Sophia’s Interview with Yolanda Liang

Yolanda Liang is an Asian American woman who currently lives in Irvine, California. She is currently employed as a medical assistant administration. Yolanda was born and raised in Shenyang, China. As a wife and a mother, her life completely changed in the year of 2013.

In 2013, Yolanda immigrated with her daughter to the United States for a better educational environment. Yolanda has been a flight attendant within China Southern Airlines for approximately fifteen years. Being a powerful and responsible mother, she chose to sacrifice herself and her career for her daughter and immigrate to a whole different country. Since Yolanda’s husband is still employed in mainland China, Yolanda is forced to live apart from her husband since she moved. Except for long-term holiday vacations, Yolanda’s family is only able to be reunited once or twice a year whenever her husband comes to the U.S. and visits.

Childhood Memories

Since she grew up in Shenyang, China, I asked Yolanda to share a few of her childhood memories.

“It was fairly simple because we did not any internet like you guys have today. We played a bunch of traditional Chinese childhood games and ran around with a group of friends gathered together after school in the back yards and that was all, simple and happy. And this I feel like is just what your generations lack of today, starring at cell phones and computers entire day. I guess different generations would just have their joyful ways of living then.”

– Yolanda Liang

Personally, I admire the life that Yolanda described her childhood, without any technologies and internet. The environment and the relationships between people sound super pure to me and this is just what we lack of in our generation. In today’s society, it can be fairly hard to find a friend or co-worker that one can have a in-depth conversation with. Society has gotten a lot more complex with people’s interrelationship with each another.

Fortunately, as she was growing up, Yolanda was able to learn a foreign language from her middle school. English was their one and only foreign language available at that time. Thus, Yolanda began her journey of a learning English in the seventh grade, and she turned out to have a great interest into the subject.

“I was the president of our English class during the time. It was super memorable because English was one of my favorite subjects. I was very lucky that they taught English in our middle class because the generation before us didn’t have it taught during their period.”

– Yolanda Liang

Immigration

According to Yolanda, ever since her daughter was little, she and her husband planned to take her daughter to the U.S. for better educational opportunities. They do not accept the Chinese education system, which Yolanda said has put too much pressure on the childrens’ shoulders at a young age, and that is not healthy for them either mentally or physically. The entire application process went through smoothly, and Yolanda and her daughter successfully got their temporary “green cards” by the year 2013, which is also the year they originally planed to immigrate. They did not want to move so early because they still wanted their daughter to keep her native language, since “no matter what she is still a Chinese and should confidently speak her homeland language”(Yolanda).

Immigrating to a foreign country is definitely not easy for a woman who has been living in her home country since she was born. After Yolanda immigrated to the United States, the lives they began living there were certainly another dream she did not see coming.

“I was pretty looking forward to come to the U.S. before I immigrated, imagining lives we often see in the movies. After actually immigrated to the U.S., it however didn’t go as perfect as I expected. I guess language barriers has always been a struggle for me, since I would never express my feelings with a second thought or having to translate into another language in my homeland China.”

– Yolanda Liang

Although it may be difficult to live in a country where most people speak a language other than Mandarin, Yolanda did not give up. Yolanda went to language schools and started learning English again.

Language barriers can be a challenge for any new immigrants. As much as they studied English in their home country, it was still very much different than speaking inside of the United States. Second language will never come as naturally as someone’s native language. Even though Yolanda had been studying English ever since she was young, but she still struggled with speaking and having daily conversations with people for a significant amount of time after immigrating to the U.S.

It certainly has a lot to do with the environment we live in, because we are used to speak and listen, read Chinese in our lives. Even after moving here, I didn’t have much chance to speak English with people for the most of time, since I always talk to my daughter and my Chinese friends in mandarin. In my personal opinions, language barriers have always been a struggle for immigrants, including myself.

Yolanda Liang

I can definitely relate after listening to the experiences that Yolanda had. I have also struggled with language barriers since I first immigrated to the United States. I felt like I was like an outsider of everything at the time. Although I’ve been studying English ever since I was young, it was still hard for me to speak and listen as well as native English speakers. I felt like there was an invisible wall between me and others, where even the basic greetings were difficult. People were talking so fast that I could barely get a single word from them, and it was also extremely difficult to construct my thoughts and feelings to express to others. In addition, I didn’t have the confidence to express any of my thoughts even after my language got improved. I didn’t recognize the fact that my English was improving for many years because I kept struggling to step out of my comfort zone and speak to others. I lacked the confidence because I always thought others couldn’t understand me; therefore, I vanished.

The experiences that myself and Yolanda have had led me to think about a statement that Kit Yuen Quan said in her article, “The Girl Who wouldn’t Sing,” where Quan stated that, “Living with this fear leaves me exhausted. I feel backed against a wall self-doubt, pushed into a corner, defeated, unable to stretch or take advantage of opportunities” (Quan 14). The same kind of feelings could precisely describe our situations at the time, where we, the new immigrants, were cornered with endless self-doubts. Especially for me personally, after I watched the people before me speaking English fluently, more pressure dropped on my shoulders and I just wanted to be silenced. Thus, through my personal experiences, I just want to shout to the other immigrants, telling them to stay strong and never doubt yourself. You always need to be proud for who you are, no matter what ethnicity you are and whether you speak the language fluently, be yourself.

After living in the U.S. for seven years, Yolanda finally stepped out of her comfort zone for the first time and got her first job in the United States. She is currently employed as a medical assistant administration of a clinic. This has been a challenge for Yolanda because it requires her to speak English more often and have conversations with a variety of patients. Taking this job has become one of the most significant choices Yolanda has made ever since she immigrated.

“After taking this job, I became more confident over time with my speaking skills to different people. I found the confidence I had back in the time when I was a flight attendant. The job let me found my self-worth, as if I am being confirmed by other people that not only I can be a house wife who takes care of her daughter, I can still be a valuable person to the society like I was back in China.”

– Yolanda Liang

Being a female myself, I totally understand Yolanda’s circumstances and her feelings about her self-worth after she got employed. Her experience further lets me relate to an idea that Bell Hook’s covered in her book, Feminism is for Everybody. Hooks talks about gender independence and individual freedom as she states, “What knowing powerful, caring lesbians taught me as a girl, a lesson that has continued, is that women do not need to depend on men for our well-being and our happiness – not even our sexual bliss”(Hooks 95). What Hooks is trying to say is that how women’s happiness is often dependent on their other half. Women should always stay independent, almost as if they are single when they are in relationships. I’ve seen some of my friends’ mothers who fully depend on their husbands and those marriages often ended up with their husbands having affairs. When women are not being independent, no matter if it’s financially or physically, they start to lose themselves and handover the dominance of their life to their husbands. It is quite scary when people just handover their destinies and let others to control it, and when that person betrays them and cheats on them, they often end up getting nothing. Thus, women should always stay independent and never put their faith into the other half, because the moment you start to depend on the others, you give up on yourself. 

Becoming an U.S. Citizen

In 2018, Yolanda successfully became a citizen of the United States. Yolanda said that she really like living in the U.S. after all, and she plans to stay in the U.S. permanently even after her daughter becomes independent and graduates from college. Another reason that caused Yolanda to make this decision is the occurrence of an unexpected event in 2016.

“I did not decide to become a US citizen earlier is because my mother was suffering cancer back in China. I originally planned to go back to China and take care of her after Angela [Yolanda’s daughter] graduate from High School. Having a green card will be much easier if I constantly go back and visit between the two countries. Unfortunately, my mother passed away three years ago, and ever after that, China no longer had someone I’d be reluctant to leave to. Thus, I decided became an U.S. citizen and permanently stay in the place I really enjoy living in.

– Yolanda Liang

Being an U.S. citizen, Yolanda used her rights and voted in this year’s election. Yolanda stands with the house of Democracy, and she really looks forward to a change in the U.S. presidencies. Yolanda strongly believes that Donald Trump may be a good business man, but he has definitely not been a responsible president.

“I feel like a change is needed for the country that Trump may be a good business man, but definitely not a responsible president. Trump is too crazy for all of us, especially for the Chinese immigrants. Being the leader of the country, Trump has not been responsible for his words, and not for the benefits of the country. He doesn’t take things seriously and he doesn’t recognize his words represent the US in front of the world.”

– Yolanda Liang

Race/ethnicity inequalities

Racism has always been a thing that immigrants experience and struggle with after they move into a new country, and so did Yolanda.

“Especially after the years that Trump as became the president, everything that relates with China has not been so friendly, such as the taxes and business issues. COVID-19 has further made racism more obvious, as Trump started calling it the “Chinese Virus”. Every time we go shopping or walk in the public, especially after COVID-19 first started that we were the first ones wearing the masks, people gave us disgusted looks as if they were thinking “they are the Chinese Virus”. They look at us because we are not white but yellow. They look at us as foreigners who carry the virus or the ones who started the virus, and that is racism.”

– Yolanda Liang

Yolanda struggled with being looked at differently, but she did not accept it. During the pandemic time where rumors said COVID-19 originated in China, Yolanda argues:

“I feel like people should not make a statement or “theory” before they’ve actually gathered enough of evidence. Until today, no official statements have been published that says COVID-19 came from China. It’s always been the wild guess and rumors from people that is based on zero evidence. Evidence should always be backed up after a statement, and it is especially not responsible for a country’s president to make that none-evidence statement by calling it the “Chinese Virus” at first place.”

– Yolanda Liang

I could not be more familiar with the situation that Yolanda talked about above. Being an immigrant myself, I’ve faced instances so many times where I got various looks in public areas because I am a colored female.

It threw me back to a question that Dr. DiAngelo once asked in her TedTalk, “White Fragility.” What Dr. DiAngelo discussed is, “Why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism”(DiAngelo)? I’ve never really thought about this question until after I watched the talk by Dr. DiAngelo. The question is just like asking the domestic students why they don’t suffer the same inequality or racism as the transfer or international students. I’ve never experienced the sayings of white fragility or white progressive because I am not white. However, I’ve had in a situation where I was offended by a white progressive. There was a time when me and my mom walked into a grocery store, and the cashier talked especially slow to us as if we were having a hard time understanding. After I showed them that I have the potential to speak and understand English, they still talked the same way as before, as if they thought that because we are Asians, we don’t understand English. The cashier was smiling and being super polite for the entire process which intimidated me more, because their attitude demonstrated exactly what a white progressive would be like: as if they were saying, “I’m not a racist, but you are Asians.” Although the cashier’s altitude was super “polite,” their mindset hinted that they are actually racist without recognizing. After hearing Dr. DiAngelo’s talk about White Fragility, I’ve comprehended that there are many white people out there that are actually these stereotypical white progressives, but they lack of realizing the fact. Thus, it is super important to not only know the meaning of the term “white fragility”, but further spread the awareness to more people to let them recognize the existence of white progressives and avoid becoming one.

For the Younger Generations…

As we headed towards the end of our interview, I asked Yolanda to share any advice that she may have for the younger generations.

“One thing that I’d always say to my daughter is that to spend your money wisely, and make financial plans before you do anything. It will be especially useful for you guys after you step into the society and have your own income to manage your daily livings. And also, spend less time on the internet, vice versa spend more time talking to real people for better socialization skills and do more readings. Lastly, I just hope all of you to stay happy and stay away from any mental illnesses. Happiness and personal health always come first. It is super important because I often see on the news that due to this pandemic, many teens struggle with depression because they’ve stayed at home for too long. Although we are required and forced to do so, but you can always find ways out. Find things to keep yourself busy and do things that make yourself happy.”

– Yolanda Liang

References

“Dr. Robin DiAngelo discusses ‘White Fragility'” Youtube, uploaded by Seattle Channel, 3 July 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU

Kit Yuen Quan, “The Girl Who Wouldn’t Sing”, file:///Users/sophia/Downloads/the_girl_who_wouldnt_sing.PDF

Bell Hooks, “Total Bliss: Lesbianism and Feminism”, Feminism is For Everybody. Taylor & Francis. 2014.