I’m here to tell Side B of the Asian-American narrative. We already know what Side A is: a culture that only equates academic achievement and financial stability with success. We grew up in Side A. American media also knows about Side A very well and even affectionately renamed it as “The Model Minority”. But despite how our communities feel about the Model Minority Myth… there is still a rather large sense of comfort about living in Side A.
There’s also a rather large curiosity towards Side B, even if it’s buried underneath layers and layers of fear. If Side A represents the desire to master the Maths & Sciences, then Side B represents the desire to master the Arts & Athletics. If Side A represents a bright, clear day then Side B represents a dark, mysterious night. And as the guidance of Side A gets passed down generation after generation, Side B becomes nothing more than a fairy tale.
Asian-Americans are raised to fear Side B. You see Side A is a journey that offers relatively instant tangible gratification and Math & Science fields sure seem to work in that kind of system. If you study hard, you’re almost guaranteed good grades. If you have good grades, you’re almost guaranteed a spot at a prestigious college/university. If you attend a prestigious college/university, you’re almost guaranteed a well-paying job. Almost. Close enough.
On the other hand, Side B is a journey filled with uncertainty. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even “almost guaranteed”. Side B is like growing a Bamboo tree: you lay the ground work, you plant the seed, and you water the spot every day for 5 years without seeing any stalks. You’re also unable to overturn the seeds to see if they’re rooting since you’d kill the plant. And only after 5 years will the stalks finally begin to grow above ground…granted that you’ve watered the correct spot with the right amount of water for 5 years.
But thankfully, there are plenty of people who grow bamboo. There are thousands of bamboo stalks that stand well over 50 feet tall. They are no fairy tale.
However, to most Asian-American adolescents, Side B IS a fairy tale. Side B is not something that gets brought up at your dinner table conversations with your parents. In fact Side B is often regarded as hopeless, and so we grow up forever curious, but extremely fearful, about embarking on the Side B journey.
Little did we know that the roads of Side B have already been paved.
There are a lot of Asian-Americans who have already embarked on the Side B journey long ago and have found success. In my field alone, I can name a handful of rappers who have pioneered the art for our communities: Chops from the Mountain Bros (the first Asian-American rappers to ever get signed to a major record label), MC Jin, and Magnetic North. There are also a large number of current Asian-American rappers that are finding success: Bambu, Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, D-Pryde, and Timothy Delaghetto, just to name a few.
And thus it becomes ever more important to not let the story of these individuals’ journeys become fairy tales. Because the fear of Side B stems from being unaware that these roads are in existence.
#FML is my Side B narrative; the first part of my journal throughout this quest. I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever reach the caliber of the artists I previously mentioned…but that matters not. What’s really important is that #FML shall exist and can serve as a reference to my underclassmen & future generations so that they may at least entertain the possibility of Side B without fear. That is why I chose to make physical copies of my mixtape even during a digital dominant era. It must physically exist.
A line from one of Lupe Fiasco’s songs: “The mind fears what the blinds hide, but I’m here on the blindside.” I’m here on the blindside, on Side B. So come along, take a journey with me onto the dark side of the moon.
And if we shed a little light, then our community just might be able to see that it’s every bit just as beautiful as the side we’re all used to.