you ask me something else.

[00:06:54] Alan: Yeah I mean so it’s sort of on that I’m sort of curious about. And you know it’s it’s totally fine to say like Yeah nothing’s really like nothing stands out because you know I don’t want to feel like just like searching for like oh yes this is the story I’m looking for like everyone has their own experience right. So but I’m curious about. You mentioned you grew up in a more perhaps multi racial family and that felt maybe uncommon for you know you’d felt typical at that time and.

[00:07:25] Lee: Well that’s funny you should say that because for me that was my reality and that’s that’s that was my experience so it wasn’t it didn’t feel funny or like oh we stood out or whatever in fact we just thought it was average right or regular. But come to find out as time goes on that oh really you had that growing up you have all these different people from different backgrounds.

[00:07:53] And so I’ve I’ve come to find that that was more unique whereas maybe the younger generations now it’s made me think about that kind of thing because it’s just the way the way it is. But maybe when I grew up it was it was quite different.

[00:08:10] Lee: And one more question though I’ll let you go. What do you feel like the role of Asian-Americans ought to be when it comes to standing in solidarity with groups like Black Lives Matter for instance.

[00:08:21] Lee: Well I think that was one thing that Bao spoke about earlier is you know we really need to support each other and to be there for each other because if we don’t there’s not going to be ane anyone left right. So I think we need to collaborate and just support and be there for each other. Be there for for a different.

[00:08:47] Different communities different groups and really have a better understanding and more open heart of people who may not look like us or may have different experiences but find commonalities because I think that’s where we can actually bridge those gaps and and help each other really thrive in this day and age.

[00:09:12] Alan: All right. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. And I want to keep you too much too long for your workshop.

[00:09:21] I was just downstairs. Yes. OK.

[00:09:27] Lee: Well thank you for your work. This has been fun. It’s good just talking to you. I mean I’ve been to a bunch of I know that’s true. It’s always cool to come back and see what’s been going on inside of this project do you miss it. Yeah. And I’m still like early in my career. You look great. So what do you do for your date. My day job is