I think I already told our families in my back-to-school message that I promised the staff I would give a dollar every time I started a sentence with “when I was in Taiwan…” Believe me, it’s a promise that has cost me dearly, as I realize that I use this introduction too much. It’s true that my years over there really left their mark on me.
Professionally, I had the wonderful opportunity of bringing together all of the necessary means to create the high school at my school from scratch. This, thus, allowed our families and students to stay in Taiwan to finish their secondary schooling in French. Before that, there was no other option except going to a boarding school or moving to another country.
A New High School, a New Challenge
From the beginning, the biggest challenge facing the Lycée français de Taipei was convincing our Taiwanese families that it was perfectly possible to get into an American university even if one had followed a French program of study. Beyond the “grand” speeches that I did my best to give, nothing would demonstrate that fact better than actually sending a student to the US after the baccalauréat. Unfortunately, in four years that never happened; our first graduates were mostly French students who weren’t that interested in American universities. So, I came to work at The École with this nagging concern, that the lycée that we had worked so hard to build was still quite fragile.
Therefore, when I received a message yesterday morning from D., one of my former students in Taipei, letting me know that she had received two scholarship offers to come study at Parsons and at Pratt, I should have jumped for joy and let out a huge sigh of relief. In reality, my first thought was of safety. Is D. making the right choice; is this really the right time to come to the US? Should I tell her to think more about it, to be careful, to consider other options? But D. is American as well as Taiwanese. Thus, in a way, she is coming back home.
More Than the Sum of Her Parts
So, America, I am going to ask you to do something for me. I want you to promise me that D. will be safe here. That you will welcome her as is proper. That she will be able to walk down the street in peace, that she won’t be objectified, threatened, insulted. That she won’t be shot at. D. is 18 years old. She is a young Asian woman who has dreams of you, America, of your greatness and even of your excess. She is hoping to learn, to grow, to be happy and sheltered from the crass stupidity of those who see her as a simple cliché. D. has the right to be more than the sum of her parts, more than the color of her skin. She has the right to not be a stereotype. She has the right to exist on her own and to forge her own path.
I trust you, America. I told D. that I was so proud of her, and I didn’t say anything about the other stuff. She didn’t say anything about it either. That’s not really how things are done in her culture. However, I know that she was thinking about those women who were gunned down in Georgia. I know that she was thinking about the old men who have been shoved to the ground in the streets of California. About the bullying, the mocking, about the racism that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
America, I’m letting you know, D. will be here in a few months. I am entrusting her to you. Take care of her.