Your race is a permanent tattoo that people can see from far away, and before they’ve seen the whites of your eyes, they’ve started to identify you.
When though, do they start to make something of it?
When I was in pre-school, I knew that my classmates didn’t have the same skin colors, but it didn’t affect the way I saw them. They didn’t really acknowledge my race as something that could divide us; we just played around in the sand together, wet carpets together.
In elementary school, I started to realize that our skin colors mean that some of us came from different countries; we ate different foods at home and we were out of school for certain holidays. But still, no one seemed to actively judge me based on my race; it was just a side issue that no one even so much as gave a glance.
By junior high, I’d started going to private school, and while I’m thankful for the opportunities that I never would have otherwise found, race had become a very, very pertinent issue. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Asian invasion, takin’ over your nation…
I think that growing up in a Christian private school, the way for me to most feel singled out is not by gender, since I had half of the students there to back me up. It was not by sexual orientation, because I am among the majority and because these sort of issues had not surfaced entirely. It was not by class, although that was certainly a pressing issue that I felt most junior high students could not handle responsibly. In middle school, my race was definitely the issue that I felt was most contested, albeit indirectly, by the students around me.
Ah yes, the issue of race. An aspect of ourselves that we cannot hide, that blatantly displays itself on the very pigments of our skin. Even if not directly contested, it comes up subtly in conversations. It manifests in our very interactions with others, as if mere interactions are tinged with the acknowledgement of one’s race.
This destabilizing form of stereotype, considered with the irrational tendency of adolescents to want to fit into society, is a rather disturbing combination. Kids might go to extremes to avoid the generalizations inherent in junior high kids, as they pertain to broad issues, not just race.
…and then I realized I was rejecting my everything.
My personal response was to literally cast away my culture, my race, the one that I had grown up with since day one. Characterized by Chinese food, Chinese holidays, and Chinese language, my very life was molded by these influences, and I didn’t think twice when I left it all behind as I struggled to fit in.
Mind you, I didn’t dye my skin. I didn’t change my black hair, and I couldn’t control my Asian eyes, but I had no desire to change those things. I was as content as a middle school student could be with my looks, and other concerns were irrelevant to race.
Rather, I started regretting everything. I regretted that my parents had come all the way from China, had learned a completely foreign language, but still somehow had thick accents. I abhorred the accents. Every mispronounced word, every stutter, every pause as my mom or dad read English, made me cringe internally.
I questioned why some kids ate mashed potatoes and green beans everyday, where I had those maybe once a month, at a restaurant. I wanted to leave my culture behind, everything that seemed foreign or made people scrunch their eyebrows.
I didn’t want to be known as another Asian girl, and I didn’t want to have only Asian friends.
That was basically me and my struggles all through middle school.
But somewhere between the transition from middle to high school, I let the resentment dissolve. Somewhere along the way, I stopped wincing at Chinese accents, I started enjoying my family meals, and I stopped alienating my Asian friends. No more shame…
I haven’t forgiven myself for the way I regarded my race. I don’t understand the significance of abandoning good things for people who aren’t willing to accept you with all of your racial quirks. Why can’t the raised eyebrows signify interest? Why aren’t people more willing to accept people of a certain race as individuals, instead of people of one personality?
I promise to never let myself forget the past. Why leave behind traditions and memories that are utterly invaluable to your personal development?
If I ever hated my appearance because of my race, then shame on me. There’s something unique about it.
Uhm, high school hasn’t just magically erased these social discomforts. I still face really awkward discrimination, but it definitely occurs behind my back. People stereotyping and grouping, making assumptions about my ambitions and goals in complete relevance to other people of my race (you know what I’m talking about; I don’t have to say it).
That being said, I think it’s me that’s changed. My response to this and the way that I no longer let these sort of problems bother me, that’s what’s significant. These problems don’t just disappear once I graduate high school, either. They still exist in the halls of universities, in the offices of wherever I get a job, but I think the most important thing is to in general, never let people’s assumptions and opinions shape the way you act.
Merp, I’ve got yellow fever.