Tagged: stereotype

Yellow fever

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.

I Will Not Underestimate You.

True story. Picture from here.

True story. Picture from here.

If I underestimate you, I put myself at a massive disadvantage. Suppose that I go ahead and underestimate you. I might assume that you’re a loser who will never go places in life because you’re simply NOT GOOD at one aspect of your life. Well that’s just great for me, because one of two possibilities will result:

  1. You’re going to work your butt off in that one region of life and eventually become really successful at what you do. As in like a lot better than me. As in like, I might not pay attention to the progress you make because I’ve already cast you as a failure who will never achieve anything substantial (in that one certain aspect of life). I tell myself that there’s not a chance that you could ever reach, let alone surpass my level of “success and expertise” for whatever we’re competing for. Perhaps I disregard your ability, and I underestimate you. Grand mistake on my part. I’ve undervalued your determination, your perseverance, and your willpower. And by the time I’ve pulled my face away from the spot on the wall I’ve been staring at much too intently, by the time I’ve taken a step back to evaluate any potential “threats” or “competitors,” it will be too late.
  2. You’re going to realize that the one aspect of life that we’ve been focusing on isn’t such a significant part of your life, and that you’re probably better at something else for which I am inadequate. It might hold more value in your eyes, so it might just make sense for you to abandon the competition we’ve been maintaining. You might take with you the experience and lessons you’ve learned, so that overall, you are a well rounded person. You are going to instead invest your time and energy into something else and leave me in the dust. Because you know what? That one particular aspect of life doesn’t define who you are, and it certainly doesn’t define your value as a person. If I am foolish enough to think that it does, then that’s just an arbitrary, self-serving assertion made that will only come back to smack me in the face in the future.

Do you know why these things are going to happen? Because I don’t know you as well as you know yourself. I don’t know what you go through, and I certainly don’t know what your life is like. I don’t know your past, present and future, and I don’t know your morals and values. I know, at best, just one side of you, and it’s wrong of me to assume that knowing just one side of you is enough to reflect your entire character, because chances are, it doesn’t.

Assumption leads to stereotype, which only yields generalization and arbitrary misinterpretation.

The moral of the story is: don’t assume unless you have to. It will only end up hurting others and yourself. You have nothing to gain from assuming, so why not just evaluate everyone equally, because nothing positive has ever resulted from underestimation in the past, and it certainly won’t lead to anything good in the future.