Employee Perspectives

The Weight of Words

May 29, 2020

By Crystal Witter, Senior Account Manager

Children start to string sentences together around 12 months. Their personalities and inner conflicts begin to emerge as they navigate ways to express themselves. For biracial people like me, these formative skills require an equal balance of strength and delicacy.

I was born in the rural Midwest to a strong-willed Filipina mother and a sentimental father. For many children who grew up bicultural, it can be hard to balance foreign nuances and “fitting in.” In my teenage years, I often struggled with communicating and connecting with my mother. She always insisted on tilapia with patis for dinner (especially hated cheeseburgers) and chaperoning my dates to our town’s local Chili’s. During this time of intense change, our language barrier additionally kept us at an emotional stalemate. I found myself blaming her for being too strict and simply not understanding when I never really asked her about her own coming-of-age.

Around this time, I started writing – even decided I wanted to go to school for it. It wasn’t until I decided to minor in poetry that I started to think about the weight of words. Being separated from home, it forced me to think about what I wanted to share with my mother and how I wanted share it. As I began to shed my adolescent pretenses, I began to think more critically about her personal experiences and opinions. As I reached out, she shared about her disappointment in settling in North Dakota instead of  the New York City skyline like she always imagined as well as the difficulties in balancing three jobs while raising an infant as a single immigrant.

My experiences have led me to a position that crafts the nature of how mass communications affects the news cycle and how people understand it – a career in public relations. As we continue to see multiculturalism prosper, I would argue that it’s our collective responsibility to obsess, fuss and debate over cultural nuances, verbal and nonverbal expressions and differences of opinion.  The same way I found commonality in the stark differences between my mother and me, I think we all hold the potential to flex this strength for not just our clients and industry but for our friends and peers.

I have a lot to be proud of in my Asian American Heritage and I’ll continually be here to guard my seat at the table to help amplify the stories we might not have been able to understand before now.