I write a lot about being Asian and my experiences as a first-generation Asian- American.
I write a lot about this topic because it plays a huge role in my identity and the person whom I’ve become to this day.
Stop Associating Me with Asian Stereotypes
Last night, as I was running through a neighborhood in Brooklyn, not too far from where I live, I was called a “dumb…
However, I often struggle with this part of me.
I struggle, not because I don’t like who I am, but instead because it seems that other people don’t.
Throughout my whole life, and even more so in more recent years, I’ve encountered a growing number of people who have felt the need to comment on my ethnicity — Some were simply out of curiosity and others just to throw it into conversation.
But, then there are those who have the full intention of actually saying hurtful, offensive, and racist comments.
When these situations occurred, I often wondered,
“When will this stop being a thing?”
“When will people finally be accepting of other races?”
“When will there be true equality?”
My parents immigrated to America several decades ago. When they first arrived, they had a pretty difficult time adjusting to the culture shock.
It was difficult getting used to a different environment, a different country, a different culture, and different people.
Everything was foreign to them — And they were foreign here too.
Yet, despite their unwavering efforts to assimilate, they were still not as accepted as they probably hoped that they would be.
Growing up, I must have picked up where they left off in their efforts.
I used to try so hard to be as “Un-Asian” as possible.
Sometimes, I would make unconscious, unintentional decisions, but then other times, I would make the willful choice to turn away from anything, any hobby, any people, that associated me with being Asian.
And during that time, I’ve learned a few things…
It’s a lose-lose situation.
You’re fighting an impossible battle.
You can’t run away from your past. Your ethnicity is a part of who you are no matter how much you try to hide from it. You can try to run away, but it will always catch up to you.
Although it’s not mandatory for people to embrace or even acknowledge their ethnicity, it’s still there.
So, when I (or anyone for that matter) try to hide my “Asian-ness”, it only comes back to bite me because other people can still see it.
And in the reverse scenario, if I embraced it, I still run risk for being shamed for it.
It’s a double-edged sword.
It’s harmful no matter how you cut it and I’m the one that gets hurt either way.
I don’t want to hide who I am; It hurts to do that. I also don’t want to be shamed for being proud of who I am; That hurts as well.
It’s a double-edged sword because both scenarios can be potentially held against me.
So, what I want to know is this…
How much should we really assimilate?
Particularly in America, the current pressures of assimilating to American culture is higher than ever.
If you look or even act “un-American”, you raise suspicion towards those around you. This then forces people to feel the need to be one or the other — American or Un-American.
Instead, we should be able to embrace both he American culture and that of our ancestors without any fear of scrutiny.
It should be a blend, not a divide.
Nobody should ever be deterred from embracing their ethnicity, even if they have immigrated from one country to another.
Nobody should ever be ashamed of expressing themselves. Nobody should be ashamed of being different.
At the end of the day, it’s not about assimilation — It’s about acceptance.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike” — Maya Angelou