Growing Up Chinese American
Prospero’s VP of Administration, Bradley Chow, shares a piece of the past and a pride in the present
No matter how much my parents tried to help my sister and me to “fit in,” there was always a small part of me that felt, “No, we really don’t fit in.”
I’m a fourth-generation Chinese American who grew up in the deep south region of Mississippi, where I looked different than 98% of the people around me. To say that I felt like an outsider is an understatement. Starting at a very young age, there was no shortage of kids jeering at me in school, pulling at the corners of their eyes to make them squinty and shouting “Ching Chong!” The strange thing was, it was both White and Black people who would do this to me, even at the grocery store.
A History of Service
My great-grandfather came to the States around the turn of the century looking for opportunity. When I was young, I didn’t understand that my family had worked for over 100 years to provide a better life for its subsequent generations.
Our family settled in the Mississippi Delta area because the climate suited us. It was very similar to the climate of our homeland: the Canton southern region of China. The fertile soil in the delta was conducive to growing Chinese vegetables. My great-grandfather farmed them and shipped them up north. As his family grew, he opened small community grocery stores. These small stores played an important role in the segregated south. While other stores would only serve the White community, my family’s businesses would serve customers of all races.
My grandmother was the oldest of ten siblings, and after my great-grandfather died, she ran the larger store in Clarksdale. She would often extend credit to Black customers when others would not help them. Even though she died before I was born, I feel so much pride when I hear stories of how much she was respected in the community for standing up for what is right.
Seventy miles south in the small town of Inverness, my wife’s grandfather ran a store. Back in the 1950s, when the town was raising money to build a swimming pool for the community, he donated a large amount of money so his six kids could have a place to swim during the sweltering Mississippi heat waves. Little did he know that once the pool was built, his kids would be denied entrance to the pool because they had a different shade of skin.
Being Asian American Today
I think things have gotten better since then, but as I reflect on the 3,800 acts of violence that have occurred in our country against Asian Americans in the past year, I do wonder, has it really improved?
Just as my great-grandfather, grandmother, and parents have done, if we try to do what is right… is that enough to make a difference?
In my family, I’ve seen generation after generation make a difference for their descendents. Today, as my wife and I raise our nine-year-old daughter and twelve-year old son, we educate them about our past so we can move forward. We like to get together with family for all special occasions and holidays. For Chinese New Year, we try our best to cook family recipes of dishes that have been passed down for hundreds of years. I feel a level of responsibility to pass that along to my children. We frequent a local authentic Chinese restaurant that serves dim sum, which the kids love. We pass out “Hong Bao,” which are little red envelopes filled with money for good luck.
As I think about being Asian American today, I’m probably most proud of being known for hard work and dedication.
If we get knocked down, we get back up and fight for what is right. We work extremely hard to get what is needed to give the next generation better opportunities than we had.
I think of the long hours my ancestors put in farming vegetables to sell. I think of the long hours at grocery stores that they maintained as they raised their families.
There is a stereotype that Asians are smart. What I see are children who work extremely hard to make good grades, get in better schools, and become adults with rewarding jobs. In my family, we work hard to raise our kids to not just fit in, but to stand out, so they will have the opportunity to continue to create a better life for the next generation.
I am proud to work for Prospero Health, where we focus on the community and value the culture of each of my teammates. The patients we serve are a diverse cross section of this country, and we make efforts to be inclusive of their heritage as we care for people who live with serious illness and their families. It is nice that our Prospero team is also diverse. Kudos to Prospero for allowing me to have a small voice in this space.