April 18, 2021
April 2021: Quyen Tu
Quyen Tu (she/her/ella)
Co-Chair of the Equity and Inclusion Committee, ACS Los Angeles Lawyer Chapter
Last summer, as we began to see the disparate impact of COVID-19 on minority communities, KQED published an article on how many children in non-English speaking households are serving as the de facto translators for their family. Boy, did the article resonate with me! As a newly arrived seven-year-old refugee, I did not speak or understand English. By ten, I was the language bridge for my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents as we built our lives in the US.
Like the kids in the article, I still translate for my family. Nine months into a global pandemic, Kaiser Permanente still only had one page of medical information about COVID-19 in Vietnamese. This is appalling because Kaiser is a large, multi-state institution with access to resources. It has numerous locations in Orange County, home of the largest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. Yet, Kaiser didn’t offer adequate in-language support to the community it serves. Thankfully, I was able to translate for my family members. But what about those who don’t have someone like me? If you don’t speak or read English, how do you let Kaiser and other societal institutions know that your needs aren’t being met?
I was drawn to ACS because of its mission and commitment to diversity, recognizing that we all fundamentally bring value and contribute to American society because of who we are. Working with and representing people who don’t speak English reminds me of my own family’s struggle to communicate. It’s why I continue to learn different languages. I want to lessen the barrier for me to understand and empathize with others. Those moments when I introduce myself as an attorney representing my clients are little capstones in my legal career.
I have wondered where my life would have led me to if I had arrived in an America that was more inclusive of other voices, different voices. In my current role at Alliance for Justice, I help people and organizations find their own voices and speak in whatever language they are most comfortable expressing themselves in to advocate for change. We are cheerleaders for bold advocacy. Whether individually or as a group, I hope that my work and involvement with ACS brings the vision of a more inclusive America closer to fruition.