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Finally someone is seriously trying to expand the issue of race in America beyond only black and white. This discussion is long over due! Talk back on the boards.

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7.05.02
Politics and Economy:
Frank Wu on the Fourth of July


I remember how much fun it was when I was growing up to see fireworks on the Fourth of July. My parents would bring my brothers and me to the local high school in our Detroit suburb.

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Frank Wu
Frank Wu
on the Fourth of July

My father reminded us fireworks had been invented in China. My parents had been born there, but they fled the Communists and eventually found their way to the United States — drawn by hope and opportunity.

They had faith in the American Dream. If I came home from school and complained that kids picked on me, my parents told me I should try harder to fit in.

I thought they blamed me. I'm ashamed to admit it now but I was embarrassed of them then: they had accents, ate funny-smelling foods, didn't laugh at the right time when watching TV, and needed my help writing a letter if there was a problem with the phone company.

I realized only recently that my parents blamed themselves, not me. In my parents' daily lives, they faced everything I did, but they accepted it as their fault. They assumed they had brought the problems on themselves, because they had accents and the rest. They figured that because I knew American culture, I would be accepted automatically within it.

Over time, I've come to understand the debt I owe my parents. They did what I would never dream of doing: they moved half way around the world, not for their future, but for mine.

Yet even as I try to follow their example of studying and working hard, I doubt I'll be just like them. Immigrants and their children are bound to make different choices. My parents believed the nail that sticks up is pounded down; I believe the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

They never protested about civil rights, for themselves or anyone else because they literally didn't know the language. I care about civil rights and equality and free speech and dissent, not just for myself but because we need principles to guide a diverse democracy. A little controversy is good thing — a patriotic thing.

Hey, I am my parents' child. But I am an American, too. I like to light my own fireworks — and I want them to go off with a bang.

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