Blending Art with Activism to Confront Discrimination
Spring 2021 — As a first-generation multiethnic college student, Daisy Truong has felt the pressure of conforming to the model minority stereotype. “I have always tried really hard to get good grades in school,” says Truong, a senior digital communication arts and photography student who grew up in Portland.
Truong also has experienced the discrimination of anti-Asian sentiment. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have even been times when she’s been afraid.
“It’s been hard. Not only the anxiety of COVID, but we are also scared of walking outside of our house,” she says.
Creative expression is one way Truong processes her feelings. In a documentary class fall term, Truong produced the first episode of a docuseries addressing racism and violence against Asian Americans. Her short film, “I Am, But I Am Not” also confronts anti-Blackness within the Asian community.
Truong wanted to educate people. But she didn’t see herself as a filmmaker — she prefers photography and painting. She wasn’t looking for an audience when Director of Diversity & Cultural Engagement Reagan Le suggested that she submit her film for DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon.
“Filmmaking is not my medium,” she says. “It was a whim that I even submitted it.”
But it didn’t matter to the selection committee. Truong’s film was among 46 by Asian Pacific American filmmakers chosen for the 2021 festival. Oregon State faculty members have had their films screened at DisOrient. But Truong’s is the first film from an OSU student to be featured.
“Filmmakers from across the world submit their films for the festival, so it’s really awesome that Daisy’s was selected,” Le said.
As part of the festival, Truong participated in a panel discussion with other filmmakers about supporting Black Lives Matter. Truong is Vietnamese and Chinese. She feels there is pressure for Asian-Americans to assimilate to white society, despite differences within the community. “We are very diverse,” she says.
Assimilating can also look like not showing up to confront discrimination, Truong says.
“There is an illusion created by the model minority myth to uphold white supremacy that pits Asians against Black folks and other people of color,” she says. “We want to be in solidarity with the Black community.”
Truong works at the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center as a student success peer facilitator and is president of the Asian Pacific American Student Union.
“One of our main goals is to foster a sense of community,” Truong says.
As Truong completes her final term, she is interviewing people for future episodes of her docuseries. She enjoys aspects of design and technology, but she hasn’t decided what’s next after graduation.
For certain, participating in DisOrient helped define a new medium and a new role for the artist and activist: filmmaker and amplifier of Asian American voices.
Watch the first episode of “I Am, But I Am Not” below. To learn more about the docuseries, visit Daisy Truong’s online portfolio.