Over a hundred students were ushered into the HUB lounge with turquoise posters in one hand and their Snapchat-ready phones in the other, patiently waiting for Eddie Huang, a.k.a. The Human Panda, to arrive. The hint of old-school hip-hop soon escalated in volume in the background, with an empty stage amongst a sea of snapbacks and OBEY shirts. People came to hear the bestselling author, Vice channel star, owner of the BaoHaus restaurant in New York City and star of his new show “Fresh off the Boat,” Eddie Huang speak to the UCR.
As the hosts from ASPB stepped up on stage to introduce him, cheers and applause began to reverberate around the room. The nicknames of “Human Panda” and “Ducksauce” arose from his more spirited fans in the crowd as he walked on stage. With his red comfy sweater and off-blue fisherman’s hat, Asian American chef Eddie Huang seized the microphone. A hush fell across the room as he began to introduce his topic for the night: race and ethnicity.
He began by talking about his travels throughout China to learn about what “Chinese Chinese people” thought about him as a Taiwanese Chinese-American. Discrimination was Huang’s middle name in that both his adolescence and early adulthood were bombarded with mistreatment based on the color of his skin. It surprised him to learn that ethnic minorities in China and other countries experience the same sort of racism that minorities here in the U.S. face. He compared the Hakka people of China to Native Americans here in the U.S. and said that in every country or culture, there will be a class of “white” people, those of the dominant culture, and then those of the oppressed.
“The white dominant culture has a privilege. Society cuts you off from opportunity,” said Huang. Using coarse language, he explained that Asians as well as other minorities were categorized and omitted in media culture. This so-called “privilege” that Caucasians exercise determines the society and economic environment minorities reside in, therefore resulting in a noticeable but untreatable racial discrimination.
His kinship with hip-hop culture made him realize not only where his strengths were as an individual but also where he was destined to make an impact in today’s world. Explaining his own experience with race and putting it into perspective using hip-hop, he touched upon growing up in the ‘90s, with separate stations for the “top 100” and the hip-hop stations. There wasn’t a mix of the two stations until one day, one of Eminem’s singles suddenly got played on the top 100 station. He felt a connection to the community as a minority growing up and through his experiences, it shaped him into the way he is today.
“Black culture got me this far. What’s my own culture? Then I opened BaoHaus; it was the spaceship I built and it was one of my greatest accomplishments,” said Huang with a victorious smile. His authentic creation of traditional Taiwanese pork buns in the lower east side of New York City became an overnight success just five years ago. Huang openly admitted that he used BaoHaus as a platform to challenge stereotypes and promote his own unique culture in a white-dominated society.
From there, it led him to pursue other avenues to educate people about his experiences, which led to his collaboration with Vice Media and Food Network. He expressed the importance of gaining experiences throughout life that teach you about yourself and the world and then sharing it with others so they can learn as well.
“Food hits a lot of demographics and it’s very relatable. I want minorities to feel more included in dominant culture. People shouldn’t feel guilt but rather recognize the inequality among the races,” said Huang. His non-antagonistic approach toward promoting minority culture through BaoHaus makes him the unorthodox leader of a progressive social movement.
In his trademark form of crass honesty, he delivered an enlightening talk with the students and faculty that attended. Huang, beneath his humorously profane diction and street-style fashion, communicated a rather profound message about escaping the confinement of stereotypes and building one’s own culture in a society that embraces racial diversity.
He concluded the night with several instructions he hopes his fans will follow. “Start looking at yourself as an individual instead of part of a group,” Huang asserted. “You need to build your own value system and not follow a checklist.” Huang assembled his own checklist and hopes to inspire those who have or are currently undergoing racial discrimination. His dedication to promoting minority culture was shown as he gave each fan a chance to learn and apply his life story to their future endeavors. They don’t call him “Rich Homie Huang” for nothing — he really is a homie.