I can’t drive, can’t see, can’t speak English, look the same as everyone else in my ethnic group, eat rice with everything, am stingy, think a “B” is bad, am good at math and science, want to be a doctor and am a ninja… or at least that’s what people have assumed about me.
I was adopted from China by an American couple, and even though I live in a country that's known for its metaphorical melting pot, I experience racism all of the time.
To some degree, racism is inevitable due to the media we've consumed our whole lives and the stereotypes it perpetuates. The sad truth is that Asian stereotypes are played out extensively in the media. How many Asian protagonists do you see in American media? How many of them are female? Don't say Mulan.
The communications school at the University of Pennsylvania developed something called the cultivation theory, which states that the media influences our view of what everyday life is and should be. As we constantly see Asian sidekicks, foreigners and overachievers, that message is embedded into our minds as the definition of reality. Asian characters in the media are typically there for comic relief, annoyance or silent, macho ninjas.
According to a survey done by the U.S. Justice and Education Department, Asian-Americans are bullied in American schools more than any other ethnic group. Fifty-four percent of Asian teenagers reported being bullied in the classroom, compared to 31.1 percent of white students, 38.4 percent of black students and 34.3 percent of Hispanic students.
Some people might argue that Asians don’t suffer discrimination much or aren’t victims of racism. Then why are the numbers for bullying so much higher for Asian-Americans than the other ethnic groups? You could point to the average salaries and grade point averages of Asian-Americans and ask if those are so high, then why is this even an issue?
I won’t get into the massive gender-gap, with the average Asian-American woman's salary being 40 percent less than Asian-American men – the biggest gap of any marginalized race. What I will get into is that despite the success that Asians seem to have achieved, racism is still a conflict that I find myself running into regularly.
This inescapable fate I must face is knowing it doesn’t have to be this way. I don't need the mocking, fear and crude humor that's rooted in the way I look or the color of my skin. My identity doesn’t have to be fetishized. I’ve had guys approach me and say they have “yellow fever,” as if it were a pick-up line.
Instead of attending the University of Washington, with a student population that’s 27.9 percent Asian, I attend a university where it's a mere 6.1 percent. I might be a little unique because I was raised by white parents and have embedded myself into American culture. But if I identify as American, why do I still get ridiculed for doing or saying something that’s “so Asian?”
I take it. I take it when people make jokes about Asians, mimic them and even assume I have mannerisms associated with the stereotypical Asian woman. I take it.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a guy who happens to be a rower. I asked him about the sport and he replied, “I go on boat, I swim really hard. Vietnam is my home you.” While I was offended by this message, I let it slide.
But last week I realized I shouldn’t have to take it anymore. I received a text from a guy I had turned down that read, “How about go fuck your Chinese ass. U r worthless. No body wants u here. Fucking c*nt.”
How could this be acceptable? Regardless of what identity someone holds, how could someone be so rude, pulling my ethnicity into the story and think it’s okay?
The same study by the U.S. Justice and Education Department about bullying in the classroom found that 62 percent of Asian students said they're bullied online up to twice a month. In comparison, 18.1 percent of white students reported being cyber-bullied.
As an Asian-American, I feel under-represented. As Americans, we should be well aware of genocide and slavery in our early American history. But what many don't realize is the institutionalized discrimination and expulsion that Chinese Americans once endured still happens.
A study by the Australian National University in 2009 sent 4,000 job applications to entry-level jobs. The only difference was the last name of the applicant. The applications with Chinese-sounding names received an average call-back rate of 21 percent compared to the 35 percent for Anglo-Saxons.
If racism didn’t exist among Asian-Americans, then Jeremy Lin wouldn’t have been called “chink,” “flat face” and “monkey.” Even I get comments on how flat my face is.
What I want you to take away from this, is that I don’t want your pity. Instead, I want your awareness. In the same way saying, “That’s so gay,” is offensive, think about what the connotations are when you say, “That’s so Asian.”