I was such an easy target for bullying . If there was some sort of metaphysical tree in the universe for victims of bullying , I hit every branch on my way into this world . I had just moved to Los Angeles from Taiwan at the naive and tenderhearted age of 8 . And of course of all places , I moved to Paramount . For those of you not familiar , Paramount sits east of the 710 fwy which separates us from Compton , the great hip hop reference of the west coast bringing you kind and gentle verbal philosophers such as N.W.A ( Easy E. Dr. Dre. Ice Cube. Arabian Prince . DJ Yella . and Mc Ren) . The Game , and most recently Kendrick Lamar . It was a calm a wonderful world to raise a family despite the rising crack epidemic at the time .
So as you can see , moving there in 1990 as the only Asian kid in a school entirely made up of kids from Hispanic and African American decent was some sort of hell for me and Christmas for them . Did I mention that after just two years of being there the infamous LA riots occurred pitting more friction between ethnicities ? Did I also mention that being so obviously aesthetically different from all the kids , I also didn’t speak a lick of English at the time ? They had no idea what to do with me , they even put me in ESL classes (English Second Language) full of SPANISH ONLY speaking students who are also learning English for the first time . So now being Taiwanese , I’m trying to learn English through Spanish . It only took them a month to figure out that it was a bad idea . A MONTH !
So I looked different , I talked different , I’m culturally different because I still only wore the clothes I owned in Taiwan , and brought Chinese food for lunch . My parents (bless their hearts) had to take some time to get me to at least wear American clothes with an American lunch and an all American Trapper keeper with a Ninja Turtles lunch box to at least try to fit in . Needless to say , it didn’t take very long for the bullying to start
The curiosity of the new kid from a far away land lasted maybe a couple of weeks as kids were unsure of me , but as true as President Trump's Twitter , before winter break , it began . It started with some verbal taunting . I couldn’t understand them so it just looked like a lot of loud talking with a group and pointing and laughing . A track of random words paired with laughing/pointing was on repeat for me for a while . The teacher sort of looked out for me a bit but there was only a little they can do to admonish a bunch of second grade boys . I felt bad , lonely and outcasted . What was I going to do ? There were more of them , and they were all bigger than me . Couldn’t fight them and couldn’t ask for help . Talking back in a language only I understood didn't serve any purpose .
Soon it got physical . First it was just bumps in the shoulders . Pretending they couldn’t see me . Pulling classically hilarious pranks such as tripping me from the back , throwing stuff at me when I wasn’t looking (or was) and the all time favorite of shoving me to the ground . It was classic . Even as a kid who kind of understood my place , I had limits , it took me a better part of a month but eventually I was pissed . I wanted so bad to get along , I wanted to bad to be just part of the class and one of the kids , but me just going along wasn’t working out . I finally showed some anger and pushed back one time and little did I know it but that was their cue . It happened so fast . laughter became a smirk , a group smirk that said got him . I took their bait , they got what they wanted and circled around me . The kid that shoved me that time stepped back and got his hands up and ready .
A little bit about me at that time . I’m was a little shimpy kid that has never been in a fight in his life . I’m not one of those kids whose dad took him to the front yard and taught him how to box . I didn’t have a front yard or a Dad who liked boxing . I knew absolutely nothing about how to actually fight . But what I did know , thanks to the booming Hong Kong martial arts movie industry , years of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies , and years of tormenting my sister , is how to act like I knew how to fight .
So here I am , a little Taiwanese kid surrounded by a group of bigger and stronger foreigners standing up for my little second grade dignity . What was I going to do . Run ? Cry ? I've already done that before . I took my fake Chinese martial art movie poses , made my fake Bruce Lee noises and started doing make believe Kung Fu stances . And then unbelievably , they got scared . They main kid froze up and the crowd behind them backed away . The smirks ? Gone . I couldn’t believe it .
Thank goodness for the historic popularity of Bruce Lee , his martial art movies and for the gullibility of second graders . I did a little more dancing around and then just walked away , like a second grade man and didn’t even look back .
After that day , the whole game changed . the kids wanted to be my best friends , they wanted to hang out with me , they even gave me peace offerings in forms of peanut butter cookies and fruit snacks . Just kidding , I wish . What did happen though was that they gave me a little respect , the joking and laughing and bullying stopped . They let me play games with them at recess , they even had more patience to teach me games through our language barrier . They became accessible . Some of us eventually did develop friendships and I even gave some fake kung fu lessons . Sorry martial arts but I was a kid and I wanted people to like me and I like the ego boost whenever they would ask me to teach them some fighting . ***
As an adult trying to work in the entertainment industry , I’m no stranger to how stereotypes effects us and works against us on the path of progress and acceptance . I choose to share this story as a way to show that not all stereotypes are created equal . In the case of the martial arts stereotype , I believe that though it may pigeon hole roles we get to play now , it actually casts a bright light on the Asian Community . Bruce Lee is an historical icon that transcended martial arts and transcended films . He shined so bright that nearly 20 years after his death he was still able to help a little Taiwanese boy out in the school yard . He was a charismatic man of the world and this is just my little tribute to him .
I never let up that I didn’t know martial arts . Even to this day . I wonder how long it was before they thought back and thought that I was full of shit . I like to think that some of them still thinks that I know Kung Fu . ***
Jacket - Obey
Pants - PublishBrand
Beanie - Our Legacy
Sunglasses - Coach
Watch - Leonard & Church
Photographyer - Heyyeh
***some of you may wonder what the heck does this story have to do with these photos ? Well I’ll tell you dear reader . I am a firm believer that the way someone dresses and the styles that one chooses are reflection of the person’s history , experiences , and past environments . And this particular outfit is a blend of me now and the impressions made on me in my years of living in Paramount .
*** Also to note , that story didn't solve all bully problems . I was still so different from everyone for quite some time and dealt with my bulllying issues for most of my life . Maybe this will be a topic to tackle in a later day .