My name is Emerita A. Pizarro. My friends call me Emmie. I am a Filipino-American, born and raised in Metro Manila and married to an African American man, born and raised in Utica. I will be writing a regular column here in the Utica Phoenix. I intend to give a voice to our Asian community which has too long been hidden in the shadows. Here I will begin the process of shining light upon our wonderfully diverse and vibrant Asian community. I will also share our unique history here in America and perspectives upon the ongoing and escalating hate and violence towards Asians. I will interview individuals, shop owners and professionals. I intend to add a bit of color, diversity, a different perspective and maybe even some recipes! Please know that I am honored and humbled to be the voice of the area’s Asian American community.
Your Asian Neighbor
I am a local pediatrician. At one point, a restaurateur. I live in Utica with my husband, Jake Davis, retired former general manager of Carbone Honda who is African American. As an immigrant from the Philippines, I ended up in Utica with three other Asian pediatricians, from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, because the city’s pediatricians were retiring and this city was designated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as “medically underserved”.
Yes, we ended up here because we were offered green cards to work here but, we stayed because we fell in love with Central New York and its people. You can replicate our stories in every state in the nation. Unfortunately, as recent events show us, some people do not love us back.
When we take the citizenship oath we denounce the country of our birth. I cried while reciting that oath but was happy to have America as my adoptive homeland. You see, we Asians come here to pursue a better life so we can help our families back home. We may have come from war-torn areas, or from political oppression, or just need to get a better income to support our families. We work in jobs where there are needs unmet.
In the early days of America, we built your railroads, worked in your farms, did your laundry, took care of your children. A Filipino American labor organizer helped realize fair labor laws for farmers in California. A Chinese American architect designed the JFK library, the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, the Pyramid at the Louvre. A Vietnamese American bioengineer is responsible for many advancements in cancer treatment.
Asian Americans gave you search engines and web portals, email servers and video-sharing platforms. We brought you the Karate, Kung Fu, Judo, Tai Chi Gong, Buddhism, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Acupuncture, Shiatsu, fried rice and sushi.
We gave you unforgettable movies, fashion and shoes designs, tailored suits, dressing gowns and bridal gowns. If you’ve ever had a Bing cherry, thank Ah Bing for cultivating it.
We are your doctors, your nurses, your laboratory managers, your tech support, and caregivers. We catch your babies in the delivery room and hold the hands of your loved ones in the ICUs when you could not be there for them. We are your hotel clerks and chambermaids, your cooks, your delivery guys. We clean your hospitals and office buildings. We make your yogurt. We cook your take-out food. We fought your wars.
We are your fellow citizens. We are your neighbors. We love, and hope, and dream of great futures for our families just like you do. Just like your ancestors did when they fled the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, or the wars in Poland, Italy and Germany. So it hurts when you treat us just like your ancestors were treated when they first came here. The racial slurs, the jokes, the discrimination, and now, the hate and the violence.
When you look at us, think of your ancestors and your elders. When you see that old Asian woman being thrown to the ground, think about your own grandmother. Or the old Asian man being slammed into the pavement, think about your own grandfather. We just want to live a better life. Like a good American. Like a good neighbor. Like you.