Reflections on my Vietnamese roots, anti-Asian violence, bi-racial, and our common humanity.

I wrote an essay for Washington Monthly magazine that I’d started writing at the beginning of Asian American Heritage Month. I had a lot to say so it took a while to finish. Three thousand words later, I feel like I’m still not done plumbing these depths. Maybe there’s a book in here somewhere….

“What Joe’s friend did reminded me of all the times I’d been told I spoke English well, mistaken for Asian women who looked nothing like me, fetishized by men who “preferred” Asian girlfriends. Reminded me of one Halloween night when teen-aged boys, back home in Richmond…


Illustrations: Reina Takahashi

Our conversations could be frustrating, but they also gave me hope. Was I a fool to think we were getting somewhere?

Three days after the 2016 election, I posted an invitation on Facebook. I was looking for Donald Trump voters who wanted to come over for dinner at my house, which is just a short walk from the White House in Washington, D.C. I wanted to understand why over 62 million people voted for someone who I thought was wholly unqualified for the job and entirely lacked the moral character befitting the office. I wanted to ask my own questions without the filter of media or political punditry.

No one accepted my dinner invitation at first. Even though only 4% of…


Looking For America

How this half Asian kid learned how to fit in and still be herself

“She’s not like other people.” That’s how a friend’s dad recently described me and he meant it as a compliment and I took it that way. I don’t want to be like everyone else. That hasn’t always been true, though. Growing up as the only Asian-looking kid, apart from my little brother, in a small Southern city, I desperately wanted to be like the other people I saw around me. I wanted to feel like I belonged.

Our hometown was clearly divided between black and white people. I looked neither black nor white, so I belonged in neither group. My…


Conversations with folks from across the political divide on Zoom

Super duper excited to have been selected for a project called Social Divisions and Questions of Identity in Germany and the United States. It’s a year-long program in which we will share and learn in a cohort of Americans and Germans who are doing work to address polarization and improve dialogue between diverse communities. Really looking forward to learning from our friends across the ocean.

One of the purposes of the trans-Atlantic project is to bring people together “for an honest exchange of the issues.” Which coincidentally is what I’ve started doing again in a recent revival of Blueberries &…


Who’s who? This is a tricky one!

Happy Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

On the first day of AAPI month, I was at an outdoor art event where someone mistook me for Pamela, a fellow American woman in DC who has an Asian face. I have also been confused for Christina, also an American woman in DC with an Asian face. Apparently, Pamela has never been mistaken for either of us. We are all Pamela!

Now that more events are starting to happen around town and you may encounter one of us, I’ve prepared this handy guide with three easy tips that I hope will help…


A gratuitously cute picture of me at three-years-old

We can stop talking about race when we stop assaulting my humanity

Lately I have been hearing more and more people ask, why does everything have to be about race? I agree. I wish everything didn’t have to be about race. Thinking and talking about race all the time is a waste of my time.

I’d like to spend less time thinking about how to defend myself from racism and more time being a productive member of society. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time thinking about what to do when I walk down the street minding my own business and someone mutters, “Go back to where you came from” when they…


Baby Pippa wearing a traditional Vietnamese dress called áo dài.

The myth of the model minority maintains racism against Asians

I slept fitfully last night after hearing the news that a man had murdered six Asian women in Atlanta. That news on top of all the recent reports of rising violence against people of Asian descent has me feeling fearful that I or my family members could be attacked and maybe killed for no other reason than that we have Asian faces. Should I start using the buddy system every time I leave my house? Do I need to ask my mom and other family members to check in with me every day so I know they haven’t been hurt?


Gratuitous photo of baby me all dressed up and nowhere to go.

How this extrovert adapted to life in a pandemic

“The psychological effects of losing all but our closest ties can be profound. Peripheral connections tether us to the world at large; without them, people sink into the compounding sameness of closed networks. Regular interaction with people outside our inner circle “just makes us feel more like part of a community, or part of something bigger,” Gillian Sandstrom, a social psychologist at the University of Essex, told me. People on the peripheries of our lives introduce us to new ideas, new information, new opportunities, and other new people. …


Looking For America

Why I ugly cried anticipating the end of the Muslim Ban

A French television crew stopped by my home last week to document reactions of DC residents who would have normally gone to the National Mall to watch the inaugural proceedings. I remember watching the first Obama inauguration in the bitter cold from somewhere around the Washington Monument. We were so far away from the Capitol steps that day and watching on a jumbotron that we might as well have stayed home and watched on television. The election of a black man was historic, of course, and it felt important to witness the moment in person, even from afar. This…


I made 1,200 sandwiches!

My job for most of the day was to put two slices of cheddar cheese on one half of a ciabatta roll after the guy ahead of me slathered it with a basil aioli sauce. It was quite meditative! Others were assigned to follow me with six slices of roast beef, a few sun-dried tomatoes, finished with a handful of arugula. When more volunteers came, I switched over to wrapping the freshly made sandwiches before they were delivered to national guardsman protecting our Capitol from rioters.

Normally, when I hear about the work of World Central Kitchen, they’re out feeding…

Philippa Hughes

Creating space for conversations to transform society. Exploring what it means to be American. Recovering lawyer, public speaker, art fanatic philippahughes.com

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