I am not supposed to be here | Angie Lau | TEDxWanChaiWomen


Translator: Trang Bui
Reviewer: Ivana Krivokuća I’m not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be seen,
or heard, or stand out. After all, traditionally in our culture
girls are supposed to be unseen, to be quiet, to speak
only when spoken to, to be deferential. Well, actually the truth is
I am not supposed to be here. I’m not supposed to be here in the way
that my paternal grandmother had expected. Because my father was the firstborn son
of a firstborn son of a firstborn son and I was supposed to be next. My grandmother was waiting to be revered,
but I lowered her status. Because I was not a boy. But luckily for this little girl,
she had two brave protectors. a mother and a father who vowed to commit
to their truth and to mine, that we would find love,
and peace, and common; a life defined by us
not predetermined by others. So when my sister came into this world,
we were off to a different one. From Hong Kong we moved to Canada,
and we changed our stars. Once upon a time, there was a little girl. It was me, and she stuck out. She couldn’t help that she was
only one of the few Asian kids in a school full
of hundreds, a minority. And even though she was shy
– and she was shy – she could not stay hidden for long. It was really good training,
and fear was an early teacher. I became its most attentive student
because fear teaches you one thing: you can either let it defeat you
or you can let it inspire you to be brave, to be courageous, to act. I remember walking home from school
one day, and I got ambushed. Early on in the day, I had gotten into a fight
with two older girls. They were picking on my cousin;
they had it in for me. I was this close to home,
when they pushed me down to the ground and started kicking, and punching,
and spitting, and scratching, and I got roughed up pretty bad. I escaped, I ran home in tears. And luckily for me, that day,
my father was home early. And as I was trying to explain,
as tears were running down my face, not rolling down and – He ascertained pretty quickly
what had happened. “Where are they?”, he demanded, and soon we were on a real life car chase. We spotted two of the girls,
one spotted us; she ran into the house. But it was too late;
we saw where she had gone. My dad pulled up into the driveway,
got out of the car, rang the door. A woman came out,
looked a little confused, then upset, then concerned,
then dragged her daughter out, and started publicly scolding her. And from my view, in the car, I knew, that girl would never bother me again. My dad, my hero. And it wasn’t until he started walking
to the car that I realized, he was still in his socks. (Laughter) That in his haste
to defend his little girl, he had forgotten to put on his shoes. So it doesn’t matter
if you’ve forgot to put on your shoes. Just stand up, stand up for what is right. In very many ways, I think, that’s why I became a journalist today:
to give voice to the voiceless, to defend those
who can’t defend themselves because I remember what that felt like. It is a priviledge, it is a passion,
and it is a recognition that what we do is so much more important
than what we are. My mother was my very first role model. She was a registered nurse
here in Hong Kong, but in Canada she was anything but. Her accreditation
was simply not recognized, so she had a choice to make. To honor her vocation,
or to let fear and two little girls named Angie and Bridget
divert her from her focus. So she decided instead to love us. And made it very clear that when that light went on
over her desk in the corner, and her medical school books were out, we were to leave mom alone. She went on to get her degree,
and she finished her career as a nurse in the maternity ward
at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, helping to bring in so many more little girls
and boys into this world. That may not sound like much,
but to me, it was everything. Because my mother followed her passion
with hard work and determination. And she found value
for herself and in herself. It is a choice. From Canada to the US to Hong Kong, I’ve never dreamed that I would continue
to grow my broadcast career here in the city in which I was born. And I took a lot of things for granted
that were shattered almost immediately, including the battles won in the West
continue to be battles fought to this day by so many men and women. Like asking too many questions
and being too “mafan”. “Mafan”, you’ve heard it right? It’s an often used phrase here, locally, often used to demean someone
for being too bothersome. Local colleague of mine told me one day her daughter had been wait-listed
from her school. I didn’t get it. How do you wait-list a little girl
from the school she was already attending? But apparently, this is how some schools
weed out students that they don’t want. And mom was upset. Did her daughter do something?
Did her daughter get into a fight? Maybe mom didn’t do enough;
maybe mom didn’t volunteer enough. Turns out through the grapevine, indeed her daughter had been blacklisted
for asking too many questions, for being too “mafan”. She was five years old. Recent news headline shows
just what can happen to all of these little girls and boys
if this continues. “Hong Kong grads ‘lack skills’
solving live problems”. In other words, international firms
simply didn’t want to hire local grads because they could not think
for themselves. But things are evolving. Occupy Hong Kong. These are the images undoubtedly burned in our collective psyche here in Hong Kong
and really around the globe watching. Thousands of hands outstretched
with cell phones in the air lighting up the night sky, voices as one. And it doesn’t matter
which side of the argument you’re on here. It doesn’t even matter
if you agree with this or not. One thing you cannot deny is that by speaking out,
these Hong Kongers have changed the course
of the conversation forever. There’s a Chinese saying,
goes something like this: “The nail that stands up
gets hammered down.” Well I stand here before you today. A very proud nail with the realization that the only hammer
that can slam us down is often the one we hold in our own hands. So put that hammer down and stop getting in our own way. You have stories to tell;
we all have stories to tell and there will be those
who seek to silence us. Now here’s a cool thing
about your voice. The more you share it, the more clear it becomes. The more you use it,
the more powerful it becomes. It’s a muscle. Use it or it will atrophy. Honor it. And so I want to thank you
for letting me stand here in front of you today. (Applause) After all, I was not supposed to be here. I was not supposed to be
any of the things I am today. Because I am not a boy. I’m so much more. (Applause)

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