Hi friends! Todays post will be really different from the regular poems and life stories that I normally do, so if you’re not interested in hearing some hard truths, click out of this and carry on with your day! But if you’re ready to hear something real and raw you probably should get comfortable in your chair, and grab some tea 😛
Before I begin, let me just clear a few things up. Yes I’m Asian, and no I am not Chinese, because surprise surprise… Not all Asians in the world are Chinese. As a matter of fact, I’m Taiwanese, and I don’t play the piano or the violin. I don’t really like Asian food… in fact, I prefer Mexican cuisine, and I was adopted by my Caucasian parents when I was 7 months old…so I’ve basically been raised in America my whole life, which is probably why I can speak English so well. You know, because 15 years of knowing a language can really help you out in that department. I don’t want to be a doctor or an engineer, and I don’t actually use “Ching, Chang, or Chong” in my everyday vocabulary.
Now by now, I’m sure you can guess by the title of this post, and the lovely introduction that you’ve just read, that I’m going to be talking to you today about racism and stereotypes. Yay! Racism in our society tends to be an extremely controversial topic, and most of us will simply gloss over it in an attempt to convince ourselves that it doesn’t exist, when in actuality, it very much does exist. (And trust me, I’ve tried to pretend that these things didn’t exist or bother me…It’s definitely a real thing that people do) I’ve noticed as I grow older, and learn more things about people through experiences of my own, that many individuals are placed into “people groups” with definitions that define all of them…Not as individuals mind you, but as one people group. And that’s what I believe racism really is…Not really treating us as a “minority” or making fun of our ancestor’s culture, but more so the act of taking away our right to be something or someone else other than the box that society puts us in to make them feel comfortable. Because it’s easier right? It’s easier just to check off the box next to “Asian” and immediately assume that they’re a bad driver, or that they make all A’s effortlessly. After all…that’s what we’ve been told right?
And let me be clear with you, I don’t think Asians are the only ethnicity being targeted here, because it’s honestly just stereotypes in general that silently exist while slowly tearing us down. I just felt like writing about how it feels to be on the receiving end of racism and all the fun jokes and stereotypes that come along with being an Asian American in 2017, because that’s the only experience I have had. And for the record, my family, my extended family, and the majority of my friends are Caucasian, and I love them very dearly so don’t think for a second I’m hating on them! More so, I’m simply addressing some of things people have said to me, or experiences I’ve had that aren’t necessarily acceptable or entertaining. So hang tight my friends…It’s about to get really real.
Can you see?
You’d think people would be considerate enough not to ask this question, even if it is in a “joking manner”, but being surrounded by other teenagers my age is a whole new ball game… And yes, yes I can see. I actually have 20 20 vision, but thank you so much for asking!
…But where are you really from?
When people ask me where I’m from, I get caught off guard and assume they must know that I moved from Illinois to Texas when in actuality, they just want to know where my ancestors are from. It catches me off guard, because I myself don’t really go around asking other individuals where their ancestors are from…It sounds stupid hearing it like that, but that’s what I hear when you ask me, “But where are you really from?”
It’s because you’re Asian
If I could get a dollar every time someone has said this to me…oh my goodness I would be rich. Y’all… Please don’t tell me that I only got my grade because of my ethnicity. I work my butt off for my grades, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my race. It’s not like an A+ is just handed to me on a silver platter. No…I earn that grade, and you know what? It’s not easy. So please don’t belittle the work and time I’ve put into anything by telling me all of my success is because I’m Asian.
You should know that! You’re Asian!
Once again…Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I fit every bullet point stereotypical qualification that has been assigned to my ethnicity. I’m not the best at math (I’m where I am academically because I pay attention in class, do my homework, and study hard) and don’t even get me started on doing math in my head! I don’t know every math equation you throw at me, I don’t speak Mandarin or Japanese or whatever you think I am, and I definitely don’t know any martial arts.
So I’d like to end on this one, because it’s an experience that has been permanently etched into my brain, and I can almost guarantee to you that almost all Asian Americans in public schools go through this every single day. And as a disclaimer: This all happened last year, and believe it or not…A person can change a lot and learn a lot in a year, and I’m sure if I were to be faced with this situation again, it wouldn’t bother me as much, because I know we’re all “young dumb and broke high school kids.”
So, last year was my freshman year of high school. I go to an extremely small private school, which resulted in my class having about 20 students, myself being the only Asian American. Regardless of the number, all the ninth graders are required to take a Geography course, which makes total sense to me, but I’m sure all of you know that Asia will most likely be a topic for discussion in such a class. Without wanting to believe it, I realized that I was actually dreading that part of the course. Throughout the whole year I got dumb Asian racist jokes constantly, and they don’t always bother me, because I honestly don’t care sometimes, but I knew something like this would be a whole new experience, and let me tell you…It was something else.
We had been studying Asia for about a week, and you better believe all the jokes I was getting already, but nothing compared to this one day that our class decided to play hangman using words from our geography books. It started off with dumb things. For example…Some kid in my class chose the word “Kon’nichiwa” and this kid kept on saying, “Come on Mei! You should know this!” When someone finally guessed all the letters they all laughed and the kid said again, “Cmon Mei! You should’ve known that!” Everyone laughed, and I shook it off, because that’s what I’m supposed to do right?
Not too long after that, another kid chose the topic “Asians”, for the phrase we were supposed to guess, and that phrase turned out to be, “Rice eating toy makers.” Everyone lost it and started laughing and cracking jokes left and right, including some of my friends. I pretended it didn’t bother me, because that’s what I’ve been taught. I’ve been taught to “take a joke” and to not be “too sensitive” or “easily offended.” But try being in a room where everyone’s making fun of your ethnicity. Sure it wasn’t all directed specifically at me, but guess what? It all hurt me really bad actually, and what’s worse is that I didn’t have the guts to speak up, because that was my attempt at ignoring racism. And you might ask “Where was the teacher?”…”Why didn’t they do something?” Well I have an answer for you! It simply is that they didn’t care. Because it’s completely normal now. We’ve made it the norm to make these little jokes here and there, because guess what? They slip by, and I guess it’s okay because Asians are the perfect model of race right? It’s okay, because they’re supposed to be able to take the jokes as they are…Jokes. And I’m sure a lot of Asians do take them as jokes, myself included, but this specific experience was awful. That time I spent in that classroom with my face behind a book, laughing it off, pretending to ignore the jokes was the most terrible feeling in the world, and it’s been real hard to forget it, because not one of my friends spoke up to tell everyone to lay off the jokes, and they added in a few themselves. In conclusion to this experience I’ve just shared with you, I’ve realized that it’s not the big things that bother me…Rather these little things that pass by as “okay” over and over and over. Yes I can take a dumb racist joke but sometimes enough is enough and sometimes it’s not funny anymore to be the punch line of your humor.
And so yeah, maybe I’m making a big deal out of these little things, and maybe I should toughen up some and take a joke, and maybe I need to say something to stop them…but in the end… I don’t think my getting tired and drained from 15 years of being the punch line in your jokes is something to be labeled as “easily offended.” Yes I can take the jokes, and sure…Maybe I can find them hilarious at times, but sometimes there’s such a thing as going too far.
So in conclusion to this long rambling, I just want to say that I am not Asian. I am not a race, because you know what? My ethnicity doesn’t define me or confine me to certain standards or normalcy’s of a culture. Who I am is so much more than my ethnicity, and if you’re willing to know me as something more than “that Asian girl”, I’d really appreciate that 🙂
Okay friends sorry for the high key rant…! It’s just something I really needed to get out for years, and it’s also something I’m a bit passionate about, so if you’ve made it this far, you’re a real one 😉
So until next time…God bless and live life well ❤