Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month

By Shawn Pham

As a Vietnamese American clinician reflecting on Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Heritage Month, it is truly enlightening to see the changes that have been happening in society in terms of understanding the struggles and self-empowerment of my community. Growing up, I did not see much representation or understand the complexities of my duality of being both Vietnamese and American. Although I did not see much representation in media, nor did I see my culture or my experiences in popular TV shows or sitcoms that my white peers were watching, I felt kinship with the community I grew up with in a predominantly nonwhite neighborhood. Although my community was not a majority Asian, my peers and I had one thing in common: we were second-generation immigrants.

As first-generation immigrants, my parents came to the United States and became naturalized citizens. They experienced obstacles beyond my own comprehension. I was only there to witness the pain and struggles that came with living in a foreign land. For me, America was my home and all I knew. But navigating the dualities of coming home to my own unique heritage and culture while going to schools and public spaces that were predominantly white was like playing a double agent. This duality is something no one was able to teach me to embody but rather something I learned along my journey in life.

Although it is still hard to find representation in certain areas, Asian representation is gradually increasing. Slowly but surely I am noticing more and more Asian Americans becoming clinicians just like me. Hopefully, we can change the narrative of learning to handle the duality of being second-generation Asian American on our own as my generation and the generations before me did.

Written by

Shawn Pham, MSW, LSWAIC

Shawn Pham graduated with his Bachelor of Social Work at George Mason University and Advanced Standing Master of Social Work at University of Washington. His experience ranges from working as a…