I never really understood what it meant to look or be “too Asian,” but I spent my entire life avoiding that epithet.
Vietnamese was my first language, and my dad took pride in me retaining it as I was struggling to be bilingual in my English as a second language classes.
Not only was I struggling verbally, I was struggling socially. I was bullied for being the stereotypical “fresh-off-the-boat” girl. “Ching-chong” they called me, as I had a thick accent to go with my melon hair cut, china bangs and narrow framed eyeglasses.
I was opposed to being friends with other Asians; the bullies drove me into thinking there was something wrong with my race. I did not want to be identified with “the rejects.”
This experience traumatized me. The words of my bullies taunted me and lead me into stripping my cultural identity to completely adopt this American culture.
Growing up, I told my parents to speak only English at home as this would give an illusion that we were American. I was constantly dissatisfied because I was not even remotely close to being or looking Caucasian.
Although I was born and raised in America, to this day, I still have people asking me “where are you from?” Some seem to believe Kristi is not my real name and have the audacity to ask me “what is it really?”
There are people who may believe America is progressive when it comes to diversity, but I completely disagree. The media has become more vocal with inclusion, especially with celebrities who associate themselves as people of color who made it big in an industry that normally promotes Caucasians as bankable stars. What these stars fail to reveal that they are not, in fact, 100 percent their color background. These stars are beloved and valued because they are mixed with a European, basically White ethnic background.
While it is still an achievement to have any person of color held to the same, equal standing of a white individual, there is still so much more work to be done to be able to recognize the talents of those who are completely of color.
I grew up making my mom feel terrible for not marrying a white man. I was irritated every day as I looked in the mirror, disgusted by the fact I would always be degraded by society if I acted or looked an ounce of Asian.
After reading a Pacific Standard magazine article by Ellen Lee, “Why Are Asian Americans Missing From Our Textbooks?” I was stunned. I never noticed this fact.
“My identity [was] shaped by years of never reading, seeing, hearing, or learning about people who looked like me or had a similar background as me,” Lee said.
If Asian Americans were covered, it was covered from a Eurocentric point of view. Challenges and injustices faced were quickly glossed over.
Lee mentioned that these stories matter as they are a part of the nation’s history. She gave the example of some Americans believing that “the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II was necessary as a model for today’s terrorism threats,” but “overlook the fact that it was an unjust imprisonment of more than 120,000 innocent Americans because of their ancestry.”
A 2015 study conducted by the Association of Psychological Science found, “students of color are more engaged and earn better grades when they see themselves in their studies.”
When another colored group becomes a subject of an insensitive joke, an uproar in the press arises as a massive public expresses their outrage. This becomes immortalized as a tally of how they were wronged.
For Asian Americans, racial discrimination against them is a short-lived hot topic. For example, Steve Harvey’s remark on Asian men being undesired, Gigi Hadid and Miley Cyrus’s mockery of ‘Asian eyes,’ and Chris Rock and Jimmy Kimmel’s inconsiderate jokes about Asian Americans while hosting the Oscars.
Why do people believe if a product is made in China or an Asian country that it’s a poor quality product? Is that a reflection of how society feels about Asians?
Asian Americans are unheard. Asian Americans are the silent majority.