1. Mocking or trying to imitate the language:
Ching chong, ling long, ting tong.
YES, THAT IS WHAT CHINESE SOUNDS LIKE. YOU’RE GOING TO DO GREAT IN CHINA, KID.
No! That’s not what it sounds like! That’s simplifying and degrading a really old and ancient language that carries significance in my life! How would you feel I reduced your language down to a few stereotyped words? Your grunting and tongue clucking does not help.
2. Assuming I love orange chicken:
NO! Believe it or not, my meals at home do not consist of dishes of General Tso’s or egg rolls or spring rolls or anything. I will admit that I do love a good Americanized-Chinese meal from time to time whenever I want to address my deep-fried needs, but Chinese food is actually the best if it’s underground. By that, I mean, go to actual China, or an actual Chinese restaurant here in the United States and their most popular dish won’t be something you will find on a P. F. Chang’s menu. It will be something totally alien to your taste buds, that I will relish on a regular basis from within my Chinese household.
3. Asking me for help in classes such as math or science:
WHAT. I should be the one asking you for help, okay? Just because many Asians are academically talented, doesn’t mean that we enjoy our knowledge being exploited for your racist needs. It also doesn’t warrant you assuming that I am all-knowing in every subject ever, and that whenever the teacher announces a partner project, the ones needing higher grades should flock to my side. It’s also uncomfortable living up to this expectation, especially when you consider that we as Asians are humans too, and we have flaws, even in school.
4. I don’t speak Asian:
Asian isn’t a language. Asia isn’t a country. It’s not a subset of China. Korea and China aren’t the same place, and there’s a huge difference between North and South Korea. It’s understandable to get them mixed up because I probably can’t tell the difference between maybe an Indian and a Pakistani, but at least I don’t clump them together…right.
5. We don’t all do the same activities:
Yes, tons of Asians (more specifically, Chinese) speak their language, are first-generation Americans, play tennis/soccer, and have played some sort of orchestral instruments, but that’s definitely not all of us, and I sure do not want to be characterized solely by those activities. It makes breaking out of the stereotype all the more dramatic, and that’s not what we like to experience. Even though I have done all of the above AND MORE STEREOTYPICAL CHINESE ACTIVITIES, I am in many ways different from the stereotype. Being compared to the stereotype is confining and reductionist. In that sense, it warrants me to never learn the names of the blonds at my school or differentiate them from one another. How much would that sting?
And that’s my rant for today. In all honesty, it feels like a slap in the face when people get us mixed up or assume that we are all the same. It reflects how evident this sort of mindset is in our society, specifically, the one that I’m growing up in.
It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It makes the function of race as an identifying factor seem almost impossible to be positive or beneficial.
Can we change that?
Of course, I don’t think that everyone ever is like this. I can’t tell if it’s most people or few people that act so inappropriately, but I also think people take on this mentality in different degrees of intensity. I have to admit that I’m probably racist too, in a different way.