INDIANAPOLIS — For Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, WRTV is highlighting stories of local AAPI community members living in Indiana to celebrate our diverse community.
“I was also adopted into a white family when I was about a year and a half and I’ve lived in United States since I was two” Carrie Abbott explained.
“Throughout my life, my entire life, I’ve known there was a difference in family photos,” Philip Smith said. “I was always the one that stood out like a black sheep in a way.”
For Philip Smith, he first realized he was adopted when a girl at school, he said, pointed out he looked different from his mother.
“And I remember going back home that day and looking at myself in the mirror bathroom and saying I don’t look like my mom. I remember getting the soap and trying to wash off my color,” Smith said. “At a young age, I was six or seven years old.”
“It’s not until you see it through other children that you know you’re different in anyway,” Abbott said. “Growing up Asian in Indiana was a bit of a challenge. I think the last census is about is about 1.8 or 2% of the population is Asian so it is quite unique.”
“There’s always kids that kind of pointed out for you even though it’s really obvious,” Kate Lustig added.
“I just will never forget kind of early cruelties that exist with Asian hate,” Abbott said. “And it is a real thing and it’s just different for our population in the state.”
“When you’re 14, 15 you’re just trying to fit in. I struggled as a teenager. I definitely had some issues that as I got older I could kind of look back and go, OK I have some attachment issues, I have abandonment issues, some of those classic issues that I think span adoptees pretty far and wide,” Lustig said.
Today, as adults in the community, they are business owners.
“We are at a brand new store at the Fashion Mall, Keystone at the Crossing, and it’s called the best chocolate in town," Abbott, who owns The Best Chocolate in Town said.
Lustig is a project manager for the City of Carmel, responsible for print advertising and the city’s newsletter.
Smith co-founded the Filipino Culture Community Center to highlight the heritage and culture of Filipino Americans.
“A huge gathering place for Filipino Americans. A safe haven, a home away from home,” Smith described. “It brings diversity and inclusion into Indianapolis.”
They said they feel empowered and are embracing their culture even more now as adults.
“I’m happy that Asians are standing up for themselves and not trying to continue to be that subservient horrible stereotype that we’ve been assigned,” Lustig said.
Their hope is that we, as a society, continue to grow our awareness of other cultures and backgrounds.
“The most important thing I think is education,” Smith said. “Even prior to this political issue that’s going around with racism and discrimination, being raised in a multi racial family, I’ve always gotten those questions like you’re really not with that family or they speak Spanish to me or they told me to go back to the south or go back to the wall things like that.”
“The more we can focus on how we are alike and also being comfortable with people being different and what are their roots, where do they come from, and how lucky we are to be a part of someone else's story,” Abbott said.