Blake Tran

Interviewer: Happy AAPI Month everyone! Today, I’m going to be interviewing Blake about his experience being an underrepresented Asian American. Blake, what’s your full name?

Blake: My name is Blake Tran and I use they/he pronouns

INT: Got it, and do you have any other names?

B: In Viet, my name is Yifang

INT: How has your cultural heritage influenced your identity and your sense of belonging?

B: Well, my dad is Vietnamese, and my Mom is white, so I grew up in a predominantly white area in Philadelphia and I went to a PWI for most of grade school. With my family living in Chicago on my Dad’s side, I spent most of my life growing up culturally white, but I was always looking in the mirror knowing that I wanted to learn about and be a part of my Vietnamese culture. So before Carleton, I had a difficult time grappling with this desire and the reality of my surroundings.

INT: And, were there any challenges or stereotypes you faced due to your cultural background and how did you address them if that was the case?

B: Yeah, so because of my mixed background and going to a PWI, I faced a lot of microaggressions in the form of stereotypes and racial jokes and, in an effort to fit in like any kid in high school would, I would play along with these jokes even if I knew it was harmful and I felt resentment towards myself for it. So it was difficult to speak up for myself or say “I don’t like it” and that led to even further oppression of my identity and that carried on throughout high school until I graduated and I began to address this oppression.

INT: That’s really moving. My final question is: What advice would you give to other AAPI students who may be struggling to connect with their cultural heritage while in college?

B: So, coming to Carleton provided me with a new beginning and a new space to define who I am. On top of this, the community that I found was and still is incredibly supportive of identity. I feel that as someone of mixed cultural identity the advice I can give is most important to those of a similar background and that would be that people at Carleton are generally amazing and love sharing their cultural pride and I’ve come into the person that I am because of the amazing community that has come about not only through the Coalition of Southeast Asians which I’m the VP of, but through participating in other cultural orgs’ community events, so my advice is to not only be kind and show up to events; y’know just showing up is really important, of your specific heritage and if that doesn’t exist, start it. We started up COSEA again after it had been on a break due to covid. But more importantly is to learn and appreciate other cultural orgs; for me, it made me much more appreciative and happy to be a part of mine.

INT: That’s great. Is there anything you would like to say, Blake?

B: I’m a graduating senior, so I guess it’s been a pleasure to work alongside all the cultural orgs and all the amazing people who put things together at Carleton like this interview, so yeah I’d like to express my appreciation for OIL and for everything you guys do. Thank you.

INT: Thank you very much for your time!