In mid-May, a company called Polydott uploaded a short film to YouTube titled “The Armor,” a story about the #StopAAPIHate movement told from the perspective of a child. During that time — which also happened to be Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month — more and more communities and media outlets were raising awareness about the Asian American hate crimes that increased dramatically in the U.S. during the pandemic.
The idea behind Polydott, and subsequently “The Armor,” came from a serious lack of Chinese culture representation in the U.S.
“We think Chinese culture is underrepresented and sometimes stereotypically presented in the K-12 education industry here in the U.S.,” Paisley Hao, founder and CEO of Polydott, told In The Know. “We want to do something to change and to redefine it.”
Hao, her co-founder Aries Wang and “The Armor” director Kun She formed Polydott in response to the hole in the entertainment industry for bilingual children and Chinese American students.
Wang, who worked as a Mandarin tutor, said that she noticed her Chinese students really wanted to learn English and to be immersed in American culture, while her Chinese American students wanted nothing to do with learning Mandarin.
“For those kids who are Chinese but who were born in the U.S., they feel reluctant about learning Mandarin, and they think that Chinese culture is not cool,” Wang explained. “What I really want to do is create really great bilingual content for the international students and also for those kids who really want to learn Mandarin.”
Polydott is not only a great bilingual tool but also an opportunity to increase exposure to Chinese culture and history.
“Through learning language and through really delving into [cultures and histories], you will build yourself a really authentic — a really real picture about the whole world,” Wang added. “So it somehow fosters multilingualism and also fosters critical thinking as well. And that’s what we need as a global skill right now, in the current era.”
“From day one, we are here doing Polydott as a bilingual educational platform,” Hao said. “From day one, we’re aiming to help children of Chinese heritage and Chinese descent to embrace their cultural identities by enriching their appreciation for Chinese culture, and to bridge the gap between the different cultures that they grew up with.”
The inspiration for the short film “The Armor” comes from sentiments similar to Polydott’s mission.
“The short film tells a very simple story between … a grandson [and] his grandfather,” Hao explained. “As we all know, in the past year, Asian Americans — especially the elders — are under the attack of [hate crimes] … The grandson hears the news about hate crime[s] targeting the Asian elders, and he decides [to] step out and to create armor for his grandfather to protect his grandfather from the attacking. And so it’s a really simple story, but it stands just around the cultural identity.”
She added that the U.S. media contributes to the misrepresentation of Asian culture and causes racial bias and stereotypes that are then used against Asian Americans in a violent way.
“Racial bias is usually caused by cultural stereotypes,” he said. “Asian American kids growing up in mixed culture environments are very likely to have an identity crisis issue. And to me, the major reason causing the identity crisis issue is … the misrepresentation of Asian culture in the media.”
“The reason why we made this short film, ‘The Armor,’ is because we really believe that the children have their own way of seeing and dealing with some sensitive topics,” Hao said. “So we want to bring up some cultural identity topics and to raise awareness of the society — and we hope all the API families will find strength in it.”
To start on this mission, Polydott offers a program called Asian Kids Pride (AKP), which teaches bilingual classes to students ages three to 12.
“We are hoping that all our followers, our customers, our students will like us and will appreciate Chinese culture through Polydott, through all the content produced by Polydott,” Hao said. “That is the hope. That is the expectation.”
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