NGUYEN: Learning lessons from Multicultural Day




Fun fact: my parents have an eggroll dealer. About once a month, we make the pilgrimage to Sacramento and arrive at this mom & pop Vietnamese joint. The ground is sticky, there’s never anyone eating at the tables and the cashier is always rude. In fact, she’s basically the Vietnamese equivalent of Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. To be honest, I’ve often questioned why we keep coming back. 

But the answer?  Really good eggrolls. My parents continually brave a terse but talented old Vietamese lady for our monthly fix. For the price of one dollar per two eggrolls, food gives them a little sense of the Vietnam from their childhood. Eggrolls communicate home to them.

Food communicates culture. 

Last year, I watched as many from our student body stepped up the occasion for Multicultural Day.  People proudly walking in their cultural clothing – setting their culture up for criticism, I thought. I couldn’t fathom the bravery married into this decision. 

This year, however, I was (somewhat) forced to fathom this when my mom decided she wanted to participate. My mom repeatedly told me how excited she was to participate. Her excitement only stoked my anxiety. Where she saw an opportunity to educate relatively young kids, I saw disappointment. I thought of how our culture, along with everyone else presenting, would inevitably be sidelined by those who “went too hard” on Halloween. Any attempt at communicating this anxiety with my mom was met with the same phrase. 

“Food brings people together, Julie, calm down.” 

November 1 comes around, and there are sizeable gaps in each class I attend. I am not secure in my culture like my parents, no matter how hard I try to be – I take a personal offense in each empty seat. However, as I continue throughout the day, I am only met with the vibrancy of each facet of Multicultural Day. Just like last year, the energy was palpable in each performance, the food even more extensive than last year. As it turns out, my mom is right – food speaks where words can’t. 

I am so proud of everyone who decided to present, in any manner, in this year’s Multicultural Day. I personally thank you for setting your time and doubts aside to contribute to such a monumental day at Roseville High School. To share our culture is to be vulnerable, to choose our own side of the narrative in the face of stereotypes. I know I was not alone in my anxieties for this day. I also know that I was made all the better for participating. 

As for everyone who skipped: all I can say is that you missed excellent (not to mention free) food and an experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A blatant disregard for other people’s efforts and cultures is not a cute look on you. For those of you who only attended until fourth period claiming you didn’t want to miss an education opportunity: well done! You failed. 

In case you were wondering: my mom was right. People are still asking me for eggrolls to this day.