I’m Not Chinese, But I Still Get Offended When People Think I Am
It just reinforces the notion that “All Asians look the same”
I recently moved to a new neighborhood in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and it’s definitely been an adjustment so far.
I lived in my last apartment for five years, so I became very comfortable and familiar with the people and places in my old neighborhood. And of course, leaving a place that you once called home is always a bittersweet feeling, but I was just excited to be somewhere new.
However, like any new thing, it’s a bit uncomfortable and awkward when you’re first getting settled in. It takes time to fully get to know the area and it takes even longer to really get to know your neighbors. And, I know it will be quite a while for this new area to truly feel like home. So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying my best to get acquainted.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve done my fair share of exploring the neighborhood — locating the nearest bars, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. And for the most part, I’ve walked around with my husband, which always makes me feel a little better, but this past weekend, I decided to go for a walk by myself.
In only a span of what I would guesstimate to be ten or so blocks, I had two — yes, two — unfortunate encounters of prejudice in relation to my Asian background. The first one, I was at a crosswalk, waiting for the walking sign to appear when someone in a car driving by yelled, “Chinese bitch”.
Now, I’ve had my encounters with this type of name-calling before, but, that doesn’t mean this encounter was any less hurtful.
The thing that really put me over the edge was the fact that another incident happened just a few blocks later when a man sitting on the sidewalk mumbled “ching chong ching” or some derivative of that as I walked by.
Burning with anger, I decided to turn around and as he jokingly waved at me, I said with a stern voice, “I’m Filipino” as I tried to hold back my tears.
In these types of situations, I try not to let people get the best of me. I try to brush it off my shoulders and remind myself of the mantra “Sticks and stones” but, what was most hurtful in this particular situation was the fact that I just moved to this new neighborhood and was so filled with excitement to explore it.
But, I’ve never felt more like an outsider.
It’s already upsetting and discouraging enough to feel like I need to reassure people of my “American-ness” and the fact that I was born here. But, it’s even more upsetting when you have to do that on a micro-level within your own neighborhood you’re living it.
I’ve always struggled with race and how it fits within my identity and every single time an incident like this occurs, that struggle gets harder.
The fact that I have to constantly reassure people of my ethnicity is an existential problem that I worry will never really go away. The fact that I have to correct people by telling them that I’m not Chinese is a fundamental issue. After all, what would it matter if I was Chinese versus any other Asian ethnicity? Does it even make a difference?
Feeling at home in America has always been a struggle that Asians have had to deal with on a daily basis. And with tensions being as high as they are today within the issues of race, it’s important now more than ever to correct the stigma that we “don’t belong here”
I’m tired of facing this stigma and I’m tired of constantly having have to reassure people that I’m “one of you”. I’m tired of always feeling nervous that a stranger might say something offensive to me as it pertains to my race.
In order to find peace, we need to stop the hate. We need to stop discriminating against others as it pertains to race. Most importantly, we need to protect others when we see hate or discrimination happening. And until then, it will be along road for Asians to feel comfortable anywhere in America.