Julian Chang


As Interviewed by Aidan Chang, March 22, 2015

Julian Chang: In His Own Words

My name is Julian Chang, I am Aidan’s dad. I’m 45 years-old, I was born in Taiwan in 1969, and we immigrated to the United States in 1975 when I was 6 years-old. We immigrated because my dad was coming to the U.S. to go to school.

In Austin, there weren’t very many Asian kids. In school, it’s more obvious what the kids do -- the white kids discriminated against the Hispanic kids, the Hispanic kids discriminated against the African-American kids, and it seemed like the Hispanic and African-American kids discriminated against the Asian kids, mostly by just making fun of them and making racial comments.

My parents didn’t really stress “racial equality.” They actually stressed racial divisions, and they pointed out differences between various ethnicities. So rather than encouraging equality, they kind of encouraged inequality.

Back when I went to school in Austin, they had “forced desegregation,” which some people call “forced bussing.” In the schools that I went to, which were mainly in the west side of Austin, they actually forced a lot of the east side kids to come to the west side schools, and they also bussed some of the west side kids over to the east side schools. This was a federal-mandated desegregation policy. It’s no longer enforced today, but that’s the way it was when I was in school in Austin. I understood that it was just trying to be fair, and it was just a way for the federal government to try and make things fair in Austin.

I wouldn’t say that racism and prejudice happened every day, but it did happen constantly throughout my elementary, junior high and high school years. It consisted mainly of comments, maybe a little pushing, a lot of stealing, things like that. Certain ethnic groups would steal from me and make comments. But nothing like fighting. It was usually me against a group of other kids -- it was seldom one on one. There was almost always a group of them. Like in junior high school, we met with the associate principal, but he pretty much ignored our concerns and didn’t do anything about it.

We went to church regularly, since we moved to Austin, and we continue to go to church. It was a majority white church. They had what they call a “Chinese Mission,” which means that they would support a small Chinese congregation with a Chinese pastor. The congregation consisted of about 100-150 members.

Probably not for me, but for my parents, [employment] was affected. When we immigrated to the U.S., we tried to do things legally, so that meant you couldn’t get a “real job.” So my parents had to take a lot of small odd jobs where people didn’t question your immigration status. But then again, that’s probably not because of our race -- that applied to all people that weren’t permanent residents or citizens of the U.S. If you’re not a permanent resident or citizen, you’re very limited in what you can do.

There is still continual prejudice out there, and I don’t think it’s on purpose. It’s just that it seems like Asian-Americans are viewed differently than other minorities in the U.S. So one thing I and your mother constantly experience is that people will come up to us and they’ll ask, “Where are you from?” Your mother was born in El Paso, and she’ll say, “I’m from El Paso.” And they’ll say, “No, where are you really from?”-- as if her answer was not correct or being from El Paso was not good enough. What they really want to hear is what they’ve already prejudged you to be. These people would never go up to an African-American and ask them, “Where are you from?” and if they said “Austin, Texas,” they would never say, “Where are you really from?” And they would never go up to a Hispanic person and ask them, “Where are you from?” and if they said “Austin, Texas,” they would never ask them, “Where are you really from?” It just seems like Asian-Americans are treated differently, and people have different preconceptions based purely on your appearance.

People have preconceived notions or assumptions about you, based purely on the way you look. Somehow Asian-Americans haven’t been here long enough to qualify as Americans, and to say that they’re from America is somehow incorrect or unacceptable. What they really want is for you to say that you’re from somewhere in Asia.