asianamerican

When I was five I was put in a different school because there was an ESL (English as a Second Language) program there. You may be wondering, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, for starters, I was born in Ohio and English was my native tongue. I was reading novels by kindergarten (totally spelled that wrong the first time, fail) and I prided myself on the fact that I had an extensive vocabulary for a toddler. I had been speaking English with exquisite finesse up to that point in my life (okay, that may all be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). So I didn’t know why I was being put in an ESL program, but I didn’t argue because who’s going to listen to a five year old? At that age, you don’t question things, you just accept. I carried forth with my days throwing raisins at the teacher and drawing cartoon characters on the desks. It wasn’t until later in life I tried to analyze the situation and came to this conclusion: I was put in that program for one reason, I was a shy Asian girl and everyone jumped to the conclusion that I couldn’t speak English. I know I tend to joke about this story, but there’s a lesson to be learned.

As a young child, I didn’t understand race or skin color. I assumed everyone was white, including me. I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shatterning moment in our childhood when we realize we’re not white.

You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.

You start to realize that wearing shoes in the house wasn’t that big of a deal and not everyone ate rice for every meal. That when some people speak slowly to you, it’s not because they’re trying to be articulate, but it’s because they think you don’t understand English (as if speaking English slowly to a non-English speaking person helps). You notice that not every grocery store carries Pocky and not every family speaks a different language at home. You also realize that it’s not that common to call everyone who’s older than you Uncle or Aunt. When you learned about the Civil Rights movement again, you start to wonder what happened to Asians during that time or when people are describing you, the first thing out of their mouth is that you’re “oriental.” (On a side note, I hate being described as oriental. It makes me feel like a spice or dish).

Being Asian-American has always been a difficult part of me. I was (and am) proud of my heritage and how far my parents have come, but I had a hard time feeling as if I belonged somewhere. Experiencing first hand segregation and racism has made me despise my race for many years. I was trapped between two worlds.

Racism isn’t just black and white. In my experience, all my classes about race are taught by a black professor. I remember sitting in one of my media classes discussing race; we had spent weeks on how blacks and whites are portrayed in the media. As my professor went on and on, I sat there wondering when she was going to bring up Asians, Hispanics, or Middle Easterners. Finally, as if God had heard my plea, a thankfully inquisitive student in the front raised his hand, “What about Asians?”

There was five minutes left in class, and all she said was, “Well, they tend to be the ‘model minority,'” and carried forth with the discussion on blacks and whites.

Model minority?!? What about the shocking statistics of 1.3 million Asians that are undocumented or the fact that Southeast Asians have the highest high school drop out rate?

I’m not going to lie, I was flattered in high school when people I’ve never talked to asked me to be part of their group for a project. I felt included and thought they wanted to be friends, but I soon realized that many of them only picked me because I was the “Asian kid,” and instantly categorized as the smart one. My favorite (sarcasm) was when my peers would ask me how I did on a test expecting me to say “A,” or ask me to help them with their math homework… and most of the time I was just as lost as they were. But none of that mattered to me, I liked the attention and appreciated that people thought I was smart. It wasn’t until I couldn’t live up to the stereotype that the pressure truly manifested. I wanted to write stories and make music for a living or design t-shirts and play soccer, not become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer.

Now, I understand why the discussion on race tends to be about blacks and whites. America’s darkest days were about slavery and the civil rights movement. There’s a lot to be said about the resilient nature of the African-American people. Schools teach to let us never forget where America came from and from the mistakes of our past, we can learn justice and tolerance. However, even to this day, as sad as it is, we still struggle with racism among the two.

But if race is such a huge topic in American studies, why is it that I never learned about the Asian & Chinese Exclusion Acts in my classes or the fact that we only briefly touched on the Japanese Internment camps?

Why is it that after the Virginia Tech shooting there was a huge controversy and focus on the shooter’s ethnic heritage. With racists slurs and comments being brought upon Asians in that time. Whereas race wasn’t ever thought about in other horrific school shootings committed by white people?

The very first day of college a young and bright lad who is going to go far in life (sarcasm again) asked me, “Why do Asians always travel in packs?”

Literal face palm. I snapped back with “Because of people like you. Let me ask you, why do white people always travel in packs?”

We’re not friends.

I digress. Let’s shimmy back up to the beginning. How did I respond to that decision I had to make during my life-changing epiphany? Growing up as a child of immigrants I felt trapped between two worlds. I guess for me, I tried both. I ignored the fact for much of my early life, just living life colorblind. But for a brief (let me stress brief) time in middle school I embraced my full on “Asianness.” I hung out with mostly Asians, I watched Asian dramas and listened to Asian music. I got bangs and camera-whored with a peace sign. That quickly ended when I realized the facade of it all. Yes, ethnically I’m Asian, but culturally I’m not. I can squeeze my way into that culture by learning it and copying it, but I’ll never truly be it because I did not grow up in it. Visiting my parents’ homelands was a huge disappointment because people there did not accept me as fully Chinese. They could tell I wasn’t local just by looking at me. I had all the stereotypical facial features, but my composure, dress, and attitude was basically the equivalent of me wrapping myself in an American flag. Even my extended relatives joked about my American accent or lack of cultural respect. I’m Chinese, but I’m not.

After that heart-wrenching revelation, I betrayed that identity and landed myself on the flip side. I stopped speaking in Chinese, tried my hardest to erase my memory of those embarrassing Asian-washing times, and tried my best avoiding all FOBs (for you politically correct people, it’s a slang, and actually somewhat offensive term for immigrants: fresh-off the boat). I would tell my parents to keep quiet in public in attempts to save my face and stray from being different because I was scared their accent or what they say would embarrass me. My dad caught on to this pretty quick. Before I left for college he told me, “Hey, be nice to the international students, I was one of them.” It got to the point where I was making fun of the FOBs (but of course only Asians were allowed to make fun of Asians).

I thought this was all going well for me until one day in college, my friend runs up to me saying, “Connie! I just met the Asian version of you!”

After a few giggles and punchlines, I started to wonder. Why is it that I had to assimilate myself to become “white” in order to make friends and not the other way around? Why do people say “it’s ok, you’re so white-washed” as if it’s a good thing? Why do my friends and I think it’s funny to speak in an Asian accent? Why is it that the “tiger-mom” parenting tactic is so-called “bad”?

I believe that as Americans, we’re scared to accept difference, even in this day and age. We tell ourselves that we are more tolerant and accepting, looking to how far we have come, but in reality, we’re currently stuck in a rut. The ones who fall victim to this hallucination are actually the young people. We think we are America’s next great hope, blaming the intolerant ones on the older generation, when in reality we’re just as foolish as the generations before in relations of race.

All this is so counter-intuitive. America prides itself on being a melting pot (or for those who are really specific, tossed salad). So why is it that the whole image of the “ideal American” is, dare I say, white? I’m tired of taxi drivers asking where I’m “originally” from. If we’re being truly honest here, a white or black person may say they’re from Chicago and that’s the end of that, but I always get the followup question… “but where are your people from?” and then they go on forever about how much they love China. Let me ask, if a foreign European were to walk the streets of America how many times would they be stopped or stared at for being “foreign”? How many “Go back to where you came from”s would they hear? Just because I don’t look Anglo-Saxon or black, I instantly get an extra inquiry: immigrant, foreign, or native?

It’s no wonder Julie Chen felt the need to undergo the knife to advance in her white-male dominated industry. Which, by the way, I totally understand her decision and don’t expect her to have to apologize for it. She did what she had to do and by coming out about it, she opened many more doors to the truth about racism toward the Asian-American culture.

In the end, I’ve decided that being Asian-American is all together another race and culture. We are the ignored minority. We currently don’t have a place in middle school textbooks or in sociology. Not enough people walk on eggshells when talking about the Asian race. I’m not going to apologize for the scent our food makes when we’re cooking (which is heavenly by the way), or that we do get a little overly excited when we interact with our loved ones. On one side, the Asian culture has taught me respect and honor for authority, to be self-less and encounter a holistic approach to life. I have learned to value education and diligence, to be resourceful and never wasteful. On the other hand, the American culture has taught me independence, consideration for even those I don’t know, and the importance of having goals in life. It has introduced me to diversity and faith into my life (but I’m not saying those who aren’t Asian-American haven’t learned this). Being Asian-American, is a world all in itself, and since we are a fairly young race, we’re still figuring things out, I’m just asking for a little acknowledgment from the rest of America.

So to the Asian-American awakening, Let this be the moment when you realize you’re not white nor are you solely Asian, you’re Asian-American (and cue cheesy sap music).

578 comments

  1. jessicarr October 16, 2013 at 2:30 am

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    Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 9:44 pm

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      Pleasure is all mine! Felt the need to shed a light on this.

      • Richard Escutia October 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm

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        Good essay, but I hope you know this occurs in other races and ethnicities as well. Not speaking for myself here, but I’ve seen it happen within my own Hispanic family.

        • erika h (@rubyseeds) October 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm

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          She never said it doesn’t happen to other races.

        • MOOBXYOOJ October 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm

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          I’m sure she understands that it happens to many other people of color. But in this essay she speaks on a personal level for the Asian people.

          • Jo January 8, 2014 at 5:08 pm

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            She is speaking about her own personal experience living in the part of the country she lives in. When one Asian writes their story, he or she is not writing for the entire race! :) i never had this experience.

            • Kelly January 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

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              Live long enough you will. You will…

              • Jo January 11, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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                I am 60. I had different experiences. Maybe it is because I grew in CA and specifically in the Bay Area, but even in the community of Castro Valley where I was raised, most of my experiences were positive and there were a few Asian families. I am just saying not all people of color have negative experiences or think they are white. I grew up knowing I was Asian American, not desiring to be white and so proud of who I am. I was the girl, people envied my tan and long black hair. I think it is good for people to know not every had her experience. We are all unique and have our own experiences.

                • kenji September 28, 2014 at 7:41 am

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                  should’ve just stated that you’re from CA in the first comment. We all know CA is a lot less racist than USA

          • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

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            why do white people call refer the word Asian to Chinese and not other ethnicities in asia you know asia is a continent not a ethnicity. shows you white people are dumb that’s why you are more than likely on Asian indian land called north America GO BACK TO EUROPE! ILLEGAL

        • Bianca Beltran October 18, 2013 at 12:36 am

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          Exactly. I have experienced the disappointment of being singled out in my “mother country” and it is disheartening, neither here nor there. Although, it is nice to have something, as a first/second generation American. I have dated people mostly of Irish descent but they are so many generations removed from Ireland that that is not really culture. I have had a boyfriend tell me that I am lucky because everything is so bland for him, so mainstream. And there comes the racial difference as a spice of life issue… but I have to say, i appreciate the spice. White I am not Sofia Vergara or Salma Hayek in the slightest, I enjoy the connotation to the exotic when it is appropriate.

        • Rachelle October 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

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          She did mentioned that. She said that Hispanics were ignored too.
          “I sat there wondering when she was going to bring up Asians, Hispanics, or Middle Easterner”
          -_-

        • Nat October 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

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          She’s not talking about other races, it’s her personal experience, I hope you know.

      • Christian October 17, 2013 at 10:24 pm

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        yea this article is amazing and I agree with it. Being a first generation black American, I know what it feels to have each foot in different and distinct cultures. I can definitely identify with the pressure to “act white” and “act black” in different contexts of life. Im glad you wrote this because so much of it is true. We don’t talk enough about race and all races enough and its refreshing hearing it from someone with a different perspective!

      • Jaclyn October 19, 2013 at 10:52 pm

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        Does this have to do with the place you lived at? I live in a place where Asians and Hispanics are the majority, so basically I’ve never tried to be white or felt the need to embrace being Asian. I’ve never felt the need to live up to our stereotypes. I embraced a mix of the two cultures ever since birth, actually haha. Maybe I have it lucky.

      • ching pang pow October 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

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        quit complaining and eat some orange chicken!

        • Troll Alert September 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm

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          Very nice. But you’re not nearly offensive or stereotypical enough.

      • Diana October 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm

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        I’m Polish-American and have the same dual-culture situation where my parents are very foreign and we speak polish at home while I have grown up in American society. There are many things I can relate to in this article and some I can’t but I find it something of pride that I have my polish culture- even though I just look like a “white” person. Personally, I do not judge people by ethnicity but rather personality and I don’t find it offensive if people ask where I’m from because I think being interested in one’s culture shows an attempt to connect. Now there are many [insert culture]- Americans and instead of feeling lost or unfit I’m happy that people are coming to realize that having an insight and comfort in two cultures allows for a unique perspective on life and society.

      • Kevin geyer December 31, 2013 at 6:17 pm

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        Whites in my family generally speaking from standpoint of me and brothers and sisters and their children are in today’s culture are lazy and use as many excuses as they can in the medical system to falsely explain why their ignorance and them being spoiled and raised that way and possibly abused leaves them no choice but to let the parents remain ignorant as well as the government while the words just written were coming from the fathers side of the family and the mothers side is learning self independence while male stupidity is blocking chances in my family based on race and the fact that in America a lot of 18+ adults are living with their parents and incapable of even holding a companionship and are so antisocial

        • shork February 24, 2014 at 12:04 am

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          Punctuation? Don’t be lazy!

      • Al Dinger January 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

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        You are the greatest. I mean by saying this that I am grateful and proud of you. I am white an love the Asian people.

      • Kelly January 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

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        That you thought you were White for one second is insanity. Did you not look in the mirror from the time you were a small child? Did you not see your slanted eyes, your smashed in mongoloid face, your beige skin void of pink and red skin tone, your short height of yourself and everyone you know, Latinos speak Spanish, but they are not Spaniards. They have White blood mixed with the Indian or native blood. They call themselves Spanish to make themselves feel more White or in essence important in a world that may see them as less. African Americans speak English and 90% carry White genetic material in their bodies thanks to White males raping African girls and Women during Slavery and Jim Crow and children from rape resulting. (White rapist were the first dead beat dads, but White privilege protects them from that moniker) The point is they speak English, but no one would accuse them of being British or Anglo Saxon. You foreigners think that speaking English makes you White. Your making fools of yourself. Try to assimilate and become (AMERICAN) not White. There is a difference. Do things Americans do. People see what you look like, so having sex with a White male will not make you White, speaking English and having only White friends who see you as they token will not make you White, doing everything to be a model minority will not make you White. Someone White can move to China and live their his whole life and never be Chinese or move to South Africa and never be African. They would just be Whites occupying space until the natives can get rid of them. However, lucky for you America is not Race like African or Asian. America is a Country and thanks to the beatings, lynchings, rapes, murders, dogs, hoses, and degradation African Americans have faced and in some ways in another form still face all you foreigners can come to America, eat in any restaurant, go to any mainly White school, sit anywhere on public transportation, live in any neighborhood you can afford, marry as many White men as you choose without laws preventing it, go after any profession you like besides laundry and Chinese food cook which was the standard just a short 50 years ago. That is before the anti discrimination, civil rights, and racial immigration discrimination laws African Americans died for came into being and foreigners enjoy and are unappreciative of. In other words, welcome to the real world. Unless you were born of the genetic material of two White parents, you will never be White and enjoy the White privilege. Second place is not that bad.

        • Arvi February 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

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          You’re a terrible human btw. About par for the course for a White American woman though.

          • shork February 24, 2014 at 12:06 am

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            Are you an Indian rapist?

          • Kay May 13, 2014 at 3:21 am

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            Arvi-You’re just as bad, you’re BOTH racists. How dare you judge all white American women as being “terrible humans”. I was hoping to find acceptance and tolerance here. Apparently, I came to the wrong place. What a nasty thing to say. I thought this article was about combating ignorant stereotypes, and yet you stereotype all white women? You disgust me. You’re a hypocrite. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong ALL the time. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

        • Liz March 18, 2014 at 10:17 pm

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          There are different kinds of white privilege, some present within ethnic minorities, like light skinned African Americans versus dark skinned African Americans.

        • rainboe94 April 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm

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          Wow… your so fcking racist… what makes you think that the “white” race is superior in any way to any other race.. I’m a Korean American and I’m proud of it. I don’t think White make you superior… actually whites are fcking lazy and dumb as h3ll, I don’t know why you redundantly emphasize anything great about being white… And the white race in America is actually derived form Europe. There is no standardized white race… If you go to Europe you will see a lot of variations within the white race itself. So don’t ignorantly allege that the white race is superior if you don’t know anything.

        • Annie July 10, 2014 at 7:12 pm

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          You are a disgust to the human race. I don’t know where you come from, or what heritage you are. I had to stop reading this a quarter way. All white people like you don’t know how truly lucky you are, and how to use it carefully. From the start you guys were blessed with a great country, great land, great economy, etc,. Unfortunately people like you live in such a blessed country. I am TCK (Third-culture Kid). I was born in America, and due to my parents job I moved to China. This has opened up my eyes about a lot of things. People like you take things for granted. Oh and showed by your lack of understanding of the word “American” it is obvious that you think you are a superficial human being that believes you have to be of American decent to be American. According to most dictionaries and wikipedia, to be “American” means to be an American citizen. So as long as you are an American citizen, you are an American. It is true however, that even though we are considered Asian-American, we are still stepped down upon. For example how many famous Asian actors/actresses do you know compared to American actors/actresses? It’s a shame that people like you are living in a country that is so blessed. Why don’t you take a moment from your to big of an ego to look at reality. Because with that attitude, the world are swallow you whole.

          • Annie July 10, 2014 at 7:14 pm

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            *will swallow you whole

        • S November 8, 2014 at 8:45 pm

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          That was EXTREMELY racist. You’re exactly one of the reasons some of us have to walk on egg-shells. I’m too appalled to even say anything. Just wow.

      • Larry February 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm

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        Last time I checked Asians are the world’s majority. You live in a majority white country that was initially founded for whites, which is why its easy to tell that your family has recently immigrated to the USA and is the reason people are interested in knowing your ancestry. Don’t mistake interest for racism. There is MUCH more racism in non-western countries (this is true), you even have the example of not being accepted back in China. Imagine how Chinese would react to non-Asians flooding their country, they wouldn’t integrate them into Chinese culture like Westerners have already done.

        • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm

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          north America is NOT a white colonial unwanted European immigrants land so shut up and GET OFF OUR SOIL!

      • Albert Lykes April 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm

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        I really like the essay you wrote, Connie. I would like to point out one thing: I am a 22 year old african American and we as black people have a sort of similar situation that you stated in your essay. Like I said before I really like your essay and you really brought some strong points that minorities face in society. Keep up the good work.

      • Jessica Ruderman May 23, 2014 at 2:24 am

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        I admire everything you said. Before I go on, though, I want to express that I grew up in San Marino, CA, where the demographic was predominantly Asian-American. The term FOB was passed around a lot (not by me). I still remember because I just graduated last year. That said, it sucked being the minority. I recollect having taken Journalism and everyone in the class was Asian One girl in the class, who was Indian-American, befriended me, and we got along really well. I loath having to label someone by their cultural background, but that was hers. One day, while I was typing up a paper for the San Marino Tribune, though, a boy (no name needed) decided to say “You’re lucky to be white. I knew this guy really well. He was my friend. But, his question shocked me. I mean, I was baffled. He put me on a pedastal so high that I thought I might fall if I moved one foot. Two girls, (one of which I knew didn’t like me, and for no specific reason), snickered and waited to see what I was going to say. It’s hard to be put on the spot. So, in the midst of pure confusion, I said, or at least i remember uttering, “I am not better than you. There are crappy and great people in every race, whether they are white, Black, Asian, etc.” (the gist of what i said was that we are all equal) that is kind of bs because society is probably always going to be racist, but I want equality and come from a very liberal Obama loving family who wants equal rights for everyone. This boy seemed shocked and satisfied with my response, so the tension went out the window. The two girls actually smiled at me. One of them even noticed that I was in need of assistance with an assignment and offered to help. But look at that discomfort from a different stance for a moment. I’m Caucasian and constantly have faced racism (heck I’m Jewish. I mean you don’t know how many Jewish jokes people pass, probably because they think I’m Italian when they look at me, so it must not be offensive) I felt a little alone (Russian/English/German/scottish Jewish girl) I’m ethnically european, but (like you had said) culturally American. I loved my classmates, but there was always that elephant in the room…me. I was always smart, and told I was very pretty, but there was a difference in my cultural background and physical appearance that made me stand out like a sore thumb. I’m not blonde with blue eyes, but I’m pale with light brown/hazel eyes, chocolate brown hair, and about 5ft4 stature. My overall point is that it may seem hard to be anything other than white in a “white world” but the world is changing. I go to Pcc now, and there aren’t that many white people there either.
        BTW most of my friends…okay all of my friends are Asian. I may be white, but I always go back to where i came from. I guess that’s why certain people gravitate towards us. It isn’t necessarily how we look, but our mindset and actions that define us to the outside world. I knew I was different in the journalism class and held that heir about me, so when I dropped the pressure of knowing this difference, we came to accept each other. My mindset was actually and still is stronger than any peice of clothing, makeup, or physical attribute that may differentiate me from someone else. Embrace your beauty, culture, ethnicity, and who you are. Don’t pretend to be someone else if you feel you are content with who you are. I won’t act a certain way just to get with the right crowd. (I didn’t mention i have an identical twin, so that was always a topic of discussion for people who didn’t know me. people would always ask if i could read her mind. (crazy right?)
        Finally, I really loved how you finished off what you were saying. “…you are Asian-American” (and cue cheezy sap music) Your ethnicity is part of who you are, but not the encompassment of your whole being.

      • Paulina May 27, 2014 at 7:33 pm

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        Connie Zhou, why would u even bring up the topic! My sister is crying now!

      • Celine Nguyen.... yes I'm vietnamese July 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm

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        “Yes, ethnically I’m Asian, but culturally I’m not. I can squeeze my way into that culture by learning it and copying it, but I’ll never truly be it because I did not grow up in it” exactly !

    • Kathy Clark October 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

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      I’m forwarding this to my daughter’s middle school administration and guidance counselors. Thanks.

    • Benson October 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

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      Hi Connie. I wish I could be half the writer that you are. Everything is so eloquently put and clear. Growing up asian american in Hawaii, I did not have the same experience as you since Asians are the majority here. However I did go to college in California and did feel out of place at times or perhaps uneasy. I could identify with Justin Lin, the director of the fast and furious movies, when he said in an interview how he had a hard time relating with anything he saw on television or the movies. He also says he could not identify with the asians who were portraying Asians on tv/movies since they were usually foreigners doing martial arts or some other stereotypical asian activities. I feel like Asians are the neglected minority. Our numbers are smaller and we are mostly looked at as a novelty. However, things are changing. What I feel is very important though, is to not forget our roots and embrace and celebrate our uniqueness. Asians as a group may seems homogeneous but we are also very different. Still, we need to come together as a group and promote ourselves. We need to be cohesive and united. Perhaps we need our own television/movie studios, etc. I look at the works of WongFu productions, Nigahiga, etc. and admire what they have done.
      I belong to the generation before you. Currently, I think great strides are being made. I believe the change that we want ie. more recognition and respect will need to be worked on by all of us. I leave you with this: Everyone may disrespect you but you should not disrespect you.
      Everyone may be against you but you should not be against you.
      Thank you for a very thought provoking essay.

    • George February 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm

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      Your right you are not white, you are something much-much more. You are the oldest and most evolved race in existance, every other race on the planet orgionated from your geno and thats something to be proud of.

      • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

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        white bull crap the climate theory is debunked as inuit eskimos have been in the cold for many centuries they still look brown to me. white trash should get off OUR land ! go back to stinky Europe. you white peasants don’t belong on my continent.

        • Kay May 13, 2014 at 3:23 am

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          Jesus Christ. You’re a terrible excuse for a human being, INDIGENOUS.

  2. Jeremy October 16, 2013 at 3:06 am

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    Fantastic essay. Great job with personalizing the issue; hope to read more.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 9:43 pm

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      Thanks!

      • I wont give my real name -.- October 19, 2013 at 6:10 am

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        Well as a fellow Asian-American I must add that I feel that many Americans are borderline Nazi-racist when it comes to us. We are not some “model minority” each individual Asian-American who has succeeded in life has done it through their own efforts, despite being Asian. Unlike what most americans believe, being Asian does is not a stepping stool in life, instead it is the opposite, people expect more, affirmative action and other federal programs work against us, when in reality, our race is “human”, not “asian”. We succeed with no other reason than the fact that unlike other races, we are not covered by the “safety net” of the American government. Being Asian is being disadvantaged, the Nazi “aryan” racis is not us asians, that superior race does not exists, we Asians are merely humans who must cope with government sponsored discrimination, nothing more.

        • Joe Schmo November 21, 2013 at 8:00 pm

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          Nazi-racist? I think victims of Nazi oppression would be quire offended.

  3. Jenn Lee October 16, 2013 at 3:12 am

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    Hey Connie, I was just scrolling on Facebook, but then when I saw your piece posted, I was really interested and ended up reading your whole article. I think what you’ve written is really truthful, and I was amazed that someone else had an “I realized I wasn’t white moment”. I’m third generational (my grandparents immigrated from China) so culture is lacking for me. My parents never taught me Chinese, and my dad always told me I was American. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the concept of race, until another Chinese student asked me, “what kind of Chinese are you?” (Now I’m assuming she wanted a distinction between Mandarin and Cantonese. Now I know, if I spoke Chinese, it’d be Canto.) Anyways, I was just really confused and said, “I’m American?”. (As my dad always taught me to say). And, that was my “I realized I wasn’t white moment”. I wrote this super long comment, hopefully, to encourage you to keep writing. I really enjoyed reading this. And I really, really hate reading. Unlike, the typical studious Asian stereotype.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Reply

      Thanks for the encouragement!

      • Eric.Barstow October 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

        Reply

        I have noticed the same thing w/ other immigrant fams. Me, I’m Haitian-American, mixed with Mexican from my father’s side. But I was not really taught about Haitian culture. When I went to Haiti for the first time last year, I felt a connection but was acutely aware of the chasm between myself & the natives there. So, having daughters of my own, I try desperately to teach them what I can, what I have taught myself as an adult, so they have an awareness of their multi-faceted background. But this need to just “become American” for the children of immigrants comes from the parents’ desire to ensure a life of stability in these shores. They can be so focused on this, that a more balanced approach isn’t used, and I can totally understand. But I also applaud those migrant parents who make a real effort to keep their culture front-and-center at home, language & all.

  4. maharajfm October 16, 2013 at 5:10 am

    Reply

    It’s a matter of perspective (accumulation of personal experience), but it’s beautifully written and a very impressive observation. But this is one of many issues that are placed into the whole the whole “minority” development. I’ll just add something, it’s easy to tag a of stereotypes on a person who is easily identable as a certain race. But as American society progresses, the race barrier breaks down little by little. We see more mixed race babies, their identities are not hard to put a finger on.

    This a topic I have focused most of academic career on, I just have to comment on it. I came across your article on Facebook posted by someone from the Asian Student Alliance at my college. The idea of White is integrated in society, because they are what built it. Can’t expect a white person to be knowledgeable (or sensitive) to diversity because they have to no obligation to do so and it can be revered to a supposed “minority”. Also what about a white person in Japan, they would probably be treated worse in a country that does not promote diversity (but it’s slowly getting there but America is well ahead). I will leave it at that.

    This is coming from an Indian (from India), Filipina, Chinese, Muslim, and Christian raised individual.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Reply

      Thanks for your insight! I totally get what you mean about the “white person in Japan”. I think the part that just annoys me is that America prides itself on the fact that we’re an accepting and progressive country, when in reality there’s so much that still needs to be learned and talked about.

      • Kana October 17, 2013 at 1:08 am

        Reply

        Actually, a white person in Japan is typically received, practically speaking, with almost more admiration and awe – by “virtue” of being white – than a Japanese person. Certainly, there are the disadvantages – typically in the business world or other areas that include tight-knit circles – to not being Japanese in Japan, but in the distorted hierarchy of racism in Japan, whites are at the very top. One would be least likely to be disowned for, or at least dissuaded from, marrying a white person than would be the case for marrying a non-white non-Japanese. There’s an element of stardom associated with being white. I know this was not the point of either of your postings, but I felt the need to clarify.

        Connie – great post; I can relate to pretty much everything you wrote, down to the Pocky not being available. ;) There are two things I feel that we as Asians need to be stronger about – 1) having/showing more pride in our respective Asian heritages and cultures (instead of being embarrassed by it and trying to be white) while incorporating the virtues of each Asian culture with the strengths of the American culture and 2) standing up and speaking up against racism toward any race – Asians and non-Asians alike. I’ve played the role of model minority for years as well, and while I’ve also built the latter part of my career focusing on educational inequity which clearly runs along racial lines, it’s only recently, since the Trayvon Martin case, that I’ve tuned more into my own personal responsibility to be vocal and actively participate in my personal life too re: shifting the way conversations around race and racism go. Very glad to read your post – thanks for articulating something that most people aren’t aware of and is an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge as well.

        • Stacie October 17, 2013 at 11:46 am

          Reply

          @Kana, as an American who’s living and working in Japan long-term, I have to disagree… Although foreigners are “often” praised and admired, there’s an undercurrent of disdain and automatic judgment of foreigners here in Japan. Ask anybody who’s lived here for awhile and they’ll tell you they get stared at on the train all the time, or that bars often won’t let them in because “no foreigners are allowed.” I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that. It’s a great country, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely not perfect.

        • Neill October 17, 2013 at 11:53 pm

          Reply

          Kana, I have to respectfully disagree as well. Whites are received as such only if they 1) know Japanese fluently 2) are attractive 3) act Japanese. If you do not fulfill any of those, you will be treated like a child, especially if you don’t know Japanese fluently. If you don’t act like a Japanese person – expect to be talked about as the dependent foreigner who just does not have the capacity to understand Japanese ways.

          I majored in Japanese and then came here to Japan to work with JET, so I’m lucky that I can understand Japanese, the language and the customs. My predecessor in my office (also American) is constantly made fun of for being overweight, and he’s left the office months ago. I also get comments like “It’s such a relief to have someone who understands Japanese, working with a true American can be a problem sometimes.” I’ve gotten that comment a lot, that I’m not a true American because of my capacity to understand Japanese, along with an accent-less tongue. And as many times as I’m told that I have “a Japanese heart,” I know that this doesn’t mean that they consider me a part of their culture (because I’m white).

          • James October 18, 2013 at 12:36 am

            Reply

            Neil, I hope that your experience with racism has taught you a little bit about what it means to not be white in America and the general Western world. Every single one of your comments can be turned around and used to describe the behaviors of many white people in America to non-whites, just replace “Japanese” with “White American” and your comment could be from any student in a Asian American or Chicano studies class.

            • Neill October 18, 2013 at 12:59 am

              Reply

              Whoa, whoa. This was in no way a comment that was meant to be reflective of the struggles minorities face in America. It was an isolated comment about being white in Japan. I am, and have always been, very involved in anti-racism groups when I was back in the States.

              Your comment sounds a bit antagonistic, as if I am saying that “your struggles in America don’t compare to my struggles in Japan,” which is not the case at all. They were meant to draw a comparison between the two issues, not create a dichotomy.

              Also, I am part Nicaraguan. Not all Latin Americans are Mexican or Chicano .

          • James October 18, 2013 at 1:43 am

            Reply

            Hi Neill, I wasn’t trying to offend. I was simply pointing out that all your comments could also be used to describe the experiences that minorities experience in the West. Also, I do think that your experiences has merits in helping understand race relations in America especially since you have been placed in the minority role, which is the role that a colored person lives in the West.

            I never called you a racist so you don’t need to justify your identity or activities to me and I’m disheartened you found my comment antagonistic because it was not meant to be. Also, I never said that all Latin Americans are Mexicans or Chicano, something that I am well aware of at this point in my life.

            I just think that your particular experience in JET is a good analytical analogy of what many colored people experience in the States. The only difference, and I’m not attacking you but simply stating a point, is that many light skinned folks who go abroad to work or study in different countries may experience prejudices for the duration of their stay but for colored people living in America it’s a regular occurrence for the rest of their lives.

            • Neill October 18, 2013 at 3:29 am

              Reply

              Ah, okay. I’m sorry that I misconstrued your comment!

              It has definitely been a point of discussion that I have talked to many friends about. Especially my white friends, because I feel that it’s important that those in the majority in America understand what it’s like from a perspective of a minority, and sometimes that’s more easily understood from a white perspective.

              The difference with me here, of course, is that I will be living in Japan for the rest of my life. ;)

              • Maitri Samuels October 28, 2013 at 11:47 am

                Reply

                I agree it’s horrible feeling that you have to justify your own existing because you are not the same race as the majority. I don’t care so much about being the honorable foreigner in Japan, and the undercurrent of discriminations that exist there. For me, it’s much worse in America because I consider myself to be from their by virtue of birth and upbring, so why should I be made feel less important because I am not white…

                • Annie January 22, 2014 at 8:53 am

                  Reply

                  I’m also an American who isn’t white and I can relate to your point about how it’s worse to be discriminated against when it’s your own country.

                  Purely out of curiosity, may I ask you, from having seen racism in both American and in Japan, would you say that the discrimination in Japan is worse than it is in America or similar or not as severe for people of your race? I am curious how a person who has been in the minority in both countries would compare the racism between the two countries. The other comments about Japan all seem to be from white people, and while they also provide insights I didn’t know about, I was thinking a person who has been a minority in both countries might have a different perspective. I’m asking purely asking curiosity, since other people have already been comparing racism in the two countries. I am not saying that it is more ok for people in one country to be racist than in another. Thank you if you’re willing to share any of your insights from having lived in both places.

          • lesrallizes January 27, 2014 at 10:44 pm

            Reply

            On the whole whites are given free passes, privileges and perks in Japan way beyond other ethnic groups; JET itself is an incredibly privileged government-supported program which doesn’t reflect the harsh realities of other jobs. Before you moan about how some Japanese express their resentment of white Americans, you ought to do some real research of the actual number of crimes commited byUS GI’s on Japanese citizens, the AMPO protests, how US-mandated privitization and economical restructuring policies have impacted the middle/working class and its relationship to Japan’s high rate of suicide, to start.

        • Angela Shaw October 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

          Reply

          The Japanese multinational corporation SONY hired a white European, Howard Stringer, as its CEO for more than 10 years, you can google the exact dates. I think he retired about 3 years ago. I cannot think of a single American company, with the exception of AVON who has hired an East Asian CEO. Indra Nooyi, the CEO from Pepsi is from India.

        • arkkun December 28, 2013 at 6:14 am

          Reply

          >There’s an element of stardom associated with being white.
          Yeah. You are even called a “baka gaijin” which is Japanese for “a wise white king”.

          Too bad they won’t let you to all those “Japanese only” places.

          • Clarissa Evans January 10, 2014 at 6:48 am

            Reply

            Uh, arkkun, “baka” means idiot or fool, the phrase “baka gaijin” means “stupid foreigner/non-japanese”….. -_-

    • CAMEMI October 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      Reply

      You can’t compare an Asian American’s experience in the U.S. to a white person in Japan. The Japanese government didn’t institutionalize racism in Japan where, for hundreds of years, they enslaved white people, strategically kept white people from their mass media, and erased white people’s ‘significant contributions’ in Japan. It’s not the same. Granted, Japan has it’s own ethnic and racial problems. Asian Americans have been strategically manipulated, their representation has been altered, and their hxstory since 1600s in the Americas have been erased. Asian Americans have been institutionally discriminated against. There’s a difference in effects between institutional and individual discrimination.

      -an Indigenous Pin@y.

      • Vanessa Teck October 17, 2013 at 8:48 pm

        Reply

        You are fantastic.

      • Brian October 18, 2013 at 4:49 am

        Reply

        Just pointing out a caveat:

        Look at how the Japanese have viewed other Asian “races”…especially in the time period up through WWII…pay special consideration to their treatment of Koreans and Chinese peoples. They may not have enslaved white people but they sure did enslave others who they thought belonged to an inferior race.

      • Jake October 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

        Reply

        Nah, they just killed them. From 1639 to 1853, any white person arriving in Japan, aside from a few Dutch traders in Nagasaki, would face the immediate death penalty. The bakufu also banned the publication of Western books.

        But we can’t let an inconvenient fact get in the way of hating white people, can we?

      • Boogiewalker October 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        Reply

        Camemi, I don’t think you have a very good understanding of a.) Japanese identity, b.) Japanese history, c.) Japanese social structures and practices. In Japan, racism is BEYOND “institutional”–it’s INGRAINED. The Japanese identity doesn’t allow for any “(hyphen)-Japanese” people; you are either 100% ethnically Japanese or you are foreign. Even other Asians who have been living in Japan for generations (say, people who are ethnically Korean, equivalent to Korean-Americans who are 2nd or 3rd generation here in America) are NOT considered Japanese–even though they themselves don’t even speak Korean at all and grew up 100% culturally-assimilated to Japan. And they are discriminated against in social and professional settings REGULARLY.

        Japan DID officially institutionalize NOT ONLY “racism” in the forms of discrimination, but also in the forms of forced relocation and ethnic cleansing (mostly against the non-Japanese tribes, like the Ainu) during the the warring states eras (which was pre-1600’s, btw…) through the Tokugawa Shogunate (which ended in 1868 at the close of the Boushin War.) They didn’t JUST “erase their significant contributions” to society; they almost erased them as a people. Also, in the first half of the 20th Century from the Sino-Japanese War into WWII, Japan conquered, dominated and decimated the Koreans, the Chinese and many peoples and places in South-East Asia. They outlawed the use of Hangul (Korean writing system) during the Japanese occupation of Korea and forced all Korean children to follow Japanese education curricula and join in the cult of the Emperor (how’s that for a cultural “rewrite”?) Japan was famous for its horrible treatment of not just POW’s in WWII but of ANYONE WHO WAS NOT ETHNICALLY JAPANESE. Do you know how many Pinoys died at the hands of the Japanese during that time? Look up the Bataan Death March; it might shock you…

        And as for something a little more “current”: do you know that the Japanese government (in particular the Prime Minster Shinzo Abe) is borderline retracting their “apology” to Korea for forcing thousands of Korean women into sex-slavery as “comfort women” in WWII?

        The fact of the matter is you are making an apples-to-oranges comparison. American racism, historically, is bad in terms of scope, scale and intensity, it is NOWHERE NEAR that of Japan. Nor is it near that of other countries, for that matter.

    • Caitlin October 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Reply

      I cannot speak for Japan but after living in Korea for 2.5 years, a white minority is treated with much more admiration and respect. Caucasian foreigners living in Korea are praised for their white skin, big eyes, and are often given preferences for English teaching jobs because Koreans believe a Caucasian face equals superb English skills. Whereas on the other hand, blacks, southeast Asians, and Middle Easterners are not as welcomed or embraced. If there was any hostility towards foreign Caucasians, it was not just because of skin color, but rather things such as the history of colonization in Korea and the poor misconduct of foreign military workers while in Korea.

      I also personally believe one cannot easily compare a white person living in an East Asian country to an Asian American living in the United States. Obviously racism in any case cannot be excused in any case but the experience is completely different. Asian countries have their own majority ethnicity and official language so yes, a white foreigner would stick out. But in the United States, we are taught any ethnicity can be accepted as American and English isn’t even the official language of the country. Yet Asians and other minorities are constantly reminded that we will never be accepted as Americans, even if we are born in the country, speak perfect English, and are completely immersed in the culture. If America is ahead of other countries in diversity promotion, why can’t we expect a white person to have some general knowledge about racism?

      • jillian February 21, 2014 at 10:52 pm

        Reply

        As a white family living in south Korea when we walk out our door we are considered a freak show. We get stared at, pointed at even young kids will scream foreigner at us. They also will give us an air x and tell us no when wanting food, clothes and other things they consider not for us. It’s extremely frustrating and its excepted here. If that happened back in the states law suits would happen. So if you ever got turned away or told no because you were Asian in america ( oh wait we have laws on discrimination)
        it happens to us in your country everyday. Don’t go to a white/black based country and expect people not to see you as something different.

        • Sorry Americans are racist to you February 22, 2014 at 9:53 am

          Reply

          Hello? Clearly some people need to read some more books.

          “It happens to us in your country.” Whose country? My country? Racism happens to you in the U.S.? I didn’t know racism happens to white people in the U.S. You did say you were white. Wait. You said you live in South Korea. Which country are you talking about?

          That sucks if you experience racism in the U.S. I apologize on behalf of all Americans if you go through that.

          What is a white/black based country? South Africa? Surely you’re not talking about the country where NATIVE Americans originally lived.

          What’s “something different”? You mean, not people?

          Geesh, this makes me feel sorry for South Koreans. I was under the false impression that foreigners in Asia were all intelligent. I was wrong.

          • Sorry Americans are racist to you February 22, 2014 at 9:54 am

            Reply

            (That was for jillian)

        • rainboe94 April 1, 2014 at 8:19 pm

          Reply

          I’m so sorry… From a Korean American

    • moobxyooj October 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Reply

      A white person in Japan is still a white person. They are still seen as the stereotypical nice, educated person. I believe they would be treated as a foreign individual, but in a positive sense, not a negative sense.

      • Boogiewalker October 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

        Reply

        You believe wrong. White people in Japan are treated nicely on a very superficial level; they are never really accepted by Japanese people on a deep, personal level and are often viewed more as curiosities (if they have a good knowledge of Japanese language, cultures and practices) or mentally-delayed children (if they are your typical “ugly American”–who is ignorant of Japanese language, cultures and practices…) Japanese society (as well as many other Confucian, Asian societies) prizes outward forms of politeness, meaning that people are not often outwardly rude (except that people often stare at white people on trains and while standing in line for something…) But being outwardly polite is significantly different from being actually accepted, embraced and enfranchised.

        • DK (@deekee420) October 25, 2013 at 6:15 am

          Reply

          Do foreigners get treated the same way in the US? No, white people in East Asia don’t try to get citizenship to get voting and equality like Asian immigrants do .. or even try to learn the language most of the time..

          • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:26 pm

            Reply

            first of meathead north America is no entitled to your kind which are white European leeches who come to our land across the atlantic by boat and create a illegal charter of rights to suit your priviledge as well the illegal constitution which aids you white foreigner scourge, why couldn’t you people assimilate to OUR people and why couldn’t you people fix your own countries instead of invade OURS!and mind your own business thief! KANATA KANADA is NOT white land GET THE F HELL OUT! you scavengers are hated by our people and india as well most of the world you pestered and invaded.keep your filthy diseases to yourselves you hereditary cancer gene parasite!

            • sam April 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

              Reply

              lol I kinda have to agree to this one

        • M November 11, 2013 at 8:08 am

          Reply

          ^Yes.Yes.Yes. I believe this comment to be most accurate about Japanese culture. Admittedly, I have only been to Japan once, but I am of Japanese decent and I am well aware that the Japanese fantasize Western culture. Just the images in their recreational/fashion magazines say quite a bit, even without the the text: the models have all undergone surgery for bigger eyes and smaller noses, they dye their hair light brown, red, or blonde colors and curl it, and they wear almost all Western clothing (esp. French or American styles), with the occasional kimono.
          So yes, the idea of White people is very popular in Japan, and actually White people are treated politely, with admiration, and or with curiosity (don’t get too freaked by staring). The Japanese are all about image/reputation/presentation (which is why even a simple candy will look like a birthday gift wrapped for the Prime Minister) so I agree with the “superficial” statement, and I am sure that they do not whole-heartedly accept foreigners (read: Whites who commented above who stay in Japan long-term) into their community.

          But people should keep in mind that this goes for basically ALL communities.

          Here is my background (sorry it’s long, but there is a point to it all):
          As a Japanese-American, /I/ am not accepted as a part of the Japanese people. My Japanese relatives love me as family, but I am not a fellow countryman –I was treated with just as much curiosity as any White American, because I even look different (thanks to California sun and the All American corn-and-cow diet).
          More importantly, it should also be noted that, as a Japanese-American, I am not fully accepted in the Japanese-American community. Japanese-American culture and Japanese culture are not the same; my mom, who lived in Japan as a young girl and whose mother originates from Japan, identifies herself as American-born Japanese, rather than a “Japanese-American” (one whose history is connected to the internment camps). On the other hand, my dad descends from that culture –his brother (older by about 15 years) was born at the camp in Jerome, Arkansas. However, his single mom needed help taking care of him, so he spent a great deal of his childhood with White family friends, and was influenced by them. And then there’s me, who happened to grow up in a very White neighborhood, complete with country music, corn fields and pick up trucks. I am also part Mexican-American through my mom and, except for her Japanese mother, have never really been in contact with my Japanese-descent relatives; I only know my Mexican family very well.
          I have lived in LA for the latter half of my life now and still have never been part of the Japanese-American community, because it’s so obvious I was never born into it to begin with. Once, my dad and I were in Little Tokyo and happened upon some kind of festival, and it was very clear that we did not belong. The Japanese-Americans all knew each other while we knew no one, and we couldn’t relate to their topics of discussion (even things like Lakers basketball, celebrating an upcoming Japanese festival, etc.).
          Basketball is huge in the Japanese-American community, and many kids start around ages 3-5. They grow up together and make tight-knit JA friendships through it, and even sort of obsess over the game. I picked it up just out of pure interest in the sport when I was in middle school. I then played for the high school team, under a JA coach whom everyone in the Los Angeles JA community knew. This coach held brutal practices, so when I quit the team post-sophomore year, I was subtly mocked by a group of JA acquaintances that I happened to meet at a friend’s summer tournament. They assumed I couldn’t handle the typically strict discipline of JA basketball coaching. My dad is now an Army LTC –by the time I was 12 I was no longer scared by his 6ft stature and “military superior officer” voice, while grown male soldiers still quake in their boots. So that wasn’t the issue; I had left simply to focus on academics/college apps, volunteering, and to narrow my HS athletic participation from 3 sports to just the swim team. After explaining that, there was still an undercurrent of distrust, degradation and undervaluing.
          Moral of the story: You can try to assimilate to another community by adopting their culture, participating in their activities, and even looking like them, but if you are not “one of them” to begin with, it is rare that you’ll ever by fully and completely accepted. New people who are truly accepted into established communities impress the members simply with their own character and individuality –it is a person by person basis. Generally, however, it is hard being the outsider; even though I have the same heritage and history and physical appearance as a very specific group of people, I was not one of them (which I petulantly tell myself is their loss because I’ll never share my huevos rancheros recipe with them). And this is not Japanese, or American or anything else political –it’s honestly just human nature. The racism we deal with today is not so much a battle of supremacy as it is changing our own alienating attitudes towards others.

    • AL C February 2, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      Reply

      White are not treated bad in Japan. Even probably does not apply. Research before commenting. And you don’t have enough personal experience.

  5. Andy Gill October 16, 2013 at 5:23 am

    Reply

    yes, yes, and yes. could not have said it any better Connie! Thanks for sharing!

  6. LJ October 16, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Reply

    As Asian Americans, we truly experience the silent struggle that has affected those who first immigrated here and every single one of us after who were born to this label and it’s awesome to see it get recognized as a real issue.
    Thanks Connie.

  7. Rayner October 16, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Reply

    excuse me miss but you actually sound like you are somewhat confused about your heritage, and your social identity. You make it as if being an Asian American is somehow confusing because you don’t mesh well with other cultures, and you are thought of as an outsider in both cultures.You lament the lack of recognition of Asian Americans in America… And like so many second generation asian americans who grew up in the states, you want to belong…and be truly “American”. In other words you want to be white… you don’t say it but I can tell.

    Here’s how I think of it. I was born in the states, grew up a bit in taiwan, and ended up going to college and getting a job in America. Do I consider myself American? Kinda, one because I Have citizenship and two because I’ve been here for a bit and I’ve kinda Americanized a little. But would I ever consider myself white, or truly american? of course not, and I would never want to, nor would I want other people to think of me that way. Would I ever consider myself a fob, even though I am fluent in chinese? Not really either. I’m better than both. i’m the perfect combination of America and Asia, and my identity transcends just a singular culture. And honestly, All asian americans should feel the same way.

    When people ask me where I’m from,(and i always say Taiwan, with pride i might add ) they’re often surprised and say i speak perfect english and remark that they thought I grew up in the states. Then they say they love china or taiwan and blah blah and I’m always eager to share certain aspects of my culture with them. And quite honestly, it offends me that you’re an asian American but get annoyed when taxi drivers ask “where are your people from”; whats wrong with that question? Does your culture embarass you or something?

    You treat your heritage like a cumbersome baggage, which is stopping you from integrating comfortably in America. And that kinda rubs me the wrong way. And I hope thats not what you meant…but that was the feeling I got, correct me if i’m wrong.
    For me, I’m not ashamed of where I’m from or my heritage, and don’t care much for the fact that America as a whole doesn’t really recognize us. Asian Americans as a whole do well for themselves, which is why we are respected in America and people don’t harbor negative stereotypes for asians in the working world. It’s also why we aren’t really recognized; first of all there aren’t too many of us, and secondly because we do well for ourselves and require no further attention or assistance. We aren’t recognized as much as African Americans, but we do get the respect they will never have. And for me, I’m here to work, climb the corporate ladder, make big money, and meet new people. As long as people in general aren’t racist towards me and my race doesn’t hinder my career (and in this day and age it really doesn’t ), I’m fine with my identity. I could care less if the government doesn’t debate Asian American social issues on the news or provide some sort of financial assistance for poor asian americans or hold mandatory asian american culture classes in college or whatever other form or recognition you would like for asian americans to have. And honestly, why would you care? For me, I mesh well in both the “Asian” and “American” circles. Both cultures are part of my identity, which makes me different from the average american. And I use that to my advantage; i suggest you do the same.

    Who cares if America doesn’t see us as “american”? Why do so many Asian Americans who grew up in the states want to “fit in” so bad? who cares if America doesn’t acknowledge your existence (which btw is false, they do to some extent)??? You’re different, you’re better. We do better than the Average American, and have a deeper cultural background. Be proud of who you are, jesus christ.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Reply

      Hi, thanks for your reply. I’m not by any means saying I’m not proud of who I am. My culture does not at all embarrass me. I boast about the Asian culture all the time. I see the trials that my parents had to overcome in order to “make it” in America. I even get a little snobby at times when people order chicken fried rice at Chinese restaurants.

      However, I think you might be missing the whole point of this post. “In other words you want to be white… you don’t say it but I can tell.” I did say it, for a long time I wanted to be white, and it took me awhile to finally accept who I am. I’m glad that you don’t resonate with this post, you’re confident and proud of who you are, but there are just so many Asian-Americans that struggle with what I went through. I have never lived in another country other than America (well I’m in England for 4 months right now), so it’s not fair to me when people ask me where I’m “really” from when in reality I don’t know that much more about China or Taiwan than they do. I can talk about the times that I’ve visited, or what I’ve heard from my relatives, but that’s about it. The fact of the matter is that I am American so when other Caucasian or African-Americans speak to me as if I’m a foreigner is a bit exhausting. I shouldn’t have to “assimilate” because I am American.

      I think the general point of this is that because I don’t look black or white, people instantly categorize me. I don’t mind having conversations about my heritage, it’s just the fact that because of the way I look I get classified as different and not American.

      But we all respond to this differently and it’s awesome that this doesn’t tick you off. Keep doing what you’re doing.

      P.S. I love Taiwan, my mother is from there. One of my favorite countries to visit (and the best food).

      • David Tian October 16, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        Reply

        Rayner:

        I am sorry you feel offended at the author’s annoyance with taxi drivers’ well-intentioned but ultimately ignorant question of “where are your people from.” The way I see it, people of European heritage have a choice, whereas we (the Asian-Americans), we don’t get a choice in answering this question. If you’re fair skinned, and a taxi driver asks you this question, you could respond with “I’m from Chicago, I’m from New York,” etc. and that’s that. If you happen to be of, say, Polish descent, or Italian descent or whatever, you could further add on that your parents were from those places.

        For Asian-Americans, when someone asks “where are you from”, even if you grew up in L.A. and have never been to your parents’ home country, “L.A.” is not an acceptable response. This makes it feel very uncomfortable, not because Asians-Americans are ashamed of their race or ethnicity, but because our identity is constructed for us by strangers on the street (or I suppose a taxi).

        Connie, I would love to hear your thoughts if you have the time.

        -David

        • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm

          Reply

          Couldn’t have said it better myself! I find it funny that when people ask me where I’m “really” from and I say my parents are from China and Taiwan, they go on about how much they love the two countries instead of my actual hometown of Chicago.

          • Echo November 23, 2013 at 10:03 am

            Reply

            Sorry for being political. But Taiwan isn’t really a country by international law.

        • Kea October 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm

          Reply

          I see it as a continuum the variability between people of similar cultural heritage based on their experiences is nearly infinite. Unfortunately we as human beings are wired to categorize (friend or foe) so it is somewhat instinctive to try to fit people into categories. An earlier commenter mentioned mixed race and how it is becoming more difficult to categorize people these days because of their mixed heritage and this actually causes fear and frustration in people because they are unable to apply their preconceived stereotypes to mixed race individuals. What the lesson, treat everyone as an individual, no two Asians are the same just as no two African Americans are the same. I’m African American and lived 2 years in Japan and 2 years in the Philippines as a child. My experiences are considered unique for and African American so I don’t fit the typical stereotype either. Treat me as an individual, get to know me for who I am and let me share my life’s experiences and I would love to hear about your life experiences. Thank you

      • Kahlil Stultz October 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm

        Reply

        I think that the discussion here is good but going in the wrong direction. Rather than talking about how Asians experience this or that and are different from whites and blacks, we should talk about the things that bring us all together and connect us rather than divide us. I disagree with alot of the comments here that paint the Civil Rights Movement of Martin Luther King as being for blacks only and something which Asians should note but ignore. As a Jamaican American I can tell you that the Civil Rights movement was something meant for the upliftment of all citizens: White, Black, Asian and Hispanic. That somehow it should be disregarded as being “black history” is a pernicious argument which I hope does not become the mainstay of the racial dialogue. I think lastly, the pessimism that people have about the future of race relations is understandable but misguided. Listening to my parents stories about colonial life in the 50s,60s and being black immigrants in the 70s and 80s, I’ve found that America (as a whole) has made a quantum leap in it’s racial society and that things (though sour as they are now) will get better gradually. So sorry Rayner, but while you might have a negative view of whites and their views of non-Asian minorities, things will get better.

        • Vi October 19, 2013 at 4:33 am

          Reply

          Great points, Kahlil. I agree with you about the Civil Rights Movement, however, what’s being taught in school and what is common knowledge is that the Civil Rights Movement was a black movement. Yes, it was predominantly led by black leaders but many different minorities stood in solidarity behind it. We need to bring awareness to this fact.

        • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm

          Reply

          it will get better once the white cancerous germbags are extinct or genocided through a new hierarchy which will arrive soon.

      • Sarah October 18, 2013 at 9:08 am

        Reply

        Hi Connie,

        i agree with a lot with what is mentioned in this article, I do find it frustrating when people ask me the follow-up question “Oh no, I meant where your parents are from!” after telling them I’m from New York, as if my answer isn’t good enough. When I first read your article, I felt really inspired and moved by your writing so I shared your article with some friends. Then, I went back and read it a second time and I can’t help but sense an undertone in your writing.

        ‘”As a young child, I didn’t understand race or skin color. I assumed everyone was white, including me. I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shattering moment in our childhood when we realize we’re not white. You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.”

        You, at the end, chose to assimilate yourself to becoming “white-washed”, which is perfectly fine. You’ve experienced with embracing your Asianness and realized it wasn’t for you so you chose the latter instead. But what’s wrong with the other choice?

        “But for a brief (let me stress brief) time in middle school I embraced my full on “Asianness.””

        What I’m confused by is why you felt the need to put emphasis on “brief”, Why do you feel the need to stress it? I’m aware that I’m nitpicking and that this isn’t the main point of your article but as a writer myself, I know that every word choice has a reasoning behind it. Correct me if I’m wrong but I feel as if you were afraid of being judged by your readers that you’ve camwhored with a peace sign in your past. Culturally, you may fit in more with the Western but what is wrong with a Chinese girl wanting to delve into her ethnicity and the Asian culture?

        Actually, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What is wrong with the people who choose to embrace the Asian culture instead of being white-washed? You said it yourself that you made fun of Asians who spoke with an accent and that “It got to the point where I was making fun of the FOBs (but of course, only Asians were allowed to make fun of Asians).” I understand that you meant it as a joke but the truth is, it’s only funny in a casual conversation with friends over lunch. It’s not funny when you include that in an intellectual opinionated article that is meant to reach a mass audience. Perhaps I’m too sensitive on this topic but frankly, I’m offended. Just because you have the same heritage as another group of people does not give you the right to make fun of them for not choosing to live the same lifestyle as you. Asian-Americans does not only consist of people who are born in America. According to the Oxford’s dictionary, Asian American is defined as an American who is of Asian (chiefly East Asian) descent while the term American is defined as a native or citizen of the United States. Many of the younger generation of Asians arrive to America while they are in elementary or middle school. They went through the same process as your parents did to become naturalized citizens and they have lived here for the majority of their lives. Just because half of them choose to speak in their native tongue with their friends, to listen to Asian music, to embrace their Asian culture and instead of being more Americanized (it probably didn’t suit them just like how the ‘Asian culture’ didn’t suit you!) doesn’t make them any less of an Asian-American, and it definitely doesn’t make it a reason for you to word it as if it’s an embarrassment for you to have even tried.

      • great response January 22, 2014 at 10:41 am

        Reply

        Great response! I’m usually terrible at coming up with responses to comments like that.

    • Lauren October 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      Reply

      “be truly “American”. In other words … be white”

      But being American is not equivalent to being white. To add some white perspective (because we never get enough of that … more sarcasm) – I have a heritage that I’m proud of too. But because of how I look, I don’t have to feel conflicted about embracing my heritage and being accepted as an American. The problem is that so many people of other races do. If you’re born and raised in America, you’re American. Period. And it doesn’t mean you’re not anything else, and it doesn’t mean you’re white. I think one of the author’s point was that we artificially make “American” an identity that’s exclusive, rather than inclusive.

      My boyfriend is Chinese-American, and around other people, he will take every opportunity he gets to make jokes about his heritage. It makes me a little sad, because I know how much respect he has for his family and background, but at the same time I understand it as a coping mechanism he’s used his whole life to accepted as American. It’s because of that exclusivity that he, like the author, felt he needed to distance himself from his Asian heritage in order to be seen as American. But we really need to stop seeing them as “either/or” (or in your case, you almost seem to say “nether”)… being American means being “both” something else too.

      • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm

        Reply

        Appreciate your comment! I totally get where your boyfriend is coming from, I used to (and still sometimes) do the same.

      • Chul Ree October 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

        Reply

        Being born in America would only make you an America by technicality. There are the merits of american tradition and values that any and every american must stand by. Democracy, freedom and due process of the people is in an inherently white thing, regardless of how you feel on the subject. You don’t find those values in chinese, japanese, indian or african histories until the late 19th early 20th century.

        There was a reason why the blacks cheering the fall of the twin towers were chastised and thats why simply being born here isn’t a good rule for being an american.

        • Casey October 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm

          Reply

          “Democracy, freedom and due process of the people is an inherently white thing.” Ah yes, please, do explain to me how Ancient Greece and India were white. Better yet, explain to me how “due process” is inherently white when white people are the ones who’ve gone out of their way to misuse laws and the justice system so they can continue to keep humans as slaves.

          • Chul Ree October 19, 2013 at 9:17 am

            Reply

            You’re going to have to prove that white people have gone out of their way to keep humans as slaves. Most of the human trafficking in the US are done by Mexican Coyotes, Arabs, urban blacks and the Chinese along with a few slavs.

            Like i said earlier, you don’t find the justice system outside of Western Culture.

          • Mattie January 31, 2014 at 5:25 am

            Reply

            Casey, for you, what is “white”? A color, or ethnicity? If by “white” you mean Caucasian European, then yes, Ancient Greece was “white” because Greece is considered the cradle of western (ie European) civilization. As for India, a large number of Indians are in fact Caucasian. They just are Caucasians with dark skin. Anyone who wants to talk about “race” really needs to study ethnicity, languages, cultures, and human migration patterns, as well as the genome project, first. “race” is a social construct. And yes, the US has many ethnic/culture problems, but is still ahead of most of the rest of the world.

      • Lauren October 19, 2013 at 7:11 pm

        Reply

        I’m not sure where these comments are going, but all I originally intended to say was that if you’re born in America and you WANT to define yourself as American, you have the right to that identity. You shouldn’t have to deal with anyone trying to take that identity away from you and redefine you by their standards. I guess I can’t really speak for people born in America who don’t want to be identified as American, if that’s what you’re saying.

      • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm

        Reply

        fuck off being white is NOT American nor Canadian being white is a mark of the pest who pillaged raped bloodshed and lied about Christianity when the lords name you white devils changed was not jesus Christ his real name was yeshua messiach and he was not white . whites killed the lord and Pontius pilates and the roman soldiers were white who killed him.you whites are devils who will go to hell all you sinners are full of shit and indoctrinate lies about other peoples cultures while you try to steal it. fuck off and get out of colored mans land which is OURS the native aboriginals and those of African which you invaded you pink alien cave apes don’t belong anywhere not even Europe was white peoples land as the moors were there and they were not white.you whites are scandalous and need to all be DEPORTED!

    • Sang October 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm

      Reply

      I agree with Rayner. I feel like this post is complaining about something very trivial. I’m surprised this was written by a college student because it sounds like a high schooler’s revelations. As an Asian-American, I really have nothing to complain about. We are privileged to have been able grow up here. Our parents worked hard, and they are all you should care about. This article is truly a first world problem. Focus on yourself and what will give you and your family the best future. Stop complaining about your hurt feelings because you don’t “fit in.” I’m sure as an Asian, you make comments about other cultures. This post is so self-righteous. Yes, these problems exist, but from a personal perspective – your post does not have much weight.

      • Quinn October 16, 2013 at 11:55 pm

        Reply

        To sang:
        I think you are being very rude and harsh on your part. Have you heard of the saying “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all?” Using the words like “trivial” or “your post does not have much weight” to describe the problems that YOU even agree existed, just show me what a small minded person you are. By acknowledging that the problem exist and casting it as if it is nothing more, show what little respect you have of your “Asian American.” Yes, I am glad that you, as an “Asian American” have nothing to complain about, you are one of the lucky ones. Congratulation.

        • Jason October 23, 2013 at 7:31 am

          Reply

          I think if the author chooses to write this then she knows she will get criticism, especially when it’s on the internet for the public to read. She replies to most of the comments so I do not agree with you that Sang is being rude for disagreeing. If everyone agreed to the author’s article then it would make readers assume that all Asian-Americans feel this way when in reality we do not. I am an Asian-American and I don’t fully agree with this article although there are some valid points.

          “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all?” doesn’t apply to an open forum here where the author is looking for feedback and wants to facilitate discussion on this topic. Now if Sang came in insulting, cussing, etc. then that might apply but I don’t see any problems with the reply.

      • as October 17, 2013 at 4:08 am

        Reply

        Sang –
        I feel like you are generalizing others based on your own experiences and reactions to Connie’s post. Yes, there are Asian-Americans like you who are very proud of who they are and see no problem with the status quo! However, there are also many of us — myself VERY MUCH INCLUDED — that have felt the same discontent as Connie did, the same feeling of self-consciousness and not-belonging that has both affected our mindset growing up and weighs down on us to this day. Connie’s post resonated very strongly with me and if the many comments are any indication, with a great number of other people. This feeling of unhappiness may be “trivial” compared to problems faced by “less fortunate” people in the world, but just because in comparison it seems like a less important problem does not mean IT IS NOT A PROBLEM. I myself know I am privileged to have such a wonderful family and come from such a great culture, yet also be able to grow up in the US and enjoy its bounty. However, the self-consciousness caused by the things Connie has written about in this article were so crippling to me as I started feeling them at only 7 years old, that it caused me to develop very disabling social anxiety problems as I grew up that still plagues me, though I do my very best to deal with it. This may not seem like a big deal next to someone without access to education, healthcare, basic needs — their problems are very important indeed — but this does not mean my worries are “trivial”.

        • Annie January 22, 2014 at 11:31 am

          Reply

          I think this is an important point. There are different experiences that people might have had as Asian Americans. All of them are valid. I think it gets problematic when people start to overgeneralize about their own experiences, which can be an innocent enough of a mistake, and it gets much worse when people invalidate the experiences that other people have.

          To be fair, Connie makes a bit of a generalization at one point in her article, where she says, “I hope I can speak for most Asian Americans here.” Whether she can speak for most Asian Americans might or more might not be true, but it is not certain. However, she phrases it in a respectful enough of a way, and she only says she “hopes” she can speak for other people, not that she is certain. Even if you disagree with that part of her article, there’s no reason to invalidate her personal experience.

          Sang is flat-out invalidating Connie’s experience, which she is choosing to share openly and for the benefit of other people. Not only that, Sang is also trying to impose his way on all other Asian Americans and is telling all other Asian Americans how they should be Asian American. If anyone is self-righteous, Sang is.

          Let’s recognize the diversity in all people’s experiences, even if we also can acknowledge shared experiences.

          I myself grew up not thinking of myself as Asian American or having any problems with racism. That persisted until my mid-twenties. I think that is because I grew up in a part of the U.S. where although everyone was white I was treated the same as the white people I grew up with. Then I went to college in a part of the U.S. that is really diverse and people started referring to me as Asian sometimes but it was not a big problem because race wasn’t a big problem at my college; my year at my college was the first year that was majority non-white, which is pretty awesome if you think about it.

          Only after college when I was living in yet another part the U.S. (New York City, I have no qualms about bashing it) where white culture is much more dominant and race relations were much more stratified, did I start having any problems with racism.

          From my experiences I think that people will have different experiences if they grow up in different parts of the U.S., and other things like your family background for instance can probably also affect the experiences that people have.

          • Annie January 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm

            Reply

            My comment starting with “this is an important point” was a response to as, not to Sang.

      • Johnathan October 17, 2013 at 6:57 am

        Reply

        I would have to disagree with you Sang because I am in an Asian American Sociology class in College. Yes College not High School. And the problems that Asian Americans face is real, but many people make them out to be trivial, as just cosmetic problems. As Americans we should strive to be equal. Why is it that when one refers to an “American” an image of a white person comes out and that they don’t have to put a “European” or “French” or some other country or region in front of America? I am btw Hispanic and I face similar challenges. The day we can say “American” and not have to give this long winded description of how our parents or grandparents immigrated to this country will be the day.

        • Connie Zhou October 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

          Reply

          Exactly my point! Thanks for the clarification.

      • Cage October 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

        Reply

        @Sang:

        Let me be clear here. If I’ve misunderstood, let me know.

        -You are arguing that as an Asian-American, your life is satisfactory because the positives of your life as an Asian-American outweigh the negatives.

        -You are arguing that Connie is complaining about being an Asian-American for societal problems that you think are “trivial”, because you have chosen to devalue them in the face of whatever positives you have chosen to value.

        Congratulations. You are thankful for what you have. If you read the essay, Connie is also thankful for what she has. This is absolutely not the point of the article.

        Connie is not idly complaining about life as an Asian-American. She is clearly outlining the problematic social attitudes that affect all Asian Americans. She is not being “self-righteous” at all. If anything, her essay was a whole lot more humble and thoughtful than your reply that not only failed to address the point but also devalued the author’s character and dismissed her entire work.

        Let me put it for you simply.

        Here is the issue:

        1) Instead of treating Asian-Americans as equals, most of America deems it acceptable to make all kinds of ignorant assumptions and statements about Asian-Americans based purely on our specific racial appearance.

        2) These ignorant assumptions and statements are not harmless. They generate and are a part of mindsets and attitudes that can damage opportunities, quality of life, and even physical safety for Asian-Americans in the United States. See Connie’s example of Julie Chen.

        3) Again, the point is that it is a harmful thing that American culture so easily categorizes, stereotypes, and dismisses Asian-Americans as compared to even other minorities.

        Sang, it’s easy for people to dismiss problems as trivial when their privilege gave them enough success to avoid some of the repercussions of those problems. Come back and try to say the same thing when you’ve been harassed, physically assaulted, or lost job opportunities because you looked Asian and weren’t lucky enough to be born into a nice, socially conscious neighborhood.

        If you still don’t get it, here’s another way to put it: It is a bad thing when Asian-Americans have to work harder to get the same opportunities and respect as others.

        • Cage October 17, 2013 at 7:47 am

          Reply

          If you’re still not convinced, I encourage you to also read about Vincent Chin and his death.

        • Andrea October 17, 2013 at 10:34 am

          Reply

          Um… Yeah she actually is complaining about her life. Did you read the article? I can say living in Hong Kong I get asked more “where are you from… no where are you really from?” more often than the first 25 years of my life in the US. This is not meant to be offensive, it is just curiosity. I ask white people what their original heritage is all the time! “Oh your last name is O’Shea? Are you Irish?” And I’ve never once had anyone respond negatively. There are ignorant people who will ask you ridiculous questions about your ethnicity all over the world, not just America. I was asked “do Koreans eat dog?” by a local Hong Kong girl just the other day.

          I am an American of Korean descent and I, in no way, can relate to the majority of what Connie wrote above. There was a point in my life in highschool and more interested in learning about my heritage but I always knew I was Asian from when I could recognize my reflection in the mirror, I always embraced that in my white household.

          We are the model minority on the whole. The average Asian American household earns $68,089 compared to a white household earning $54,857. *US Census Bureau Apr 22, 2013

          I think, to put things in perspective, to really understand the plight of the Asian-American you need to live somewhere else. And see whether you retain the point of views you currently. Just for a year or two. Not two weeks visiting family members in China.

          Sang and Rayner are 100% right. The opportunities Asians are granted, sometimes based purely on our ethnicity alone, far outweigh any negatives that “our people” have incurred over the whole of American history. And for those who sit here and bitch about the occasional ignorant comment need to grow thicker skin. People are discrimnated against for being fat, poor, short, red-haired etc…. All over the world. Everyone, individually has experienced personal hurtful comments. That happens, that’s life. Expressing your point of view on not feeling you belong is one thing but to claim that America on a whole needs to be more tolerant towards Asians, recognize our struggles, highlight our contributions, that’s trying to influence your readers and I’m sorry, I just don’t agree. Asians make up 6% of the US population, SIX PERCENT. I would rather have my tax dollars go towards teaching kids CPR or if you want to reach, how about the history of Asian in general? Maybe where Connie came from there was no melting pot but my family is a perfect example of the diversity and acceptance in American culture. I have another Korean adopted cousin, my neices and nephew are Mexican, a Black cousin, a Puerto Rican Uncle, Japanese cousin… German and Italian ancestry…. you name it all within my immediate family. That’s what America is about.

          I think if you want to grasp a few strings and base some of these incidents on minor misunderstandings or the occasional ignorant asshole then fine, by all means go ahead. But on the whole the negativity Asian-Americans face is miniscule to most other races in America and in some cases (based on the salary disparity) we are even in a better situation than the white people in the US. American is American and at this moment, sure, white people are the majority but I dont think labeling it as a “white” is right. Unless her definition of a “white” person is an American?? But then isn’t that racist of her? What about the Brits and French? They are caucasian too! I can’t claim whether she is right or wrong b/c these are her feelings but being in a very relatable situation, even more dramatic on some scales given that I am adopted. I just find her point of view more ignorant than productive.

          • Cage October 18, 2013 at 4:32 am

            Reply

            @ recca: You are doing a disservice to those who are actually trying to have a discussion here. Contribute something or shut up. You wouldn’t have the guts to say that in real life.

            @ Andrea:

            I agree that many Asian-Americans are able to live comfortable, happy lives that greatly outweigh any consequences of racism. I agree that a great number of Asian-Americans feel fewer effects of discrimination that other minorities. I’m sure Connie would agree as well. That is not the point. You, like Sang, are disregarding the point and choosing instead to dismisses the author as whiny and devalue her ideas as ignorant. You and Sang are not wrong, in the sense that your opinions are subjective, but both of you have missed the point.

            The point of the article is that there is still discrimination. Racism still exists. You cannot dispute that these attitudes toward Asian Americans exist. We are not discussing how people can suck it up and deal with it. We are discussing the ways in which this racism is manifested. And regardless of how trivial you think it is or how well you can deal with it, it is a problem that exists. Common American attitudes find it acceptable to make a multitude of assumptions that subconsciously label Asian-Americans as outsiders or not-quite-Americans, and this attitude is not what the American ideal is about.

            Look at it this way: you notice on the street that someone is coming along and stabbing everyone he sees. You then put on a stab-proof suit. Maybe some other people have stab proof suits as well. The guy gets to you and tries to stab you, but you’re fine since you have a stab-proof suit. Maybe a lot of people see this and get their own stab-proof suits as well! So you look down on everyone who has gotten stabbed and say, “The problem is that you do not have a stab-proof suit. You should stop whining like a bitch and go buy a stab-proof suit. Problem 100% solved. I don’t see what the big deal is.”

            Except the problem is not solved. Even if everyone was able to find and afford a stab-proof suit, the main problem is not that people should get stab-proof suits. The main problem is that there is a guy going around stabbing people. Do you get the point?

            Here is another analogy. You do not go around telling people working on their math homework to “Just use a calculator!” Even though a calculator can solve the problem for them, they have not gotten the point of the homework, which is to learn the math. Here, you do not tell people to “grow some thicker skin”, because even though thicker skin is nice, the point of this article is to discuss the ways in which inequality against Asian-Americans manifests itself in American society.

            P.S. I wanted to clarify something you didn’t understand:

            “American is American and at this moment, sure, white people are the majority but I dont think labeling it as a “white” is right. Unless her definition of a “white” person is an American?? But then isn’t that racist of her? What about the Brits and French? They are caucasian too!”

            You misunderstood here. Connie does not take “American” to mean white. She is pointing out that this is the attitude that many white Americans carry, and that ideally in the future “American” will mean anyone born in America regardless of race.

          • Leon October 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm

            Reply

            Just another comment from a successfully whitewashed and brainwashed, stereotypical Asian-American who was taught that institutionalized white America is unquestionable and who accepts the concept of racial hierarchy that Asians are better than blacks (but are worse than whites).

            • Boogiewalker October 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm

              Reply

              Nice, bro! I love it when people can’t participate thoughtfully in conversations/debates and instead resort to name-calling ad hominem! You, my friend, are a TRUE American (just like our congress! Btw, ever thought of going into politics? You might have a future there. Either there or “higher” academia…)

          • Vi October 19, 2013 at 4:51 am

            Reply

            Andrea,

            A “positive” stereotype is still a stereotype. Asian Americans are not better than people of other races; we are all the same and should be treated so. I am speaking from a standpoint where yes, I am a model student. I’ve had a near 4.0 up until my 3rd year of college and I’m excellent at math. However, I recognize that while the stereotype may hold true for me, it does not for every Asian American. Is it wrong for an Asian American who is not academically gifted to feel offended because others assume that s/he is? Does that not hurt one’s self-esteem and identity?

            Your model minority statistic is just that – a statistic. Look at the distribution and break down the numbers. You completely dismissed the fact that the model minority myth applies most to privileged East Asian immigrants that left their homelands in search for opportunity rather than those Southeast Asians who fled their homelands because staying would end in persecution and/or death. Southeast Asian ethnic groups in America are one of the poorest groups in the nation. http://diverseeducation.com/article/53790/ Yet, again, I am coming from a perspective where my family fled Vietnam when Saigon fell in 1975 and I still have privilege. Both of my parents were able to attend college and make a living. But I recognize that this is not the case for many out there.

            Yeah, so maybe for some Asian Americans these sorts of issues don’t really matter to them because microagression is just a blip in their otherwise smoothly running lives. I, for one, won’t settle for anything less than equal.

            • Boogiewalker October 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm

              Reply

              What statistics beg for is explanations, reasons “why?”. If a certain people group seems to out-lie from a statistic, we should be asking why that is. South-East Asians are the poorest and most-under-educated of Asians living in America; ok, so why might that be? Is it ALL South-East Asians or some more than others? As far as causes go: could it be because they are refugees fleeing state-sponsored violence or civil war? Yes? Ok, but what about Cubans? Most of the Cubans who fled the Communist Revolution in Cuba are today actually some of the most-wealthy Latinos living in America–despite the fact that mostly they arrived in Florida with no possessions and only the money they could actually carry with them (which was basically value-less unless it was already converted into USD before they fled…) and were the victims of state-sponsored violence/civil war. So, a counter-example acts as sufficient proof that it can’t solely and necessarily be the fact that they’re refugees that causes their poverty, (although I’m sure that contributes to it to-varying-degrees.)

              Also, I’m curious: since you are Vietnamese-American and your parents are Vietnamese refugees/immigrants (which makes them South-East Asian by inclusion) who actually fled during the Fall of Saigon, to what do you (or they) attribute their being able to attend college and make a living? Was there something sufficiently unique about their experience from that of other South-East Asian and/or Vietnamese refugees? Why did they “make it” and yet others didn’t? Did they have some kind of access to special programs or assistance that the others didn’t? Was it just luck? Were your parents somewhat or completely educated in Vietnam before coming to America or were they more or less unskilled and uneducated? Could their pre-existing level of skill and/or education partly explain why that even as refugees from a war-torn nation who couldn’t bring anything with them as far as resources go, they were able to gain access to an educational system and eventually succeed, financially/socially, etc.? If they were not, then what? How? And why?

              Is it true that some external cause (e.g. racism) is really responsible for poverty among immigrants, or is it that pre-existing lack of education/skill and pre-existing poverty is more of a contributing factor for continued impoverished living? Regarding other South-East Asian immigrants and poverty (let’s say, Khmer, for example): could the fact that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge systematically cleansed the Khmer people of most of their educated elites have resulted in the influx of largely unskilled, uneducated Khmer people into the United States via various refugee-aide programs? Could this also explain perhaps why Khmer people are among the least wealthy of Asians in America (in addition to being some of the smallest and most recently-arrived Asian people group?… http://www.energyofanation.org/4a34aec0-18f9-441e-9680-6adcd28e7286.html?NodeId)

              Also, what exactly is “microaggression”? How is it different from “aggression”? Simply by degree or is there some other thing that differentiates it? Is asking someone a slightly insensitive, tactlessly-worded question “aggressive” in nature or could it be something else? (just simply, “stupid”, perhaps? Or maybe just well-intentioned-yet-badly-executed?) Could the person asking the question have non-aggressive motives for asking a question? (e.g. simple curiosity?) If you were to presume aggression on the part of the questioner and were to respond as such/in-kind and their motive was indeed NOT to be aggressive/bigoted/dismissive/patronizing, then wouldn’t you be the one guilty of “aggression”, possibly even greater than any perceived “microaggression”?

              You said you won’t settle for anything less than equal. What does that mean? Equal treatment? Do you ask different people about their ethnic backgrounds? Have you ever possibly phrased your question in such a way that it might be potentially offensive and/or “aggressive” to the other person? Have you ever bothered to find out? Also, have you ever bothered to actually gently correct the people who ask you about your ethnicity in an unwittingly offensive way? If so, how did they respond? Did they refine their question and/or apologize? Did they even know that what they said was offensive to you? If you didn’t do [this], then how are you actually going about ensuring that you are “not settl(ing) for anything less than equal? Wouldn’t things being a “one-way street” be quintessentially NOT equal?

              • Vi October 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

                Reply

                There are a lot of questions in this comment, and I can’t say I have the answers to all of them.

                To address your first point, I’m definitely not saying that being a refugee is the sole cause of poverty, although like you said, it does contribute. I was just trying to make a point that the model minority myth does not apply to all Asian Americans. We have varying degrees of education and income levels. We’re not all able to get into Ivy League Universities and end up as doctors and engineers and not all of us WANT to.

                My dad’s side of the family came to America when my dad and his siblings were teenagers and younger. My uncle was an infant and it is a miracle that he survived the journey and is with us today. My family had the help of the Catholic church which helped us when we first arrived in America and that may be a significant part of what’s different from our story from others. However, I cannot say exactly why some families fare better than others. And it’s not something we talk about and more of something we’d rather forget.

                I’m not going to argue your point about poverty and racism because it’s not something that I feel that I can properly address in this case. However, yeah, institutionalized racism and discrimination probably has a hand in income distribution.

                “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” – http://www.units.muohio.edu/saf/reslife/reslife/manuals/manual/CPR_committee/Cultural_Proficiency_Articles/Wing-%20Racial%20Microaggressions%20in%20Everyday%20Life.pdf

                Microagression are most of the time subconscious and the perpetrator means no harm. Microagression can come in the form of jokes, statements, non-verbal behavior, basically anything that devalues or makes assumptions about a certain race, gender, sexuality, etc. I wouldn’t say asking where someone is from is microagressive, but following up that statement with something like “But your English is so good” would.

                No, I do not go around asking people what their ethnicity is from. Even other Asians (no, I cannot tell them apart.) Even if I’m curious. If they want to make it known, they will. I will freely tell people what I am, mostly because I don’t want people to assume I can speak Chinese (which is another post in itself) but I am also proud of my heritage. I can’t say that I am easily offended by people asking me where “I’m from” (some people are) but I always answer with my home state or city and emphasize that my family is from Vietnam.

                I’m still working on how to change society. If I knew how I’d tell you.

          • searchingforsubstance October 20, 2013 at 12:57 am

            Reply

            @ Rayner, Sang and Andrea,

            You can bring up statistics about the average Asian American household earning $68,089 but the disparity in this number is real –
            I work with a high population of Southeast Asians who are illiterate (because they came from agricultural backgrounds in their home country), have high cases of PTSD secondary to genocide (who they themselves have been tortured/abused/starved) and when resettled in America, were placed specifically in the ghettos of America.

            Most of these families live below the poverty line, did not have the opportunity for skilled jobs, access to higher education, nor security that all of you have had, yet they are clumped into the “Asian American” household statistic and “Model Minority” myth. Doing so denies these very families the resources and support that they need. These families are then overlooked and ignored, left to fend for themselves.

            Rayner, your comment, “I could care less…if the government doesn’t provide assistance to poor Asian Americans…” that statement in itself shows your lack of compassion for your fellow human being. You are entitled to your opinion. But reading this, was very saddening.

            Sang, your comment that this post was “so trivial” and Andrea, that these are “minor misunderstandings..” both are really insulting. Not only to me as an Asian American, but also to all those who advocate for the rights of Asian Americans.

            Andrea, perhaps you might consider living somewhere else, to TRULY understand the plight of Asian Americans, because you clearly have no understanding of the day to day struggle that OTHER Asian Americans are experiencing or enduring right now.

            All your statements compel me to work harder to fight the type of ignorance you have expressed, and to continue to advocate for the Asian Americans who are overlooked and underserved.

            @Connie, thanks so much for writing this post. Props.

      • recca October 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

        Reply

        Sang,

        You’re an idiot.

      • Kevin October 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm

        Reply

        Many different people will have different feelings on the subject depending on their own personal experiences. Sang, you probably never felt the feelings that Connie was talking about because of how you grew up. This is perfectly fine, but it may explain the reason why you think this post is trivial. Personally, I’ve felt what Connie has felt many times in my life and went through all the different phases of trying to find myself. Even at the age of 23, sometimes I still get confused as to where I fit in, but I’ve grown to the point where I don’t think much about it anymore.

    • Doris L October 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Reply

      Rayner:

      You are proud & strong & a bit frustratingly unsympathetic. I see your point, but I ask that you toy with Connie’s points too.
      Pardon my rough interpretation of the essay, but I don’t think Connie is necessarily ashamed about her culture. If her thought processes are anywhere near aligned with mine, then I would say she’s feeling a bit culturally confused like I am. When someone asks me where I’m from, my initial answer is always, “I from the US.” But when they continue on to ask where I’m “really” from, I am a bit caught off guard (even though it happens quite often). Was my initial answer wasn’t good enough for them? Or was my answer silly & improbable because of my skin color? The repetitive questioning doesn’t reflect on us & our answers (& self worth & our pride), but it reflects on what people assume should be our answers when inquiring about our identities. It is a bit frustrating how people will continue to ask this very question until I tell them where “my people” are “really” from. I am confident that I am not the first person to dodge these questions with “What do you mean? I’m from the states. Born & raised in NY!*forced grin*” They always invariably reply with the formulaic: “Oh, no! But where are you “really really” from? Like, your ancestors.” (Side note: seriously, just because I’m Asian you have to bring my ancestors into this?) And until people start accepting us for who we are, and who we identifies ourselves as, they will just be blindly painting us with what they think we should be & not seeing us, for us. I, for one, would like to think that people should be allowed to choose & define their own identities, and not have it be outlined for them in some instruction manual that was written by some uninformed third party.
      Which brings me to my second point… I quite disagree with your statement, “As long as people in general aren’t racist towards me and my race doesn’t hinder my career (and in this day and age it really doesn’t ), I’m fine with my identity.” I think you’re making a rather dangerous assumption. Just because there are a lot of stereotypes about Asians being hard workers with an penchant for math, doesn’t mean stereotypes of what you should be won’t hurt you. You seem like a model employee looking to work their way up in life. How would you feel if your boss expected more or different things from you because of your race? This is great if you could meet & surpass those expectations. But, hypothetically, what if one day you couldn’t? Your non-Asian, non-stereotyped, coworkers weren’t subjected to these standards and would not be judged as harshly as you had been. Then what? Even though you produced the same quality of work as your coworkers, suddenly, you are the disappointment that couldn’t meet your boss’ expectations. This is a rather abstract hypothetical, but do you see how this could be detrimental, especially on the large scale that is is happening? And besides, wouldn’t it be hurtful to know that you were hired based on the collective achievements of other Asians & not your own resume?

      I hope you understand my point of view, Rayner, and that you can pardon any typo’s in this rant. All Asian jokes aside, I am an engineer & still can’t figure how to use commas.

    • Jeffrey October 18, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Reply

      I have to agree with Rayner, Sang and Andrea, to an extent. Connie is reflecting on her personal experience, which obviously resonates with many people. But for many others like myself, I want to clarify that many Asian-Americans don’t feel particularly sensitive about the fact that they’re Asian in America. Rather, we’re quite proud of our heritage, and as such her struggles can seem trivial.

      Asian-Americans who grow up in predominately white neighborhoods may have “that moment” when they realize that they’re not white, but for others such as myself, I’ve always embraced the fact that I’m Asian and identify primarily with my Asian heritage. I was born and raised in California, and as such my experience may differ due to the fact that there is a high concentration of Asians in California. I haven’t personally encountered overt racism in the form of lost job opportunities, etc., but I can’t deny that this is common.

      Likewise, I don’t believe that Asians are “ignored” in America–we constitute a smaller proportion of the US population than Hispanics and African-Americans. The overt racism that we historically faced has been, in my opinion, adequately covered in our textbooks. The Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps, etc. were all covered, and there were also entire chapters of our textbooks dedicated to Chinese and Japanese history, respectively(although Chinese and Japanese history isn’t Asian-American history). The reason that African-Americans are so heavily featured in our textbooks is that they have a longer and more substantial history(in my opinion) in our nation’s past.

      One more thing I want to clarify is that I don’t believe that “wanting to be white” is even close to a universal aspect of being Asian-American. Things like double-eyelid surgery are ubiquitous in Asia not because they want to look more white(although this is sometimes the case), but rather that standards of beauty in Asia have changed. Few people look at white models and say, “oh, I want to look like them.” Rather, they’re aspiring to look like Asians who are beautiful by Asian standards of beauty, which changes much as what’s considered fashionable changes with time, albeit at a much slower pace. I can’t deny that some do feel pressure to look more white; nevertheless, I don’t believe that wanting to look white even crosses the minds of many Asian-Americans regularly today.

      In the end, there are some who have to come to terms with being Asian-American, some who are proud of it, and some who try to live their entire lives as if they were white. Asians come from highly diverse backgrounds, and as such our experiences too differ. Of course, all of our experiences are important, but in the larger realm of things, our struggles with racism have been quite trivial compared to what others face. It’s important to focus on the positives of being Asian-American, which in my opinion far outweigh the negatives.

    • Caroline Rives October 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Reply

      Hi,
      I agreed with this reply up until the “you’re better” comment, but anyway, I wanted to say that after reading this and attending a school that has an overwhelming number of international students in the US (we make that the main purpose of our college), I find it a bit disturbing that you are confused about why “white” culture is the most accepted or dominantly displayed/recognized culture in the US.
      Why are “Asian people” dominant in Asian countries?? If a huge influx of white Americans move to Asia just because Asia might claim itself to have a new goal of being a ‘mixed salad’ despite it’s cultural heritage, which in fact, every country does have it’s origins, then would you find that fact confusing as to why everywhere in the media and culture there actually are mostly Asians??? I mean, didn’t the white Americans choose to move there knowing that country’s heritage? Even if the white Americans were just born there and didn’t choose to move there, it seems really silly.
      Honestly, it just sounds like you’re whining, but I’m not trying to sound harsh.
      But thanks for writing this article and sharing your ideas- it was interesting to see your opinions in this article. I have plenty of Asian friends, and I share a lot of the same activities and interests as asian-americans. I’m white and I even dated and went to prom with a Chinese guy in high school that doesn’t even have US citizenship. Some of my best friends growing up came from Korea. They are all so nice, and I have this curiosity for other cultures- and it was very interesting to see it from your eyes.

      And to add to David’s comment– I do have European decent, but every white person does essentially. We just assume that everyone has an Uncle who lives in New York, or “Italian” cousins. But those can be so distant, that those of us who have first-generation parents (those of us whose grandparents are actually from Europe- meaning they grew up there and moved here in their adulthood to pursue careers) fall through the cracks. It’s true— people only care about what’s on the outside.

      Last summer I worked at a Department of State program that invites Hispanic students from nearly 10 different countries outside the US to come do cultural programs, and my coworker was a white, blonde-haired blue-eyed American with Swedish heritage. I’m actually a blue-eyed brown-haired American whose eyes, I was told by Hispanic students, “are not as blue as her’s”, but actually– she was the only one recognized for having a different heritage. Her grandparents are from Sweden and taught her to speak Swedish. The same recognition came from the European Teachers group– where we had teachers from 26 different countries come for a second program. Nobody asked me about my heritage. My grandparents are not from the US, either.

      –Caroline

      • Eric.Barstow October 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm

        Reply

        To me, Connie was not just pointing out that this is a nation of predominantly white people, but was commenting on the hegemony it has created, marginalizing other groups. Sure, you can accept there are more white people in the US than Asian or Black or whatever. But that as an excuse to legitimize ignoring the other races’ voices & presence is the sticking point! Hence referring to Julie Chen’s feeling the need to alter her God-given features to appease the Eurocentric sensibilities of mainstream America (I personally think audiences would be accepting of more Asians on TV, but the networks don’t have the guts to “take a chance”). All this points to the old ghosts of colonialism, which still impacts not just the Americas but mch of the world to this day. These discussions are important to have.

        • INDIGENOUS February 17, 2014 at 5:06 pm

          Reply

          the greatest news is non whites make 2 thirds of the worlds population and its about time we should kick the white illegals out of aboriginal land . they don’t belong here. they invaded china during the qings dynasty they invaded india in 1849 they attacked korea during the forgotten war 60 years ago they made Hawaii into a state of America they colonized 90% of the globe and should be exterminated.whites are cancerous and are exhausting the healthcare in north America with their kemo therapy treatments and have all sorts of abnormalities . it is important to not interrace with these recessive genetic rejects as they will be going extinct and whoever has offspring with these melanoma shingles race will end up kissing their family tree goodbye as whites are a downgrade and lack vitamin d and carbon.these melanin deficient scum also causes the most crimes in Canada and have the worst atrocities they committed GLOBALLY! they are immoral and wont accept the fact that they are illegal white terrorist invaders and they are governing OUR land when they should be in Europe.whites atomic bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima in japan, whites invented colonialism,fascism,classism,sexism,imperialism,jim crows law,segragation apartheid in south Africa.whites are the most ethno and Eurocentric liars who are the most xenophobic bigots on the planet and now they play the victim card GET OUT OF HERE! whites are poverty scum who envys and are jealous of other races succeeding and have no respect for other races cultures as they try to market of yoga which they know f all about and lie claiming they are Aryans when that is hindus culture even the rig veda is the oldest history of Sanskrit and mentions nothing of Europe max Mueller and Nixon were towo scholars one was anglo the other was german and they got debunked for their fabricated theory of a Aryan invasion in india when there was no Aryan invasion,hinduism is older than Judaism,islamic religion and Christianity and these white scum stole india’s swastika (svastika) which originated in india..these whites are copycats they drink tea and are now eating spicy food and my father even told me that whites back in the 60’s and 70’s hated curry and east indian food and never liked lamb curry now they are eating it because they found out more about it whites are a joke! and now they try to steal peoples identity of who they are. they even changed the definition of the word Caucasian which only meant bonestructure and in the year 1785 a german philosopher named christoph meiner changed the definition to use Caucasian exclusively for white Europeans and excluded the original Caucasian which were brown Caucasian the first caucasian which were NOT white European at all and that would be south Asians in north india and north Africans.the word Caucasian should never be used as racial identity because that’s not what it meant. whites use that word for discrimination and racial purposes mainly for immigration .whites live a life of being hypocrites and are the most recent race which after a 500 year ruling will soon come to an end they are compulsive liars and brought venereal diseases and sickness into north America. whites invented the mutated airborne stage 2 of h5n1 bird flu the person responsible was floutchier in Holland he was a dutch scientist experimenting strains on ferrets.whites created aids as well. whites stole from maoris and aboriginese as well stuck their nose in Vietnam and lost. whites got kicked out of india in the year 1947 and that’s the year india gained their independence back.whites raped and bloodshed Mexicans and should seriously get back on their mayflower and head back to Europe!whites are wquick to blame others like india for rape but look at the population per capita and by the way whites raped natives and Mexicans in high record numbers lets just say our population was near genocided to 2%.there will be a time whites will get whats coming to them as whoever licks their a will get it too!. whites are disfunctional mental nutjobs who are non monogamous and divorce for alimony they are the only race which has the highest infidelity and are bringing feminism and gay lesbian and homos to countries and pestering the Russians . if someone doesn’t want western white trash not respecting their laws that person or persons should be charged and thrown in jail or better yet executed.whites are not self sufficient that’s why they left Europe to piss off other races. why is it every race who was living peacefully got invaded by whites in either colonization or warfare. whites are devils.in the bible it speaks whites are edomites (esau) the bible also speaks of wooly hair and that is not white for the lord.

          • Kay May 13, 2014 at 3:31 am

            Reply

            You sound seriously mentally ill. If you hate white people so much, you better stop using your computer, the internet, the telephone, the electric light bulb, your car, your easily obtainable foods, you better stop flying anywhere in an airplane, stop using your vaccines and modern medicine, etc. White people are behind a vast majority of the greatest scientific/medical/technological developments of ALL TIME. F’n hypocrite.

    • Anthony October 18, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Reply

      I disagree with your position and more with Connie’s. My situation is similar to Connie’s in that I’m ethnically Chinese but I was born in Michigan and except for a few visits to China, I really don’t have much of a connection to my ancestral homeland. Culturally, I am almost entirely American and am viewed that way by just about anyone from China. It’s really hard for me to identify as Chinese but at the same time, because of the way Asians are viewed in the US, it’s hard to truly identify as American, as defined by the majority of this country, either. I think the biggest difference between you and us is that you actually spent time in Taiwan and have a real first person connection with it that we don’t. When someone asks you where you’re “really” from, you can actually answer Taiwan because you did grow up there. Whenever someone asks where I’m from and I answer Ann Arbor but when they do the stupid “where are you really from”, I still answer Ann Arbor because that’s where I was born and raised. It’s hard to answer China when I’ve only been there 4 times basically as a tourist. I am proud of who I am, I don’t like the instant and subliminal categorization as foreign as that is, by definition, prejudice.

    • Vi October 19, 2013 at 5:06 am

      Reply

      Connie was so elegant in her reply but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the same.

      There is so much that I disagree with in this comment and I take it a little personally since Connie’s article resounded with me so much.

      I think right here is the difference between “Asian-Asian” and “Asian-American.” Yes, I did see that you describe yourself as both “Asian” and “American,” but when you put the two words together, it’s takes on a whole new identity and meaning.

      For us Asian-Americans who have never been to our parent’s home country and do not speak our mother-tongues fluently we cannot truly consider ourselves a apart of that “Asian” culture (or Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc.). We are not as fortunate as you to have been able to experience both cultures somewhat equally.

      So projecting into the future when us Asian-American Millennials have kids or even grandchildren one day and we can’t teach them our Asian languages because we were never properly taught ourselves but our kids still look Asian, will non-Asian Americans be inclined to say, “No, where are you really from?” despite us having family roots in America for decades. There are some generations of Chinese-Americans who can say this is true for them now. I have an ethnically Chinese uncle-in-law whose family has been in the US for a LONG time and he does not speak a drop of Chinese. Is it fair that we will be asked this question when others can get away without it?

    • ZL October 21, 2013 at 2:01 am

      Reply

      Hi, Rayner,

      While I agree that one should be proud of who they are and where their family is from, not everyone has had the luxury that you have had to be able to comfortably associate with both cultures. It’s a lot more than wanting to be American; it’s about a loss of identity from being both disowned from our Asian heritage and rejected from American society. I’d like to provide some insight, growing up in a predominantly Asian community and having to face racism of a different kind that Connie does touch on in her post.

      This mostly has to do with the differences between the previous generation of Asian-Americans and our generation of American-born Asians. While our parents were born in the midst of a nation in turmoil, they were raised to be street-smart, savvy with tools, and hardworking in school. Often, they remind us how difficult it was for them to embark on a journey across the world to come to the United States to provide us with the comfortable lives we have today. We were not raised the same why they were, because despite going home to our Mandarin-speaking parents and Chinese customs, we spend the day experiencing the American lifestyle, where we were taught American values. We will never be as fluent in the mothertongue as our parents are, and they remind us every day of this, despite sending us to endless hours of Chinese school on weekends and requesting we speak only Chinese in the house. Though at home, we were raised on broccoli with oyster sauce and marinated pig feet, once we move out, it would be more convenient for us to just cook pasta and sandwiches instead of pigeon soup and leek pies.

      These differences we experience growing up have created a gap between the older generation and our generation. On various Chinese radio stations, I often hear American-born Chinese and Taiwanese children being referred to as the “strawberry tribe,” meaning we are sensitive to the world and bruise easily in conflict. We aren’t careful on the streets and are sensitive to criticism. I also hear us being referred to as “dirt pigs” in Cantonese, meaning we are lazy and spoiled. We will never be raised under the same conditions that our parents have been, and on top of that, we aren’t completely fluent in the language of our culture. Returning to the motherland is a difficult task.

      Often times, I’ve heard my friends say that they have been told to not speak when they travel in their home countries in fear of being recognized as Americans and then duped and ripped off, as Americans are perceived to be wealthier. The author mentioned how Asian “FOBs” are commonly laughed at in the states; we are essentially “American FOBs” in our respective homelands, facing discrimination based on the way we speak and carry ourselves.

      Like you, I was born in the US, raised in China as a child, and sent back to the states to continue my education, so I fluently speak both Mandarin Chinese and English without an accent. I was raised to read and write Chinese, and I am able to read most parts of novels and newspapers except for the occasional unfamiliar character. When I leave notes for my parents at home, I write in Chinese. I regularly translate for international students when I attended elementary through high school. When I went back to my hometown of Guangzhou, China, I was offered English lessons by a lady on the street who overheard me speaking with my mother, and she did not believe I was from the states until I told her to leave us alone in English. I proudly uphold my Chinese traditions. I make rice and stir-fried vegetables and meats for many of my meals. Even in college, I put up decorations for Chinese New Year in my apartment and hand out moon cakes to all my friends for the mid-autumn festival.

      Despite all this, I will never be Chinese enough for my family. One time, my family was at a restaurant, and I casually mentioned that this one dish sounded great. Unfortunately, I misread one character, and my extended relations will not let me live it down. “Hey, remember that one time she mispronounced ‘salted’? Definitely a ‘dirt pig,’ this one.”

      The preconceived notion that our generation is illiterate in Mandarin and haven’t been raised on the same academic rigors as our counterparts overseas will forever haunt our generation of American-born Asians. The guy in an Asian cell phone store starts to speak to me in English, until I respond in Mandarin to his surprise, and he comments on how well I speak. He said he thought I was like the “ABC” who he just serviced before who could barely understand Chinese, until I tell him that I, too, was born here. My parents remind me daily of our relative who was last in her class in China but immigrated to the United States and consistently got the highest score in math class, showing that the American education system is too soft and will never raise as clever, smart, and hardworking as the rigorous Chinese schooling methods.

      I believe this article post tries to highlight the difference between our generation of American-born Asians and Caucasian-Americans and those who have been raised in another country and then relocated here (eg our parents and international students). While we dabble a little in both, we are neither. As the author says, we are too “American” for our Chinese relatives, but we aren’t “American” enough to fight in with Caucasians.

      I am extremely proud of being Chinese and having a good understanding of both cultures and fluency in many languages. I wouldn’t give up my heritage for anything in the world. Coming to college, I realized how lucky I truly am to be a part of two cultures, especially after living with one of my roommates, who does not understand an ounce of Chinese and cannot relate to all the activities we do at home, because she grew up as a “white-washed” Asian who assimilated to American culture. She reminds me of how lucky I am to be able to speak, read, write. I then realized that not everyone has had the opportunity that I have had to grow up facing little racism but instead pride for what I have as an Asian-American, and I truly feel bad for those who have experience discrimination. I suppose fitting into one culture is better than not fitting into both, and that’s why some choose to stray away from their Asian heritage. America is here, and the motherland is so far, so it is easier to assimilate into the culture here instead. I hope for everyone to keep an open mind about what it means to be Asian-American and accept everyone for who they are, whether they are able to relate to their heritage or not.

      • Boogiewalker October 21, 2013 at 2:38 am

        Reply

        Definitely enjoyed your response, ZL. You sound like a very interesting person. Keep on keepin’ on, friend.

    • sam April 1, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      Reply

      Thank you Rayner… you said just what I was thinking…. I’m a Korean American who came to the states when I was 4 year old. I was taught to speak my native tongue, so I am fluent in both Korean and English. From my experience it is best if you utilize your skill be get the best of two worlds and fit into both circles, hang out with my fobs and American friends as the same time. I lived in a small rural area in Arkansas where racism was visible from elementary to high school. Now that I’m in college, I’m proud of my nationality and my heritage. I don’t see much racism anymore but I guess it’s a plus if your somewhat of a attractive Asian.

  8. Xander (@skyrien) October 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Reply

    thanks for sharing, connie–I definitely had my own long drawn out period while I figured out my own identity within america. it wasn’t until college that I realized how broadly this story is relatable across decades and generations; every immigrant story has some variation of this, but asians have the peculiar issue of still being perceived as an “outsider race”.

    if you get a chance, take a course on asian american literature — the readings and discussions enlightened me to how common this story is, and how ignorant the rest of america has been thus far. changing that will take a lot more engagement with society at large, but with posts like these, i’m pretty optimistic about the current generation.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      Reply

      Seems like college is the ‘awakening’ time for most people. I definitely want to squeeze an Asian American literature class in my schedule, it’ll be interesting to be discussing it in an educational/intellectual established setting.

  9. David October 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Reply

    Thanks for sharing this. Really resonated with this as a shared experience. If you havent already, Looking at Xanders comment, i suggest reading Yellow and the Accidental Asian. (2 books)

    What are your thoughts on being Asian. When I was growing up, I went through similar experiences on the American side, but i thought my return trip to Asia would realize my identity. When my family and the people I met there began calling me the American, that is when I think I truly began to identify as Asian American.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Reply

      Glad you can relate! I’ve heard of Accidental Asian, been meaning to pick it up.

      I definitely feel the same way as you, and I found that after time I started to sense of pride when people pointed me out in foreign countries like China and Taiwan. I’ve experienced it a lot so far in London. I find myself thinking “yeah I’m American!”

      • David October 16, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        Reply

        Yeah, that’s exactly it. On one hand, there’s this overwhelming sense of pride for both sides (if I can call it that). I can proudly cheer on China and America. I can proudly be American. I can proudly be Chinese. At the same time, I think I am even prouder now when I cheer on someone like Jeremy Lin, or whenever I watch an Asian American succeed. Because they are Asian American and what they do hits closer to home for me.

        On the other hand, I find that people born in America and China sometimes choose to ignore, or shun me even. When I am back home in the states, people refuse my statement of being American. We all know the common question of “Where are you from? (insert state you were born in) No like, really” which I often follow with my city and hopsital.

        But in China, the simple fact of my walk, even, betrays me as not Chinese.

        But regardless, thanks for sharing your experience. I picked it up from a friend in Texas and some friends around the world now have picked it up (most noteably Denver, St. Louis, New Orleans, and Hong Kong).

        • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm

          Reply

          Preach! And wow, I seriously did not even begin to fathom that this many people would be responding to this. Thanks for the encouragement.

  10. Tamara October 16, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Reply

    This is completely cliche to say but I truthfully mean this, I never take the time to read articles like this so I would never even think to comment. However, this personal essay has really touched me in a way that I can’t even being to explain. I am 25 years old this year, and I really thought I was fulfilled in the sense that I knew and was proud of what my identity was/is. I grew up experiencing much of the same things you wrote about. Life was a lot of “either ors” depending on which cultural situation I was in at the time. Right before reading this article, I was an American with an Asian background. That’s what I decided on after 25 years of experiences. It made sense because I was born and raised here on this land called America, raised at home with Chinese ideals, and of course the most obvious, I look Chinese. But I truly love how you point out that there is no “either or”, we are in a completely different category because we are a combination of different cultures and identities which makes us even more unique. I think a lot of people in general struggle with their identity because of their innate desire to be part of a group and others’ desire to stick a label on you. But so much of us are stuck in the in between because of this, when its impossible to identify with either side because we are the culmination of what we as individuals chose to be. I can chose to be respectful to my elders because Asian society deems this as important, and I can chose to wear clothes that allows me to live comfortably in American society or not. I’m trying to say that we pick and choose from the societies we exist in to make ourselves, so there’s no real/clear I am Asian, American, or Asian American. At least on an individual level.

    I am so happy and proud that you are tackling a big social issue like this. And speaking out and connecting to people like me, who can’t find the words.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      Reply

      Wow, super encouraged by your response! Thank you.

  11. Kim October 16, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this! I don’t share the same ethnic identity as you, but I can relate to that feeling of “Wait I’m not white? Then what am I?” I struggled with that as a child and I still do.
    Anyways, I commend you for opening up and sharing your experiences. Your voice is one that needs to be heard, and you have an eloquent yet simple way of putting it. From one non-white, non-black American to another-Thank you!!

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Reply

      Minorities gotta stick together! Glad that you can relate from a non-Asian point of view.

  12. Say October 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this. For the longest time I’ve felt like i’m in that rut of not being comfortable or belonging in either my Asian heritage or as an American. My parents are 3rd/4th generation and they still get told “You’re English is so good!”, and people constantly thinking I’m not an American kind of makes me feel like they’re trying to push me out of their world or something. On the flip side, when I visited Japan it made me love my place in America because it occurred to me that there was no where else in the world I’d fit in and feel comfortable (Japan is great and Kyoto will always be special to me, but I don’t know if I could live there. Trying to cook for myself with purely Japanese ingredients was waaaaay harder than I thought it would be).
    I will never be Japanese, but I will always be Japanese-American. Mostly because other people try really hard to point out how I’m different from them (as you pointed out, always with the dodgy questions about where our families came from). I’d like to think that my grandparents went into the camps/fought in the 442 and proved how American our family was until the end of time, so even though it’s a pain to have to defend it constantly, I’ll do it because whoever else comes down the line after me shouldn’t have to.

    I’d like to think I’ve personally come to a lovely place of being cool with my Japanese American fusion identity (kind of like the food our community makes in the churches- some of it is recipes passed down, some of it is our grandmothers experimenting with mixing up American food with Japanese food, almost all of it is made substituting Japanese products with American. Still tastes most excellent), but I feel it’s everyone else out there who wants to pick it apart out of their weird curiosity (I still don’t know why it matters so much to people what kind of Asian I am. I don’t know anyone who can explain that to me), or in an attempt to make small talk.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Reply

      Props to your grandparents! We shouldn’t have to prove our “Americanness”. I liked what you said about experimenting with food, interesting how food can hold so much value towards culture.

  13. anon October 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Reply

    try being an adopted asian growing up in a predominantly white suburb of America

  14. Eislyne October 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Reply

    Thank you Connie for writing this! I also share the ESL experience. My 1st grade teacher had two daughters adopted from Korea, and justified my placement in ESL with “Even though she seems like she understands, she really doesn’t” to my mother. The only language I’ve ever spoken my entire life is and still is English (From a Viet/Chinese household so the spoken language at home had always been English).

    Your struggles are shared with so many people, and you write so well that I’m sure it speaks for a lot of us – not just Asian-Americans – but for anyone who is dealing with this clash of identities. It’s hard to explain to people who can’t see what the big deal is, and I usually feel pretty isolated and crazy, so thank you so much for speaking up and explaining for all of us who can’t.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Reply

      Wow, I’m shocked that your teacher said that! I totally understand how you feel, hopefully this and the next generation will bring forth awareness and change. Thanks for your response!

  15. Esther October 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Reply

    totally on point about race & racism classes taught in NY state/city school systems. black minority politics in our country are so important; but set against the backdrop of protest and opposition it’s not the most appropriate model to apply to every minority. and it’s so true too, that we got ONE story in our textbooks about chinese immigration–railroads, gold rush, yadda, yadda. the exclusion acts you mention actually make chinese immigrations the most documented! it’s all very fascinating. might i recommend MoCA as a lovely and thoughtful place to pause at on your next NYC visit?

    as much as i hesitate at some monolithic construction of “asian hyphen american” with uniform interests, i guess there’s not room for the MANY asian american experiences to be affirmed until the extremes are pushed. and there can’t be an “asian-american awakening” amongst non-AA’s until AA’s are awakened. so i love your website and your willingness to engage honestly with tough issues, especially as recent events have shown that the american church is also so not above this–glad for your voice!

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Reply

      Thanks Esther! I totally agree with you, many of us Asian-Americans are still not ready to face the world and dare to be different. I’ll definitely check out MOCA when I’m in NYC (which will probably be a lot more frequent now!)

  16. tan October 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Reply

    Thank you! It’s very good article. I am not at your age and was born in China. But I completely understand what you have wrote because I have felt that way for my American-born nieces. Many times I’ve said to them that don’t let go their culture heritages because they are who they are, and that’s their ground. People will not think they are American (as mostly as white or black people) because they were born in US. People will still ask “where are you from”. So don’t chop off your roots – your family background and the culture heritages. You can only stand strong with your extended strong “roots”.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

      Reply

      Love that metaphor! Thanks for your feedback.

  17. Michelle Jang October 16, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Reply

    Hi Connie.

    I felt like you back in high school when my school was 90% white. I tried really hard to be white and avoid fobs, but now I’m in college and it really doesn’t bother me anymore. I feel like I’m more American, but I’m proud that I own more than one culture. I actually feel kind of bad for natural born Americans because they can only speak one language, only know one culture, and so far from my experiences, they’re always envious of me for being different and not having to eat just unhealthy food like burgers and macaroni and cheese all the time. They’re always really excited when I cook or teach them new words. I feel cool that I’m different because they want to get to know me more and approach me first. I realized that America is all about diversity, and although some parts of our country haven’t caught up, I think college and urban areas are where you can experience the diversity. I can still see some people on TV who are racist and want to stop immigration, but those were only a select few. The majority of people I know will make fun of the racist people on TV, and talk about how they’re so dumb for thinking all immigrants are hurting the economy for example.

    Luckily, I realized my world isn’t just belonging to ‘white’ or ‘Asian’. In my group of friends, there’s Puertorican-American, Korean-American, French-American, Indian-American, Greek-American, Italian-American, and just regular Americans, and many more that I can name! Having a diverse group of friends helps me understand other cultures, and it has its perks when they cook for me. I could never experience other cultures if I only hung out with white or with just Asians. So I guess I’m saying, I don’t like the idea that whites should hang out with whites and Asians should only hang out with Asians, but I like when we all hang out with each other; white, blacks, asians, europeans, indians, and hispanics.

    I don’t think you should feel bad when people ask you what kind of Asian you are. You could be the whitest person in the inside, but your physical appearance will tell people that you’re different. It’s natural for them to be curious. People aren’t asking you to be racist, but they are genuinely interested in you and your culture because it’s something they don’t have. I love when I go to work and meet up with my Guatemalan coworker and we have little spanish and korean learning sessions. It’s fun to learn new things about other cultures, even things that make you realize it’s totally weird here but normal there. I can’t really do that with my regular American friends. We mostly talk about partying, school, and football, but I still enjoy those conversations as well. I never get mad that people ask me what kind of Asian I am because I do it too. Obviously I don’t really ask white people unless they have an accent, but I’ll ask other asians what they are or if they’re hispanic I’ll ask where their family is from. Same goes for anyone else who isn’t white. I just like to know if I’m going to build a relationship with them because I feel like I’m not close enough to you if I don’t know what your heritage is. Also, saying you’re from like India is a lot more interesting than like New Jersey. I’d prefer when people just straight up asking rather than just assuming I’m Chinese or Japanese. Like I had one friend I knew for over a year, and he just found out that I was Korean after assuming I was Chinese. Sometimes people just won’t care what Asian you are, and just know you as ‘Asian’, which is good I guess if you don’t want to be discriminated, but for me I WANT people to know I’m Korean. And I guess a lot of people just already know I’m not from Asia because I’m tall and tan and my fashion is Americanized. I know no one is special, but being different in America, in a crowd of white people, makes me kinda feel special.

    I also started being nice to fobs in my classes and at work. They’re people too. They have great things to say if you ask them. They only things that bothers me is I think it’s sad how a lot of people at school are willing to become friends with them, but they only hang out with groups and only talk in Korean. I’ve seen korean fobs, who didn’t think I understood Korean, talk shit about random strangers passing by in Korean. Why are THEY here in our country and making fun of the way we live. That’s why I don’t respect some fobs unless I get to know them better. I know it’s hard for them to speak English, but they really don’t know that we’d be willing to help them. I’d have more respect for the fobs that break out of their little circles and hang out with me and my friends. Like there was a guy who came from China and partied with us one night. He was amazing and everyone loved him because he was willing to socialize even though his english wasn’t very good. He didn’t mind us correcting his English if it was wrong because he wanted to improve, and we talked with him til 4am about his life in China and American traditions he didn’t know about.

    I hope my reply has given you some insight about the whole identity issue. Just be yourself and don’t worry about what other people think. Be proud of who you are both Asian and American and show confidence and be willing to share your cultural ideas as well as learning about others. Times are definitely changing. Very slowly but surely.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm

      Reply

      Thanks for your insight! Glad that you’re so strong in who you are. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  18. samtsang98 October 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Reply

    Connie, wonderful narrative. Just a minor glitch. The sentence ” little acknowledgment from the rest America” means ” little acknowledgment from the rest OF America.”, right?

  19. Calvin October 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Reply

    I totally agree (nice Pocky reference, too! Sucks that Pocky is so expensive :/ ). There’s a reason why we are Asian-American, and not just Asian or just American. It’s an amalgamation of the two cultures, and it’s up to the individual to pick the best of both worlds.

  20. David Tian October 16, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Reply

    Hi Connie! I saw your article when a mutual friend of ours posted it on Facebook. You have some serious writing talent! Thank you very much for your bravery in writing this and putting into words what many Asian-Americans feel internally.

    I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind hearing a bit about my story. Growing up, I went through a lot of insecurity with my ethnic identity and, when I lived in South Carolina for a year, underwent a LOT of racism and discrimination similar to what you have described (“Go back to your country”, “chink”, etc. etc.).

    Flash forward to the present: I am now a senior at a top private university in the Midwest with a sizable Asian population, both foreign and Asian-American. Besides no longer being an exotic object (it’s no longer so unusual to see an Asian person when about 25% of the school is of Asian descent), the Asians I’ve met here are almost universally very interesting and talented, whether it be in dance, music, art, or in your case, writing. This has definitely helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin and made me feel more proud of who I am where my ethnic origins lie.

    Thank you again for your essay! You’re going to go places. Make us proud!

    Cheers from Chicago,
    -David

    • David Tian October 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Reply

      Err to clarify, this school I go to now has helped me feel more at ease and proud of my background because Asians are no longer, at least at this school, anomalous outcasts with no personality and identities dictated by others. It’s the first time where I felt that we were truly free to establish our own social identities and not just be known as “that Asian kid” anymore, but instead, “that really good singer, really good athlete in ____ sport,” and so forth.

      • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 8:06 pm

        Reply

        I’m sorry that you had to go through all that racism growing up! I’m super excited to hear that your school is so progressive (gotta love the Midwest!)

        Thanks for your response.

  21. Sonia October 16, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Reply

    This is a great essay and as an Asian of Korean decent, I have had the experience of being asked repeatedly where I come from even after I tell people I am from New York. When people ask what nationality I am, I say I’m an American. Sometimes, I am asked again about my nationality as if I didn’t understand the question. So I specify, “North American.” Often, I let people off the hook and let them know I that my parents are from Korea. I am sometimes applauded because I apparently have, “no accent.” Then I am asked about Korean culture and asked about how I feel about North Korea. It’s great fun, you see? I can’t be “just” an American, I have to be identified by some as a Korean-American, because of what I look like, despite the fact that I was born in the U.S. and know that George Washington liked cutting cherry trees and valued veracity! :-)

    I do agree with the poster above, Michelle, and times are changing and hopefully the visuals of our appearance won’t dictate what we have in our hearts and being. We are all human, some have different packaging, but in essence all the same with different experiences. It’s those experiences that carve out who we are rather than who we are not. Some of us are curious about other people’s experiences, others, not so much… but in the end, being open enough to let people know what you’re all about is more important and I am glad that you were able to express yourself and tell a story that other (like me) can relate to.

    (Sorry if I am mistaken, but I think there were some very minor spelling errors that I noticed though… I know it probably doesn’t matter but here’s the two I found: “Connie! I just me the Asian version of you!” and “One one side, the Asian culture has taught me..”)

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Reply

      Haha love that you don’t give into the question. And good catches, I always need a set of separate eyes to find my typos. Thanks for your reply!

  22. Chul Ree October 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Reply

    “I believe that as Americans, we’re scared to accept difference, even in this day and age,” says the asian girl shouting about living in a white person’s world. Is there anything more diverse than being a minority living in american culture? Or would you prefer the irony of living in an American chinatown, koreatown or japantown? All i see after the declaration is a list of microagressions, nothing comparable to what happened to Victor Chin or any real racism.

    Consider the following regarding being asked where you’re from:The asian population in most states barely break 2 or 3 percent, it’s absurd to “ask for a little acknowledgment from the rest America” when most people have never seen an asian person in real life. If you’ve never seen an American tell a european to go back home, you must not live around Bossies, Albanians or Serbs.

    • Connie Zhou October 16, 2013 at 8:12 pm

      Reply

      Thanks for your point of view. I can only speak from my own experiences. I think the whole point I’m trying to make is how can America boast on its diversity if we’re culturally still revolving it around “a white person’s world”. I see your points, and I guess it just depends on where you’re from. I live in the midwest and go to school on the east coast so I have a pretty good glimpse of what life’s like there, but feel free to give me insight elsewhere.

      • Esther October 17, 2013 at 3:14 am

        Reply

        *suburban* east coast.

      • Chul Ree October 17, 2013 at 5:13 am

        Reply

        I grew up in the us heartland in a trailer park for retired american vets near a US Army Base (they train Sappers there), went to college in the east coast.

        What youre describing is the failure of the “tossed salad” methid of cultural integration thats been taught and emphasized since the late 80s. these separate cultures that retain their values and traditions and coexist with each other; It makes differences between groups more noticeable. Iwould bet that blacks and mestizos in chicago get similarly intentioned questions and interactions, albiet qmore tuned for their rasse.

        If instead America focused on the melting pot, assimilation as our parents called it, I would doubt race would matter as much. Unfortunately, it means sacrificing the traditions of a culture. Ebonics, tejano and white washing would have to be replaced with a strict noreastern lifestyle

        Lastly,
        Diversity isn’t an ideal most Americans (middle class and lower) champion. In fact, id say the only times ive seen diversity be celebrated is on a college campus,
        In the richer, SWPL parts of a town and online On blogs like these.

        • jk2001 October 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

          Reply

          Chul, I don’t know how to say this politely, but you really need to learn some history about things like segregation, CCRs, and employment discrimination. The way the educational system works, it’s 90% assimilation, and maybe 8% multiculturalism, and 2% really studying about racism within the context of colonialism.

          Diversity is celebrated at colleges because those were traditionally the institutions that perpetuated segregation and oppression; so now it’s been backpedaling for 60 years, trying to get rid of its racism. Colleges are less diverse than the overall population. They assimilate students into a basically white, English-speaking middle class culture that tends to wipe out working class culture.

          • Chul Ree October 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

            Reply

            I’m confused are you describing America or Japan’s imperialism in China and Korea? Did they not teach french, spanish, chinese, or german language classes at your school? did you not have any GLAAD or GASA student groups at your school? The only group virtually banned from all schools from middle school to university is a white cultural group. Look at the outrage of Towson University’s white student union. Lastly, how much of the perpetuated segregation and oppression is self imposed? Do i have to remind you of the fake hate crimes at oberlin (which michelle malkin has wonderfully reported on)?

    • For Vincent Chin October 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Reply

      Out of respect for Mr. Chin’s sacrifice, his name is Vincent Chin (not Victor).

      • For Vincent Chin October 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        Reply

        This was meant to respond to Chul Ree.

  23. Eric T. October 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Reply

    This was very well written; thank you.

  24. Jenn October 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Reply

    Interesting and well written. Welcome to the third culture, or forth, or fifth. I think in the future, most of us will straddle at least two cultural fences. Maybe as we do, we’ll learn how to do it better. My thoughts? Get a mentor or two who are a different race than you, it helps put a lot of things in perspective.

  25. J Marc October 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Reply

    Very good read. Definitely keep on writing!

  26. K October 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. I’m born to parents who came from Taiwan, which made me the first generation born here in the U.S. I had friends back in middle school and high school who used to tell me that I was ‘white-washed’, and I embraced that identity for a long time as a result of that “affirmation”. It wasn’t until years later when another friend of mine told me straight up that I will never be completely white, try as I might. And now looking back on my life, I realized that many of the messages I have been receiving about Asian culture were mostly negative, and I had been deliberately trying to shake off those parts of my culture in order to “live up” to what I perceived to be a superior majority culture.

    I had a conversation with my mom recently about the mini identity crisis I’m having regarding my Taiwanese and my American cultural identities, and her reply was that it may not ever be possible for me to feel completely completely Taiwanese and also American, so I continue to live somewhat in this tension. I’m really glad you brought up this idea of the Asian-American identity being a culture of its own. It may feel uncomfortable, maybe it won’t feel right at first, but it could potentially be a huge way of being at peace with who I am ethnically.

    I hope that this post you wrote will help continue the conversation across cultural lines. You have expressed what many other Asian-Americans have experienced in an eloquent and graceful fashion, so I hope that this will find a wide audience, and that we can all come to understand each other better!

  27. GypsyM October 16, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    Reply

    Wonderfully written and expressed with deepest emotions.

  28. YellowFever69 October 17, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Reply

    Hey Connie,
    Really liked your views and your expose. I am now heavily attracted to you – do I need to defeat your father in Starcraft in order to win your hand? Say best 3 out of 5?

  29. fifi October 17, 2013 at 12:20 am

    Reply

    Thanks for this post!
    This basically summarized my life. It’s always interesting because I have a few friends who also feel this way, and we always thought we were different or strange. Like we weren’t “good asians” for not connecting to our heritage. (Well more me because I’m like the “worst” asian ever… I don’t speak Chinese or go to Chinese church…)

    It’s really relieving to see a blog like this affirm we’re actually normal. It’s an asian american phenomenon to go through these phases where we reject our heritage, then bounce back and become SUPER “asian” (I also had that “FOB” phase with bangs and the peace sign in every picture…).

    While I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about people needing to realize we’re also American (have you seen that video ‘what kind of asian are you’ because it really hits the nail on the head for what we have to deal with), I also think we should start with the educational system. Things are already changing, but teaching more history that isn’t always centered on the western world would be a good start to reducing the ignorance.

    Thanks!

    • fifi October 17, 2013 at 12:21 am

      Reply

      awkward i put my email straight in there as my name…. if you could edit or delete that it would be great!

      • Connie Zhou October 17, 2013 at 12:25 am

        Reply

        I totally get you, I actually hesitated when posting this because I thought maybe I was the only one who felt this way. Granted, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is just based on what I’ve experienced. And fixed it! Thanks for your response :)

  30. Yu-Xuan October 17, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Reply

    It’s power. The American culture is dominant because the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world. I suppose you could try to be white and hope to gain acceptance. Maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t and I guess it also depends on where you live. But, and just as a small food for thought, suppose you took all that energy trying to gain acceptance from white society and used it instead for the betterment of your race? And by “your race” I mean the Chinese race. Do you believe Asian-Americans will be marginalized if the Chinese race and nation becomes the equal of the U.S.?

    So I suppose you could discuss issue this on a blog and people could commiserate with you. Or, you could go out there and be the absolute best at whatever the f*ck you do. I don’t mean you need to be a doctor, layer, or engineer. But if you want to go into the arts or literature, be the next goddam Andy Warhol or Pulitzer prize winner. Help out your fellow Chinese people instead of shunning them. And when you personally have accumulated enough power, and when the Chinese race has accumulated enough power, then maybe we will stand as equals before the Americans.

  31. salai October 17, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Reply

    Hey Connie,

    I want to thank you for writing this essay. I was actually a TA for a course on Multicultural Literacy and I gave a brief speech I suppose on my experiences with race, and the realization that I wasn’t white. This really resonated with me and is so beautifully and well put.

    I feel as if I have gone through many of the same processes of denying and embracing my “asian’ heritage. I think it really hit me when I was in China this past summer. I only have a year of college mandarin, and I struggled a lot. In fact, I had never felt more out of place when all I wanted to do was blend in. My thought was that since I’m one generation removed, I could wing it? Not so. Then coming back to the US has really highlighted and retroactively informed some of my experiences with microaggressions.

    It’s interesting you discuss it as a new kind of group–Asian Americans, and thinking about it I definitely agree. My parents are both from Hong Kong and they don’t really understand quite what I have experienced. The classic, “Sometimes I forget you’re asian Emmie” is always a good memory. I mean for the longest time sometimes I did. Like you said being Asian-American is kind of a challenging rut to fall in.

    Recently to I have been upset by the lack of representation Asians in general have in the media. Because you’re right! We are an ignored minority.

    I really wish I had more time to reflect on this and tease it out more, but again I really wanted to thank you. Your essay really inspires me to write my own ‘awakening’ as you put it. Maybe I’ll do it some day soon. It would be cool if the next generation of Asian-Americans had more than a sentence in a book or a class that they could read, so they could know they’re not the only ones feeling this way.

    Much Love,
    Emmie

  32. tiffany October 17, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Reply

    In general, I relate to this spot on, except when you started complaining (AGAIN) about how you don’t like the “where are you from” inquiries in taxi situations. You have a strong will to embrace being Asian American–good! But you have to understand that part of embracing being Asian American is also embracing the fact that there WILL be people who ask you those questions. You fail to understand this basic, crucial concept to the idea you’re throwing out here, and instead, rebuke it. Complaining about how annoying people are isn’t going to change those people.

  33. Hiatus October 17, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Reply

    This post saddens me a bit. Both the author and the people involved in the story. Humanity will only be healed when we have wiped the idea of race completely from our conscious. When we see one another, think person, not white, black, etc. As long as you stay fixated upon race, you will never move forward.

    • A. October 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Reply

      Being “colorblind” does not solve the problem.

  34. Michelle October 17, 2013 at 1:06 am

    Reply

    This piece is wonderful. Thank you so much for writing it. I am actually in tears because I had no idea others shared such specific experiences and had such similar thoughts on being the “ignored race”. Thank you <3

  35. janaia October 17, 2013 at 1:17 am

    Reply

    I had to switched school for my kids due to this ESL/ELL program also…jus bc my kids have black hair and is minority they want them under special program….but I did learn that foe the school to get higer fundings…there has to be more ESL students..dumb but its the society we live in…yes, cant agree more!!

  36. Sophie Ima October 17, 2013 at 1:22 am

    Reply

    This is amazing. Not just your writing skills, but your unapologetic disclosure of the truth. I’m half-Japanese, half-American, and i feel like you put into words (succinctly and with style!) everything that I’ve felt for my entire life.

  37. Jet Spygul October 17, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Reply

    Just so you know, the “where are you really from” BS isn’t exclusively an Asian problem. If you are mixed race, or just don’t fit into the stereotypical ‘look’ of your race and people can’t guess it, expect a ton of stupid questions like this.

  38. viTiminJ October 17, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Reply

    I really appreciate the self awareness at the end, highlighting the fact that we are a “young race” as children of first-generation immigrants. Pieces like this are indeed the “awakening,” the first step toward understanding our collective identity. It makes me feel pretty excited for what the future holds in terms of identity-creation.

  39. Renee A. October 17, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Reply

    Now imagine what I go through, encountering the same Asian-American struggle as a half-Asian/half-white–a minority within a minority–aka a mutt. So much for America being a called melting pot; tossed salad really is more accurate. It still seems very taboo to marry outside of your own race; I, however, have no choice…

    I may have a completely white name and look white to untrained eyes–most people, but on the inside I’ve always been rooted in my mom’s Chinese-Taiwanese culture (that itself is another struggle…), unlike most of my fellow mixed people. We are generally forced to either “pick a side” or be forced into one, and most mixed people that I’ve met picked the white side. I’d even say that I’m more “Asian” than most of my Asian-American friends; I went to and graduated from Chinese school, I can speak Mandarin fluently with no American accent (but not quite with a Taiwanese accent either… so they can still tell I’m a foreigner), and I’ve been to China twice and Taiwan numerous times to visit relatives, sight-see, and teach English. I’m quite stereotypically Asian, yet I’ve been rejected by Asians and not quite accepted by white people, but I can blend in. I just don’t belong anywhere, not even in my own family.

    Just thought I’d share some perspective from an even more ignored minority, especially since many people seem to think it’s cool to be mixed and, therefore, more interesting or unique, but they fail to see the struggles we have to go through.

    I found this a couple of weeks ago, if anyone would be open to some more perspective: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/07/22-things-you-should-never-say-multiracial-woman_n_4057750.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Black+Voices

    • Jonathan October 19, 2013 at 12:49 am

      Reply

      Yeah it would appear that most mixed people tend to choose the white side. (I think it has to do with the fact that most wasian/hapa kids have a white father/asian mom, so it’s only natural that they tend to choose the white side when growing up in a predominately white cultured society in the states).
      But yeah I go back to Taiwan quite often too. I like to consider myself asian more so than american, but every time I go back I realize I don’t really blend in and that the locals still view me as an outsider/american. So it’s kind of a conflicting choice, not really “american” in the states as an asian, but still considered as an outsider back in my home country. I guess being asian american really counts as a separate race in itself.

      You definitely have it harder though. In asia you’ll be considered a foreigner by most just from your looks, but I’ve always thought wasian/hapa people were accepted by white people (since you guys tend to look closer to your white counterparts in my opinion).

      On the bright side, at least from my experience most people including myself think wasians are gorgeous. It seems like a general consensus haha :)

  40. Justin October 17, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Reply

    although I cannot relate to this much, as I grew up in san Francisco, where the school’s majority is Asian, great read, And very inspirational

  41. Ryan Liu October 17, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Reply

    Hello Connie. This post was super great to read. I felt the same way when I was thrown in ESL simply because I was a shy Asian kid. I took Asian American studies at my college, and it made me learn so much more about the Asian American culture. I do feel that Asian Americans do not get as much conversation as whites and blacks. It also translates to media as well, with not many Asian Americans gracing the mainstream. Your post really made me even more proud to be an Asian American, as it was something I never was ashamed of or hated. Anyways, thanks for posting this, reading this from someone else’s perspective really is interesting!

  42. Jenny Ahn (@jennyahn95) October 17, 2013 at 3:31 am

    Reply

    I can’t even imagine how brave you are. I was put in ESL too (but I did really need the class) for two years when I only needed it for a year. It was frustrating to miss my other classes and then try to catch up with them. I’ll be starting college next fall and I found this really really helpful to me (I just can’t put it into words). Thank you so much! (:

  43. Vim Iglesia October 17, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Reply

    Very interesting… I liked the post, but couldn’t relate in some other parts. I guess growing up as a dark skinned Filipino/Asian-American lends a different view on this whole “Asian American” thing. This has definitely has inspired me to reflect on my upbringing in California.

  44. tom steers October 17, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Reply

    Thank you!

  45. Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 4:33 am

    Reply

    While I do think this post was well-written, I cannot help but be slightly offended. I’m a 21 year old, female european-american. I hate the term “white” because I don’t think it’s fair that I’m judged by the color of my skin– in fact, only half of my european heritage has fair skin as I’m portugese, italian, germany, and irish. My family very recently immigrated to the US and I’m very connected to my roots– I’m only the second generation to live in America.

    My point is this: Your cultural experience is not unlike the experience my family has had in America. My grandmother didn’t teach any of us german for fear of being labeled a nazi–she felt so alienated, and I cannot find any of my favorite traditional italian foods in the states. There are many times I’m ashamed to be of european descent because I’m not “diverse”. I’ve been told that I have no ethic background (the definition of ethnicity means that EVERYONE has an ethnic background). I think what some members of minorities need to realize is that we were all immigrants at some time, and each new wave of immigrants has faced similar challenges. Whoever immigrates anywhere around the world feels out of place for some time– asian americans are not the first, and they will not be the last. I wish that instead of writing how alienated you feel by “white people” you’d comment on how connected you can feel–but then again I bet you probably never thought about the cultural heritage of your “white” friends.

    I do not mean to be judgmental or rude, just looking to provide a different perspective. Thanks.

    • Deanna Wong October 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

      Reply

      I had a couple friends that are Greek/Irish who felt the same as you’ve described. They hated being grouped into “white” and hated people complaining about historical suffering of “their people”, when their ancestors also had to go through their own struggles. I also had a few “black” friends who hated being grouped into that category, since they all hailed from different parts of the world. But I don’t think the point of this post was to note the many many minorities and hybrids of people that exist in the melting pot (tossed salad?) that is the world. Rather, it’s to proclaim an existence of one.

      I don’t think she was ever writing that Asian-Americans are some kind of special snowflake; that they were the first to feel out of place, or even the first to be forgotten. The post is more about claiming our identity as Asian-American, not trying to fit into an either/or category.

      So yes. It sucks that everyone groups everything together. Yes, you should be proud of your own heritage and you should educate people on your unique perspective, but you don’t need to call someone ignorant to do it.

      • Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 9:38 pm

        Reply

        She did make it sound like she felt Asian-Americans were special in some of the treatment/problems they face. It’s one thing to say “We experience this stuff just like any other second-generation American/black people/etc do” and another to say “Asians are ‘together another race and culture'; look at all the problems I faced that aren’t really talked about.” Well, they are talked about. People born from immigrant families of all ethnicities talk about this difficulty in melding two cultures all the time. Latinos talk all the time about everyone assumes they won’t speak Spanish well because they must be an illegal immigrant. Any racial minority is going to get the “where are you from/go back to __” insult. Etc.

        Asians are not another breed outside of what other ethnicities are and what they face. The difference is merely that different cultures will have specific details that are latched onto (e.g. a Chinese-American is often assumed to speak only Chinese while a Latin-American is often assumed to speak only Spanish, etc).

  46. Kim Pham October 17, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Reply

    I really liked your essay! It’s definitely a different experience as an Asian American in the midwest vs highly populated Asian areas like on the East Coast. I feel awfully jealous of my cousins in Texas and California for being very close to extended family whereas I’m by myself. I feel like for kids in the “younger” generation (aka people in high school or younger now) have a vastly different experience in school today.

    Like Renee said earlier, we’re definitely more like a “tossed salad” analogy now! It’s important to embrace your ethnicity and most people do this in college (joining a cultural club leads to connections that you felt you might have missed in a mostly white high school). Although I do hate the lack of representation in media, I’m still glad that we have badass ladies and men in many shows today! (I gotta say Lucy Liu and John Cho are some of my faves) And I disagree with the “stuck in a rut” analogy… people are being trained to be culturally competent at their jobs and a majority of people will acknowledge that their initial actions aren’t right, as long as we voice our opinion on the matter. Racism and xenophobia will always exist and tend to be known in the extremist sections but we must be open to correcting them and most importantly forgive.

    As my cousin says, biculturism is the best balance to being Asian American! I’m hoping that’s part of what you were trying to convey.

  47. E! October 17, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Reply

    so many of the issues and irritations provoked would, I think, be eliminated if the title were “an asian-american awakening: that moment when i realize i’m not white”

  48. Some White Guy October 17, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Reply

    I mostly agree with you, but when you’re telling everyone how great your English language skills are you probably shouldn’t misspell “kindergarten”… ;-)

    “Let me ask, if a foreign European were to walk the streets of America how many times would they be stopped or stared at for being “foreign”? How many “Go back to where you came from”s would they hear?”

    Actually this foreign European was once yelled at by a homeless person in Boston while talking to two German friends in German. The homeless man did in fact tell us to go back to where we came from.
    But yeah, it doesn’t happen by appearance alone and the incident was most likely an isolated one anyways.

    One thing I find troubling about some Asian-Americans is that they claim a “native” Asian culture fully as their own, but then at the same time ridicule “FOBs” for not being American enough. Of course that’s most likely the result of being treated as “actual” Asians and not American enough by non-Asian Americans, but I still think it’s problematic. I’m glad you pointed out how you weren’t accepted as and didn’t feel “Chinese Chinese.”

    Similarly problematic in my opinion is the concept of a pan-Asian culture (“THE Asian culture”), which is somewhat prevalent in your piece (“Asian music,” “Asian dramas”). From what I’ve read this concept (among politically minded Asian Americans, at least) appears to be the result of several distinct Asian American ethnicities’ political movements combining forces in the 60s (I think?) under the banner of “Asian (as opposed to Filipino, Chinese, Korean, etc) Americans.” However, it entirely negates the (in my opinion) huge cultural differences between different Asian nations and unfortunately plays into the “they’re all the same” stereotype. Ironically, it may be evidence of your “Real American”-ness, as Americans in my experience like to do something similar with regards to distinct national cultures in Europe (describing them all as “European”). ;-)

  49. Deanna Wong October 17, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Reply

    Good to know I wasn’t the only one unnecessarily tossed into ESL for being quiet and Asian! I can relate soo much to what was written here and struggled with my own sense of identity for a while. It was really hard for me to deal with the rejection from both sides and, as you wrote, I felt “trapped between two worlds”. I felt much better about myself once I embraced my hybrid upbringing, so this is a great read and an important topic to shed some light on.

  50. Some White Guy October 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

    Reply

    Oh, and as a white person I’d like to add that I respectfully disagree with the white girl who commented above. Being white in America (yes, white, not just “European American”) is in no way comparable to being a racial minority. And with regards to cultural heritage, most white Americans have ZERO connection to a non-American culture, which distinguishes them from many Asian Americans (not all, but many).
    Also, not being able to find your favorite Italian foods, in my humble opinion, is not the same at all as being treated as essentially different because of the racial category you’re sorted into (and much more insidious forms of racism).

    • Chul Ree October 17, 2013 at 5:37 am

      Reply

      That depends on the time frame of white immigration. Italians and irish were definitely discriminated against when they first arrived here. Increase share of total population and assimilation helped them move along in life.

      Once the asian population reaches 10 or 13 percent of total population (or reach the media presence of blacks and hispanics) we’ll see less of these “diasporas and identity” posts outside useless graduate degrees and race baiting ala ta nehisi coates.

      • Bob October 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

        Reply

        Another example: most Jews are white passing, yet according to the FBI statistics, there are more hate crimes against Jews than against Asians.

    • Waterboy4928 October 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

      Reply

      Some White Guy: A lot of white americans have a strong connection to their heritage. Even more of us wish we did. It’s more complicated, but in general the big issue is whether your family immigrated in an age of globalization or not. If it’s recent, phone calls and international shipping let you keep contact and ties. My Norwegian fore-bearers wrote letters back and forth, about four a year. A generation later there might as well be no ties what so ever. Being only mainstream US feels inadequate when everyone else gets a something-american. The desire to not be a part of the awful history of the US is strong for a lot of whites who know the truth. The Southwest quarter of what is now the US was stolen from Mexico. The rest stolen from the Native Americans. Slaves built most of the economy. In a just world, people have to give back what they steal and serve time in prison. White Americans should be sent back to Europe. Given the option, I’d live in Norway in a heart beat. It’s a near-perfect, rich social democracy. It’ll never happen, but giving back native land and giving back stolen land should be at least in the discussion.

      My personal dislike is for “anglo” instead of white or european-american. Anglo only seems accurate to those of English decent.

      • Chul Ree October 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

        Reply

        That’s only true of everyone white person taught to hate themselves.The truth is every Nation on earth has been taken from someone else. Ask the japanese about the chinese and koreans. Or the Liberians vs western africans.

  51. n. October 17, 2013 at 4:53 am

    Reply

    I’m starting to believe “model minority” is codeword for “subservient pushover”

  52. HC October 17, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Reply

    I just wanted to let you know that the exact same thing happened to me with ESL in Kindergarten .. except I was already in a school that had ESL. Good to know I wasn’t the only shy/quiet one mistaken for not understanding English ha ha. Thanks for this refreshing view!

  53. Cherish Kim October 17, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Reply

    This whole article rang so, so bitterly true.
    Thank you.

  54. Angela October 17, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Reply

    This. Is. Beautiful.

    I am in awe.

  55. Kate October 17, 2013 at 5:32 am

    Reply

    I believe you that you’re not white and English is not your native language when you spelled ‘kindergarten’ as kindergarden.

    • Bob October 17, 2013 at 6:41 am

      Reply

      “Kindergarten” is German for “kiddie garden”

    • Mary October 18, 2013 at 4:40 am

      Reply

      You can say those kinds of things once you learn proper grammar.

  56. Mep October 17, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Reply

    I think I had the opposite experience to you during Elementary School. I live in a very high-Asian area, and over 60% of the kids at my school were Asian. For along time I didn’t realize that Asian was actually a different race, because my five-year-old understanding of what it meant to being white was inflected by all the Asian culture around me. I still live in a largely Asian area, and it’s easy to overlook the problems faced by Asians because they seem to “fit in” so well. Thank you for writing this!

  57. Angela October 17, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Reply

    I wasn’t born in America and for that reason I usually stray from being labeled as an Asian-American. I always try to tell myself that I am simply an Asian but it’s impossible to do that when I am so influenced by american ideals and culture. If I were to go back to Asia, I would also be seen as an outsider and that really hurts me because of the identity I place on myself. It was only recently that I came to acknowledge that I am not one race but a minority of a mix of cultures. I am an individual with a distinct identity and far from the so called majorities I have always been linked to. Thank you so much for bringing to light the plight of us minorities.

  58. Wilson October 17, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Reply

    Beautiful and well written article! I would like to dissect further that I think the forgotten minority is perhaps the individual. I’m Asian-American too and you are Asian-American but what are somethings that make you, Connie Zhou? Things that make you unique and special. That something that no race theory, a humanities class or some major history book can ever describe. I admit we live in a society where sadly there are people out there who would promote stereotypes either through ignorance or arrogance but that shouldn’t stop people from progressing their lives and achieving their potential.

    I want to share a quote with you that I hope you make sense of: “Every action adds something to history, affects the course of future events, and is in this sense a historical fact. The most trivial performance of daily routine by dull people is no less a historical datum than is the most startling innovation of the genius.” In other words, you are writing your own history, your life story and I hope you continue to live happily and hopefully share your great and maybe sad moments to others.

  59. Diana October 17, 2013 at 7:01 am

    Reply

    Hi Connie,
    I truly appreciate everything you’ve written here. Thank you. I’ve been struggling with this whole identity thing for a while, partly because the terms for identifying ourselves are so similar (what, truly, do we mean by race, ethnicity, heritage, background, culture, nationality?) and often misused, and partly because I don’t even think it matters; once you find out that my parents are from China, so what? Is there some kind of cultural legacy I should be privy to that suddenly changes who I am and have been? I just don’t understand what additional information and insight one might gain from finding out where my parents are from. I get that we, human beings, have notions and constructs that we like to organize everything into, but can’t I be an entity with a unique identity all on my own, WITHOUT this additional feature that doesn’t actually exist and can’t add any real value to what you see in front of you?

    I digress.

    I just wanted to add a question/scenario as an extension of this issue of having a Chinese face but not being Chinese: what about all the shaming for not knowing our “native” language? (I could scoff at the use of native here, but I know what you meant when you asked it and I’m going to be polite.) How about these white people who can’t speak Italian, French, German, Dutch, Swiss, whatever! It’s absurd that there’s the expectation that I should know Chinese, and that (this is a real quote) it’s “[my father’s] fault, because he should’ve made [me] learn it.” There is nothing more grating to my ears than to hear the garbage these imposing individuals like to lay on me/us/whomever. Leave my father out of this. He’s not you and you have no right to say anything about anyone because no one is asking for your judgment on this, not to mention how clearly uneducated you are about this whole issue, yet are still insipid and refusing to actually listen and learn.

    Just needed a rant there. This happened 2 days ago and I sincerely was just livid. The nerve of the collective ignorant!

  60. daniel so October 17, 2013 at 7:06 am

    Reply

    Connie – Thanks for sharing your story with honesty, grace, and grit (and humor, to boot!). As an Asian American who also grew up in the Midwest (although more than a shade earlier than yourself), I recognize your story. So many Asian Americans live in the alienating tension of “neither/nor” — not feeling quite at home in the land of your ethnic heritage, but not being accepted as fully “American” either. One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He transforms our pain into something beautiful: through Him, we become “both/and” people.

    It is from those same thin, in-between places where — if we allow God’s redeeming love to work through us — we can be honed in the very creativity and compassion the world needs.

    Keep sharing your story and raising your voice. You are not alone! :)

    • Connie Zhou October 17, 2013 at 11:01 am

      Reply

      Amen! Love that I can place my identity not in my race, nationality, or family but in Christ alone. Thanks for the encouragement.

  61. Chris October 17, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Reply

    hey this really hit home. good talk. i’m looking back and taking stock of many times in which i sold my identity short because of a need to distance myself from my heritage & race, or how i perceived my culture ought to be. i think of all the times when, asked if i’m fluent in another language, i’ve told people i took chinese in college but “didn’t do so hot; i was worse than the white kids!” as if it’s a concession that needs be said – like it somehow makes me more american. i continually indulge people who ask my ethnicity only to go on at length about their travels or tattoos pertaining to asia. i’ve never been abroad and kinda get down about not feeling ‘really’ asian. that’s bullshit though! i feel like we all deserve the chance to be and embrace every nuance of our person. i feel that one of the roots of my anxieties is that it feels like, as an asian-american male, i haven’t often been ‘given a chance’, or that i always had to fight to carve a place for myself in society. like i could only fill the spot that people had designated, or fill a role instead of being a new thing. i’m not sure how true or untrue that really is, or if it’s something that can be quantified. but maybe it’s always going to be a struggle to make it no matter who or what your station in life. i can only be cool with who i am and strive to accomplish things from there. and i hope that one day we as a generation can fully cozy up to how different and beautiful people can be.

  62. Tiffany Y. October 17, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Reply

    If only your essay could be louder. Can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed reading and relating to it. Fight on.

  63. Pye October 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Reply

    Thanks Connie – I am an Australian-Chinese who grew up in New Zealand and I assure you that the experiences are very similar.

    I think you’ve done an excellent job capturing not he Asian-American but the Asian-MIGRANT experience. Thank you!

  64. Cam October 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Reply

    Awesome read, Connie! I can relate to some of the experiences you went through because I immigrated from Vietnam when I was 12.12 years later… I think I would consider myself an Asian American and proud that I speak and write fluently in Vietnamese and English. Yes, many people have been astonished that I even came from Vietnam. I struggled a lot when I was younger, I was ashamed that I didn’t speak or understand English. I lied about me not being born here, and I pushed myself to get better at English by watching TV with captions or looking up song lyrics, or even hang out with friends who only spoke English. I used to be bullied in school because I was a fob? I’m still not sure the reason why.. But yea I guess those who bullied me weren’t Asians. Haha. Anyway, I’m proud of who I am today, having traits, qualities, and experiences of both cultures.
    Keep up the good work!

  65. Peter Ries October 17, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Reply

    I wish I could help you feel more comfortable. I’m not sure If I can, but I just want to say that I wish I could. I’m white, and I have gone through my own aha moment of realizing I was white, and that not everyone else was. I thought “Oh my god! are my white experiences in life so far removed from other groups that even though I think I understand them, and study the differences, I still might just be seeing things through a white perspective, even how I would go about culturally educating myself through internet, newspaper, and TV would that carry a cultural skew from being culturally white mediums. I have lived a life where culture and race were in the spotlight, and explored for the purpose of equality, but is that just my white culture with its narrow perceptions of moving towards colorblind-equality. Is there something I’m missing? or feelings that are not being recognized? But I also had another realization, It was that I’m not white either, a realization that my culture is fragmented, being shared in part by everyone but as a whole by no-one, My culture is water balloons and “The Fresh Prince of Bell Aire”, but not crochet or cable television. I’m Seinfeld, Pogs, Mario-bros and Monopoly, but I’m not M.A.S.H, Zelda, Marbles or Scrabble. I know these distinctions seem trivial but please stay with me. The preceding distinctions;TV shows, Collectible-Games, Videogames, and Board Games may just be nuances of white culture, But at the same time some of my white friends never played Videogames, or Board Games, or they had a big sports focus, or read allot of books. Are these all white? I ask because I didn’t experience them all, because my hobbies and influences are so diverse that I don’t share them all with anyone. Knowing this I know that every person is different, with different humor influences, interpersonal styles, life priorities, lifestyles, attitudes, logical constructs etc. I know they are different, and that I don’t know how they are different. What books did they read? Would I need to read them to be white?? Part of our shared American Culture or “Western Culture”, which I believe everyone who’s reading this is somewhat connected to just by virtue of our privileged internet access (“The West”… kind of like referring to Africa as “a country” ha ha) is often known as having an emphasis on individualism and personal uniqueness, which I feel is readily tangible In American Culture, “American Culture” the umbrella often spoken of synonymously with White Culture although I believe it includes all our sub cultures, including Asian Americans. Asian Americans all having at least one strand of a shared uniqueness with each other, but each person being of so many threads to also have a unique-uniqueness from each other of course. In our American Society a.k.a. White Society a.k.a. Western Society, we are full of uniqueness, and each person’s life carries its own unique socially isolating struggles. Often times we learn about our friends dark pasts on sleepovers or camping trips, and other intimate moments when we can realize the depth of each persons private life story. It’s not always so dark either, but few if any are without some kind of powerfully moving personal struggle. Some by choice or principal, some imposed, some accidental, some circumstantial, and some things are just the dumb luck of the universe unfolding. One could be Vegan, Gay, Nerdy, Dyslexic, Objectified, Coddled, Spoiled, Abused, Tall, Neglected, Championed, Pushed, Poor, Bullied, Adopted, Twins, Disabled, Many different things each with their own unsung baggage. A very close friend of mine is also very tall, nearly everyone he meets is so surprised by his height they exclaim “wow! your tall” as if he didn’t know, then just like people asking where Asian Americans are from, he is asked “Do you play basketball?” and then they proceed to say “I wish I was tall, that would be so cool, you’re so lucky” sound familiar? to me it sounds allot like when people like the cab driver in the original post says how much they like the countries people are “from”. My tall friend is white but he feels different for being tall, like he’s not a part of the core of society, and I believe that everyone feels this way from some unique viewpoint of differentiation. Each valid, each real, and deserving of love and healing, although some experiences are more intense than others and are deserving of acknowledge there too. The reason I have mentioned these is to acknowledge you and your struggles into my community of struggles, what do I mean by that? I mean your’e a part of this culture were all in, it’s not black and white, your uniqueness is in part being an Asian American, and that felt isolating, my friend having cerebral palsy felt and still feels socially isolated by their lack of motor skills, and they feel completely alone in that. Another friend who grew up in the industrial district, and never had any neighbors to play with feels socially isolated because of that. My friend who is good at everything feels like everyone overlooks his true self, and only recognizes his achievements; as a consequence I have come to believe from the many intimate stirring stories I have heard people tell me that everyone in my culture has a unique story, and you have a unique story, it may involve being second or third generation, or having a skin tone, or a reading disability, or you were skipped a grade, or your parents were in a cult, or they home schooled you, or they banned TV from the house, or you moved allot, or they served time overseas, or behind bars, or they worked all the time, or they had cancer, or maybe someone just never had a mom. Basically, I want to acknowledge the pain you have in feeling singled out, and disconnected. ~~ The imposing megaculture which we each see in our own way, referring to it with our own unique terms from our own unique vantage of differentiation. I accept you and your uniqueness as I have come to expect it from everyone I meet, and I hope that makes you feel better about yourself and your life. I also accept the potential choice of you and other readers to not accept my ideas ha ha. I thought your post here was really cool and insightful, I can’t fully imagine all the crap Asian Americans have to deal with, but I wish the things that suck for you guys didn’t. I’m sorry if anything I may have talked about seemed insensitive, my perspective is just the glasses I see through. Thank god I didn’t have braces lol

  66. Where Are You Really From? October 17, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Reply

    A great essay, and touches on a load of topics that need to be addressed in our society. Not to shamelessly promote myself on here, yet I think our endeavors go hand in hand. Please check out my new senior thesis project at whereareyoureallyfrom.tumblr.com. Thanks!

  67. Daniel Chui October 17, 2013 at 9:29 am

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    6

  68. Daniel Chui October 17, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Reply

    Thank you very much for writing this. As an Asian American I can identify with many of the things you wrote here. However, I grew up in a very multicultural setting where being white was just considered another ethnicity. So where I grew up, in California, there was not so much pressure to “be white” but pressure to be American. We became more American via the products we consumed, the television we watched, the music we listened to. I really enjoyed reading this and hope to comment more in the future. You are 100% correct that we are the forgotten race and are commonly excluded from most sociocultural discussions.

  69. cshimamoto October 17, 2013 at 9:43 am

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    Hi! Nice post, you articulate your thoughts really well.

    I used to struggle with similar issues as a Japanese-American growing up in Crackerville, USA. Actually, my identity struggles transcended the token minority paradigm since I’m biracial; I wasn’t sure if I was white or Asian! But I made peace with myself when I started analyzing my circumstances from a cultural/nationality perspective rather than a racial perspective. Yes, I’m ancestrally Japanese and I appreciate my heritage as much as anyone else. But race no longer carries a good deal of importance as I emphasize my identity as an American over my identity as an Asian American, if that makes sense.

    This country is beautiful because there is no such thing as a typical American. I think many of us consciously or unconsciously think of Caucasians as the only true Americans because they constitute an ethnic majority, have traditionally dominated politics, and have exerted the greatest influence in shaping American society. Nevertheless, we need to realize that the America of the past few decades is different from the America of the 1950s and earlier: millions of us come in different shades and colors and perhaps subscribe to different habits and customs. But we tend to be more similar than not, which is a product of our common upbringing in this wonderful country. If you feel marginalized by whites because of perceived physical differences, push ‘em aside because they’re no more American than you are.

    Ultimately, I disagree with your conclusion that Asian-Americans are altogether a uniquely separate race and culture; we are not. We have been subjected to mistreatment and stereotyping but so have Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Arab-Americans, etc.; we can only appreciate the woes of Asians because we’ve only experienced life as Asians. I wonder if you’d feel more comfortable in your own skin if you de-emphasized your physical differences while appreciating everything we have in common. Call me naive if you must, but it’s done loads of good for me and my identity issues.

    Cheers!

  70. Pingback: I’m Not White (And That’s Perfectly Okay) | The Divine Love Comedy

  71. Heather October 17, 2013 at 11:25 am

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    Yup! Take the best of both (or 3 or 4 or 5) cultures and move forward.

    What a pleasure to read.

  72. oreobytes October 17, 2013 at 11:27 am

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    Thanks for writing this! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve never thought about this difference so deeply before and it helps that you were able to articulate the ideas I had about the matter.

  73. Jay October 17, 2013 at 11:48 am

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    I’m Black, and I say thanks for writing this!
    Just FYI, I get “where are you /really from/ all the time. Thing is, because of slavery, and because slave masters didn’t allow their slaves to practice their own culture, language, religion. countries, etc. I can’t even say I know the answer.
    I think it’s wonderful that you can point to a spot on the map and say “There”. :)
    Though I totally get why that’d be annoying.

  74. Suppak+ October 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Reply

    This article is really powerful. I myself am a FOB. I have lived in the US since I was 17 [It’s been 8 years]. In some rainy day, I still have strong accent. In some lucky day I don’t. I understand everything you said. Maybe not to your extent, but fairly well.

    My first day of US high school [grade 12] a random kid just opened my door and asked my to explain his Physics AP homework. I studied biology [not all FOB is born with a calculator in his head, y’all], but well, I admitted that I could explain it. I adjusted myself between the two cultures fairly well. I keep my own cultures and ethnic friends. My speech is fluid. I adapt American athleticism and styles of clothes and hair and some positive [ever slightly cocky] attitude. Hell, I even took up country music. Still, I am a FOB, a ‘Korean kid’, ‘That Japanese kid,’ The Chinese guy’ [I am not Korean, Japanese, nor technically Chinese.]

    Last year, I got back to my home country to work. Everyone think of me as ‘that American employee.’ I speak a perfect language, but I carry different attitude, clothes, hair, and style. Even my thick and tan body which I was proud of in US are different from everyone. Apparently, I even walk like an American too, which I don’t quite understand how. Have we Asians been walking differently?

    I felt like I don’t belong anywhere, and that feeling is mutual to you. Hope you find a resolution soon.

  75. Connie October 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm

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    I’ve been where you’ve been, and I’m glad you’ve come to a better understanding and grown to be more comfortable with who you are. Those are things to be thankful for no matter what ethnicity/culture/country you claim to be yours. Some things I suggest for you in the future in case you are interested in following this path further include, firstly, doing your own research. Because all of your anecdotes are valid, and the many slides of experiences that we accumulate during our lifetimes sum up to a piece of the truth for ourselves, but talking to many, many other Asians or Asian Americans will help you understand a bigger slice of the truth and put your own experience as an Asian American in context. In my senior year, I did my thesis in sociology on Chinese schools in America and interviewed twenty classmates some of whom had not been to Chinese school and some of whom had been to Chinese school for more than a decade, and their thoughts and perspectives on their ethnic identity truly shook me and made me reconsider all of my preconceptions about my own culture. It was a wonderful experience I hope to be able to do again.

    Secondly, white-washing is I feel an easily explained phenomenon. No one can tell you that it’s a good thing, but it’s understandable because it’s the dominant culture that you’re living in. I’ve railed against it myself, and also had that moment when I realized I wasn’t white, but for better or for worse, white has been the historical narrative of the US, and it has been changing very slowly.

    Thirdly, something that I would urge you to think about is the fact that we are not all unique. The struggles that one culture goes through may not be generalized but can be relatable to the struggles of other cultures. I feel uncomfortable reading about what you define as “Asian culture,” which you embraced during a particular phase, in terms of your haircut, the music you listened to, the TV shows you watched. I think those are some very generalized elements of popular Asian culture which are most glaringly obvious, but there are highbrow and lowbrow elements to every culture, and just as you would be horrified if a foreigner assumed everyone loved Britney Spears and Twilight, so would some Japanese be offended if you thought that imbibing Asian culture consisted of listening to AKB48 on repeat.

    Finally, I like the positive elements that you choose to celebrate in Asian culture, but I think once again, we don’t need to pretend that those values are unique to Asians. It doesn’t make what you said invalid – far from it – but I could rewrite your whole last paragraph and say that being American has been great because it has taught me the value of education and diligence, because I grew up in a city where public education was exalted and admired and because my work experiences have taught me that people in the US value hard work; and it’s really being Asian that has taught me the values of diversity and faith. I love listening to the various dialects of Shanghainese and Taiwanese that I’ve encountered in traveling in Asia the last few months, and know that Mandarin Chinese isn’t what everyone speaks at home. I also love the matter-of-factness with which Buddhist shrines and temples abound in Kaohsiung, where I am currently living, squeezed in cheek-by-jowl with fashion shops and hardware stores. While celebrating the positive sides of both, recognize that there is still so, so much to explore in both of the cultures and ethnicities that you are privileged to call your own. The same goes for so many other cultures in the US and abroad which may be equally forgotten or excoriated, and also deserve respect. No one culture can demand that you walk on eggshells when you address it, though you can be more or less sensitive to that need.

  76. Terri October 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

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    I find your comments interesting. As the mother of a daughter adopted from China, it shows me that it is not an adoptive-exclusive feeling or emotion to feel “in between” countries. You have given me a deeper insight to ponder as I raise my precious daughter. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability.

  77. lily October 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

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    I really enjoyed this article, Connie! I think you showed your perspective and experiences humbly and truthfully and sincerely took the time to look back and evaluate/understand your experiences and how you felt at the time of those ‘a ha’ moments.

    Perhaps I am biased in like your article because I am also a child of first generation Chinese immigrants and never found satisfaction in the worlds of math and science and technology like we (Asian/Asian Americans) were “supposed” to. I too felt jarred by the realization that I was not quite Chinese – not really – but not White. Capital White and lowercase. Immensely privileged as a result of my increasingly upper middle class parents and yet ‘ignored’ and just this side of lost in a conclusive identity.

    It seems that your dissenters have a problem with you expressing your personal experiences with the complexities/anxieties of identity and Asian-ness/Asian American-ness (which, I hate to break it to them, but those anxieties exist and in large measure, kthxbai) but they seem to read to me much like the ‘SHHHHHH DONT TALK ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS IN PUBLIC – MODEL MINORITY MYTH FOREVER’ that I got when I wanted to change my major from Finance to English (The horror! Asians don’t do English – certainly not English canon literature).

  78. Chris October 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

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    I almost never leave comments on blogs but this was fantastic and really had some great points. Thanks for writing this and expressing what I’m sure a lot of Asian Americans, myself included, have felt growing up.

  79. Jamie Yau October 17, 2013 at 3:06 pm

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    I know exactly how you feel. The same thing essentially happened with me. I was thrown into ESL in kindergarten until the end of 3rd grade despite knowing a lot of English words and being born in Massachusetts. I went to great schools in New York and remember being tossed into high school biology in 8th grade because the teachers thought I would excel in that topic. To be honest, I hated science classes and sucked at the topic. I was great in math up to calculus and was only average at playing the piano. And it wasn’t until halfway into college did I really embrace my Chinese side and actually made friends with more Asian-Americans like myself. I remember going to a Race & Ethnicity course taught by our seemingly white but really hispanic professor. In the class, we were required to write on a race/ethnicity topic as our final paper. I wrote on how Asians may be seen as the model minority and why as well as how it’s not really as peachy as it seems to be stereotyped that way.
    On a side note after my crazy rant, I want to thank you and empathize completely with how you felt growing up as an A.B.C. so I really really appreciate this blog and I hope that it becomes an eye-opener to others as well.

  80. Eureka October 17, 2013 at 3:13 pm

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    Great post! I’m sorry to hear you got sent to an ESL program! That seems incredibly stupid because your English is flawless. I was born in Malaysia, but I spent most of my childhood growing up in the US (and the other half of my life living back in Malaysia, plus a year back in California for middle school), so I can relate to some of the things you said. I was always put into honors English classes, though (the opposite of your case?). I think it would be interesting to see if there is a difference between how people would perceive you and I (i.e. an Asian-American and… just an Asian, lol). I know that when I was in middle school, people took me as Asian-American, but now that I’m in college in the U.S., my status is more “International Student.” I’m wondering if that distinction makes a difference.

  81. Waterboy4928 October 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

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    You have a great post with a lot of personal insights. I appreciate the chance to hear your story.

    I do, however, have one comment I with one VERY small part of your story.

    “Model minority?!? What about the shocking statistics of 1.3 million Asians that are undocumented or the fact that Southeast Asians have the highest high school drop out rate?”

    I don’t think it’s fair to compare more recent SE asian immigrants with more established families from asian countries. The problem in the US is the degree to which the wealth you’re born into determines where you end up. This is a statistical issue. Americans are less upwardly mobile than Canadians, British, French, Scandinavians, Germans, ect. There is a decreasing access to upward mobility. In that context, it’s better to be an established family of any race than a newer immigrant that comes without a particular advanced skill set. To put an American family of Vietnamese background that came to the US in 1995 with an American family of Japanese background that came to the US in 1910 doesn’t make much sense at all in economic access terms, even if both are “Asian” or “minority.” If our biggest label is “white” and “minority” or both are “Asian” I think our entire schema is missing the most relevant points in terms of economic success. SE Asians are having trouble academically because many came to the US relatively recently with no special access to money or advanced skills that would give them special access to money. This isn’t to say there is no racism against both groups or that there aren’t special challenges of being in two cultures at the same time. It is only to say that the economic issue at hand is more complex than race and to point out what should be statistically obvious to everyone but isn’t: The earning capacity of an American of any race is dramatically influenced by how much money their parents have. It is that inequality in access to wealth and inequality of opportunity that is the root cause, even when a clear division can be seen on racial lines.

  82. Doris L October 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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    Shortly after I posted my last comment about generalizing too much, I became to ask myself whether, perhaps, if I had been generalizing too little. After all, the use of the word “Asian” or “American” in your essay are pretty much irrelevant & can be extrapolated to apply to any race from any society. And even more generalizing, what if Asians aren’t victims of people asking them where they’re “really from.” What if all Americans are victims of these assumptions, and that people are just quicker to assume that blacks & whites are “really” FOBs too? But the boats they’re assumed to be from, happen to be slave ships & the Mayflower.

  83. Eric October 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

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    Great article. And I love the discussion you have generated on this. If you haven’t already read it I would recommend a book called Third Culture Kid. It doesn’t deal so much with the race question as with the experience of kids growing up in a culture different from the culture of their parents. Could be insightful as you wrestle with what it means to be not only Asian-American but the child if immigrants.

  84. American Born Chinese (ABC) October 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm

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    You don’t know how happy I am to have found this! I recently studied abroad in China thinking I could establish who I am ethnically. How wrong I was when being seen as a foreigner to people of my race verified how far I am I was from being Asian or “white”- like you said “trapped between two worlds.” My family too would joke about how I am the laowai, aka foreigner, and even though it was all in good fun, it still caused a rift to some extent. I still felt like an outsider. My abroad friends also praised me for being “white-washed” or “Americanized,” and I never was to sure how to take it. So I have to assimilate to YOUR culture to be accepted by you? The funniest part of it all was that we were studying in China, wasn’t the purpose to learn to accept my culture? To experience Chinese traditions and customs? So thank you for writing this piece and sharing your story!

  85. Belinda Ang October 17, 2013 at 3:45 pm

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    I am Asian born in Asia so although I might not relate to you directly, but I have friends who have told me the same. So I kind of understand their struggles. One Vietnamese-American friend (who, apart from being Asian on the outside, he’s really white inside) told me he felt he didn’t belong anywhere. Grew up in South Carolina amongst blacks and whites, everyone saw him as an immigrant, bullied in school and outcasted as a kid. But when he decided to move to Asia, everyone saw him as a foreigner. In despair, unable to fit in, he went back; to a country where he bred and born but never really felt he belonged.

  86. Goretti C. October 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Reply

    You have written an excellent essay about a moment I’m sure most Asian Americans have dealt with in their lives. I had a similar experience where I was placed in ESL when I was in 1st grade for two days until the teacher realized I could speak English just fine. You are an incredibly poignant writer and I can’t wait to read more of your thoughts!

  87. David McGirr October 17, 2013 at 4:18 pm

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    Saw this linked somewhere and just wanted to add a perspective as a native European that spends time in the US.

    the idea that foreign Europeans in America get off scot free: I’m sure that we ‘blend in’ a lot more among the native populace, but I often had this feeling that I was an outsider. Without speaking, it would be assumed that I was another American, but I occasionally felt ill at ease.

    I’m not trying to compare my experience to yours, but your post gave me some stuff to think about. Thank you.

  88. ssm October 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm

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    Thanks for saying what needed to be said. After about 20 years of life, it occurred to me what white people probably think of me when they hear my name. It’s very Asian in origin, but constant usage along with names like Bradley or Anne kind of makes me forget about its Asian quality. And that people do tend to treat me differently but I pass it over because after a few minutes of me talking in a very clearly American accent, it wears away.

    Also it really stinks when you do something right. And people don’t give you the credit for simply being competent or intelligent. They just explain it away as “Oh, smart Asian.” Not simply “smart kid.”

  89. Hahn October 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

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    I am a Korean American guy who has lived in Marin County, California and Seoul, Korea. The whitest of areas and the “motherland”. In both places I felt alone, different, and rejected. Thank you for shedding light on something that I’ve always felt.

  90. André Quillen Gott October 17, 2013 at 5:09 pm

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    This happens to white people too. Imagine the looks when people learn that I’m from the mines. “But you are so well spoken.”

    Everybody is judged.

  91. Nathalie October 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm

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    Thank you. This has been the first time someone has written something so true to my heart! I am a Chinese-Canadian whose parents grew up in Malaysia. I have been trapped within three worlds in which I am not sure which I belong to and this culture clash has consumed me for so long.

  92. j1mmyZeta October 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm

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    The second awakening comes when you realize you are anti-White.

  93. Brian S. October 17, 2013 at 5:42 pm

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    All of these “racial” posts I read on various people’s sites, no matter who writes them, always seem to say that all white people act in these insensitive and uncultured ways to people of other races. Can I read one one day that isn’t so generalizing or at least doesn’t cast EVERY person in a bad light? And a two-line disclaimer at the end of a 2000-word piece isn’t what I mean.

    And what’s so bad about the question “why do Asians always travel in packs” that automatically means the person asking it isn’t going to go far in life? It is something I noticed about Asians (and yes, about most other groups too) and it never made sense to me and I always asked the same thing. I had a lot of Asian friends in college and my main group of friends in my major was really multiracial but there were many times when I was meeting a new group of Asian people at some event and the actions of a few of the people there made it really apparent that they did not want me to interact with their group at all because I wasn’t Asian too.

    • Taro October 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Reply

      Dude, you’re not helping “your people” by saying that the question: “why do Asians travel in packs” is okay. That’s like me saying “why do white people like mayo so much?” when the fact of the matter is, not that many do. I’m just gonna assume that you are white. And I think it’s safe to assume that you’re also a male based on your name. Your kind has all the privilege in the world. And while we all as humans face personal and individual problems, your kind will never know the feeling of having the weight of an unjust, silencing system of derogatory names, and stereotypes, of racial profiling, and prodding questions from left and right.

      Now, see how that feels when I grouped you and all white people together? That I just assumed that you’re a white person, and how that automatically makes you evil? Makes you feel kinda bad right? (That would be the hope, anyways…) Now imagine that this happens to you, and you have no say in how it actually is because the image of a pale, incest bred, red necked, racist, and untrustworthy mayonnaise eating pasty looking person pops up in everybody’s mind when somebody mentions “white person.” Except, it’s not white people. It’s everybody else but the whites. When people (anybody really, even some other Asians) hear “Asian” they immediately make rude comments about their accent, mention how they can’t drive because they “can’t see with their squinty slant eyes” or that they only eat rice/gross food because they’re “exotic” and fascinating. And this affects how this particular Asian is seen by their peers, and ultimately, affects how “legitimate” their opinions/thoughts are.

      By the way, saying that you “had a lot of Asian friends” doesn’t help your case of not being offensive towards People of Color. That’s like saying I’m okay with homosexuals because “I’ve had homosexual friends”. They’re not items that prove your status on a topic, they’re people.

      The reason why a lot of People of Color (such as myself) just don’t trust white people is because we were shown from early childhood that we do not belong because of the way we look. And maybe that’s why that group of Asians didn’t include you in their group. They don’t want to be reminded that they’re lesser people, even through your presence. Or maybe it’s because Asian cultures are very community and family oriented, and you don’t belong because you’re physically not apart of their culture (still not a level playing field for you to complain that “they’re the ones being racist” because there isn’t a systemic oppression towards whites, only isolated incidents where a white person is rejected for being different.)

      Now I’m going to assume that you, personally, are not a bad person. You’re probably a great person! I just wanted to point out why articles like this are written. Until the people in a group of their kind that are causing the problem even realize that there is a problem that they are fueling, the problem will continue to exist for an eternity. And just knowing how People of Color feel in a world dominated by whites, can take us as a whole lot closer to a step in the right direction.

      About the article: Connie, this is just great! And it has shed light on so many issues with being an Asian-American. Thank you.

      • Anonymous October 17, 2013 at 11:57 pm

        Reply

        I just need to say, in response to your comment: “The reason why a lot of People of Color (such as myself) just don’t trust white people is because we were shown from early childhood that we do not belong because of the way we look.”

        Do you not honestly believe that some “white” people have not had the same experience? That it’s not assumed that I’m a rich, entitled, racist when I walk into a room with people of minority backgrounds? I often don’t feel that I belong because of the way I look as well. This is the issue, this is it right here. Until both sides recognize that we’re both experiencing the same thing, this is going to continue. Because, I bet both of us will teach our kids to not trust the other as well. Why can’t we just be people and not be so racially based?

      • Brian S. October 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

        Reply

        Yeah, I’m white and male, but I’m not heterosexual so I do know a little bit about bad names or actions directed toward a group I’m a part of, but the situations aren’t completely the same–I can easily hide that part of me when I’m around new people, which isn’t true of other groups, but I can potentially also be totally disowned from my family if it became known to them. Anyway, my point is that I do know a little but about what it’s like to hear really bad things, but in my case they’ve never been directed toward me because I keep myself “hidden” so well.

        I know the kind of people that are really bad at “fueling this problem” as you put it. The problem with writing articles like this to get them to change it is that they are both the least likely to read the article and the least likely to care. I went to college with plenty of people like this, and my hometown (Illinois and Iowa area) is full of them too (and it’s not a completely-white area in the slightest–everyone seems to make these remarks about each other no matter what race they are). They don’t care and it’s going to take a lot to create any kind of change. Instead, what these articles do is get people riled up and then they all post negative comments about other people. I see it in race-based ones like this one, I see it in gender-based ones, I see it in generational ones (baby boomers think millenials are lazy and millenials think baby boomers are greedy, etc), and there’s more. The goal of these things is to try to bring people closer together and respect each other more, but what actually happens is that people develop more of a disdainful feeling toward others, and people actually get pushed further apart.

  94. NebraskaJones October 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

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    Thank you for writing this, I’ve been recently discussing with my friends the plight of the Asian American in Hollywood and mainstream media. It seems as though now the time has come to attack Asian Americans for being too successful, so now the few Asian American actors who have made it onto tv or movies have very limited roles (especially as the “One dumb asian”or are the punchlines for the show. I asked if anyone could think of a female Asian actress other than Lucy Lu or Sandra Oh and was met with silence.
    Furthermore, as a person of mixed race (Chinese and Puerto Rican), there was always pressure to be either more Chinese, Puerto Rican or White American. I never understood why I couldn’t just be all me and not piecemeal points of socially constructed races.

  95. Franki Webb October 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

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    As a “white” person who lived in Japan I understand how you feel. As a white person who doesn’t look stereotypically caucasian, (my mother is Colombian) I got asked many times if I were half-Japanese. You see all the time, white people in Japan who make themselves look more Asian to feel more accepted, as Japan isn’t exactly diversely welcoming.

  96. Binh Bong October 17, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Reply

    This was witty. I like the laugh it brought me. It reminded me of my first experience when I realized not everyone spoke the same language. You might want to reference an article I’ve read called “Exploring Whiteness: A Study of Self Labeling for White Americans” by Judith Martin, Robert Krizek, Thomas Nakayama, and Lisa Bradford. Might be interesting read for you. Ciao ~

  97. Amanda October 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Reply

    Who says America prides itself on being a melting pot? I’m sorry, because I get what you’re trying to do here, but your entire article is full of generalizations and in the way you talk about racism, you yourself are being racist. You are saying that the ideal American is white. I never thought that – a lot of people never did. Look at celebrities – obviously not everyone thinks that, otherwise, why would celebrities like Mila Kunis, Nicki Minaj, or Jennifer Lopez become so popular? In fact, many people think of white people as bland, and prefer more ethnic people. Racist? We must accept the strengths and weaknesses of all races, because the sad truth is that variation exists and is somewhat predictable by race and people are not blind to that. You are a racist, I am a racist, all to some extent (and all logically to some extent). But what you’re doing is the opposite of being productive, you are facilitating racism towards white people (and yes, this type of racism exists) because you are saying “white people are racist” and, more, that “Americans are white.” Neither of those statements is true and you are failing to acknowledge that. You also deny any wrongdoing by your race, a racism that I have had a personal encounter with. Though I am not white, I am often mistaken for white and in college, I had a group of very close asian friends. I became part of the asian stereotype that you deemed as so wrong – I like asian boy bands, and kdramas, and take my shoes off before I enter the house, but asians were less accepting of me because of my skin tone. I was like this not because I’m an asian-o-phile, but because my best friends happen to be asian and they do all those things, and I live with them. But, in making friends with their friends, I’ve had far more trouble than my asian counterparts. Some didn’t want to be friends with me because I was white, or made less effort in building a relationship with me because of my race. When you got mad at a guy for wondering why you “travelled in packs,” well, you shouldn’t have been mad – because he probably experienced this, as have I. I see myself on the same level with everybody, and it’s frustrating when my friends’ friends won’t take the effort to get to know me because of my race. The stereotyping goes both ways, and this whole article completely ignores the asian part in this. Unless you are willing to say that asian people need to change too, to be more ACTUALLY accepting of white people and not just in theory, then maybe some progress could be made. Eventually, after being an outsider for far longer than my other asian friends, I became assimilated into the group. But at that point, my friends had begun to think of me as asian. One friend even told me, “it’s weird when I see you hang out with your white friends. I forget you have them, I feel like you’re asian.” So, according to her, in order to fit in with her group, I have to be asian. Kind of the same dealio you’re complaining about, but the reverse, right? We’re all guilty of it.

    Also, America is obviously trying to make up for something when they stress black-white conflict education so much. They are trying to make up for the racism that they know exists, which directly contradicts your assertion that Americans pride themselves on being tolerant.
    Additionally, you address the fact that you felt offended when Asians were made fun of. Well, join the club. The nice thing about Americans is that we make fun of everybody. How many comedians have imitated George Bush’s texan accent in jest? People make fun of Jersey and New York accents all the time. Everyone, like, loves to make fun of, like, Valley Girls. Like. People make fun of people’s accents, not rejecting the diversity, but embracing the differences and finding things funny that are funny.

    • K October 17, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Reply

      -Actually, the author never says the ideal American is white…where did you get that from?
      -Many people think white people are bland and prefer ethnic people (mostly those in diverse urban areas), but many people also think the opposite
      -I really don’t think the author is saying that white people are racist (although, even you pointed out that everyone is a little racist). The author’s main point is that America is trying to make up for the racism that exists (which is what you admit) and yet they are so fixated on black vs white that they forget to pay attention to other groups too.

      Do you remember reactions to the crowning of the young Indian woman as Miss America and how people claimed that she wasn’t a “real” American? And there was another study that pointed to the fact that most Americans tend to think of Asians as foreign rather than American. A lot of people don’t think twice about making slanted “Asian eyes” and yet those same people would never do “blackface” because they fear the consequences. I really do think that there is a double standard when it comes to things like this. I think that you didn’t really get the author’s main point and in fact, I don’t even think that you and the author have conflicting points.

      • Mary October 18, 2013 at 4:45 am

        Reply

        I don’t think “most” Americans think of people who are neither black nor white as foreigners or non-Americans, only the most vocal, ie the stupid ones do. Unfortunately, the opinions of the stupidest, most racist, most *insert negative quality here* Americans are the ones that are heard the most, because as they are stupid, they think their opinion is the most important, and have no tact in regards to vocalizing it.

  98. Trung October 17, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Reply

    This is a wonderful, well-thought out, and perfectly articulated essay. Thanks for sharing.

    And oh, please marry me.

  99. Chester October 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Reply

    I thought I was white for the first 5 years too. Then I moved to California and asked my parents if we moved to Asia.

  100. D Rose October 17, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Reply

    Thank you for writing this!
    As a mixed person, I can feel between worlds without even leaving the States.

  101. K October 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Reply

    I am really glad that you wrote this. Most of the time, blogs focusing on being Asian usually miss something or just reiterate a point I’m already familiar with, but this article basically contains every single thought and complaint I’ve had recently and I wondered if anybody else felt the same way. I was considering writing an article on it too, but let’s be honest, it probably never would have gotten written and I think you did a better job than I would have. Thanks again.

  102. Renee October 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Reply

    Dude this article is fucking awesome, thanks for writing it. Thanks for touching on the fact that there is a distinct Asian American identity that is separate from and Asian or an American identity. I think it’s especially true given that Asian Americans in California (where I’m from) have a totally different experience than Asian Americans on the east coast (where I went to boarding school), and that difference can be accounted for by the fact that the Asian AMERICAN experience is often shaped by others rather than ourselves. Also, ignore Amanda and her long-ass post above – I don’t really see your article as being racist towards white people, I think this article is more about the alienation you personally felt growing up. Everyone’s experience is unique to themselves, don’t apologize for it because of all the nay-sayers and the people who have to put the disclaimer “well, everyone’s a little bit racist”! Keep writing these awesome posts and speaking your mind; it’s all part of the Asian American experience.

  103. Paphoua October 17, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Reply

    Well put! I encountered so many of the same situations and adversaries you have. Raising similar questions and understandings of contributions Asians of all ethnics and origins have contributed to American History. We should also acknowledge the diversity of ethnic origins on top of all that. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been questioned about my understanding or being told I am an overachiever. Then there is the astonishment of people who inquire about where’s my Asian accent or where I’m from. Born and raised in Minnesota. I’m surprised they can’t pick detect a slight Minnesotan accent in my speech. Thanks for sharing.

  104. no October 17, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Reply

    I don’t mean to knock down your whole argument with this, but I felt the need to comment.
    1) there’s more than just black. There are people of actual African decent, like one or two generations removed, there are people from the Carribean, there are black people from England. You can’t just lump “black” together just like it’s dangerous to lump all “Asians” or Hispanics together. making a generalization about one doesn’t prove true to all.

    2) Because of these distinctions, people still get asked where they’re people are from. As a black-American (several generations removed from Africa, thank you) I still get asked this.

    3) all of these people regardless of where they’re from still get told to “go back where they came from.” I’ve been told this, even though m home is just in the next town over from the person saying it.

    4) Black and Native American’s parts in history books really only talk about their degradation at the hands of the white people of the time. They do mention the bits about the Chinese immigration and their hardships. It’s all the same stuff, just the black and Native American parts went on for a lot longer which may be why it seems like there’s so much more.

    You make a lot of generalizations that I’m sure just springs from your ignorance. I get that you’re writing about your experience, but it would be better if you researched a little more if you were going to include this stuff.

  105. Pingback: The Asian-American awakening: That moment when you realize you’re not white | Fondling the Truth

  106. Christina October 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Reply

    As a white American, I’ve come to realize that I can never truly know what it’s like to be the minority, but the first time that this whole concept made itself known in my life was Sophomore year in high school doing a peer edit of personal narratives. This one guy who was half Mexican and half white whose paper I was given had written about how hard it was to not be truly accepted by either race because they always saw the other half, and it made me cry right there in class. Fast forward to now, my boyfriend is half white and half Mexican, and he confirmed that he feels the same about everything I told him from that paper that I still remember very well. And, after reading your article, it still breaks my heart to know and try to imagine what it’s like to not be white in America.
    But, I’d also like to say in defense of white people, we’re mostly just really ignorant when it comes to how to treat other races without seeming discriminatory but addressing that they have their own culture, which I think itself stems from fear of seeming racist. I think that most of the time when it seems condescending and frustrating, like talking slow in English, they’re trying to make you feel more comfortable and/or welcome, and although it’s still a stereotype and of course really annoying, they don’t mean any harm but are trying to show that they want to help you.

    • Vanessa Teck October 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      Reply

      it’s great to know that you’re aware of this, but sometimes it’s more about the impact than the intent :)

      • Christina October 18, 2013 at 4:59 am

        Reply

        I know it has an impact, I just meant more like ‘please know that [most of us] aren’t TRYING to be racist, we really think we’re helping because we mostly have no idea what it’s like to be on the other end’. But I am very sorry for the impact it has

  107. Melissa October 17, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Reply

    This article is so great! As someone who is Half-White/Half-Asian, I have felt like this pretty much my entire life, flip-flopping between which culture I want to embrace and which I want to ignore. I remember that moment I realized I wasn’t “White”, and because physically I look more Asian than White, people automatically assume (especially White people; Asian people can usually tell that I’m a little different) that I’m completely Asian. It definitely can be frustrating, especially when people ask “what are you/where are you from?” (my least favorite, putting it mildly, of all questions….)

    Thank you for writing this! It’s something that definitely needs to be discussed, especially since being Asian-American, and Eurasian/Hapa is becoming more and more prevalent these days. Very well-written and articulate :)

  108. Anne Zhang October 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Reply

    K by no means are “melting pot” and “tossed salad” interchangeable synonyms as you’ve written. Melting pot is an American system which seeks to assimilate everyone into the mainstream white culture and is intolerant to differences whereas tossed salad refers to the Canadian system of embracing visible minority differences (a “tossed salad” of heterogenous components).
    Just thought I’d point out this minor but important distinction.

  109. mar October 17, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Reply

    I found this essay really enlightening! I too find myself stuck between wanting to fit in with the ‘white culture’ and also retain my Asian heritage, but I personally am in a different situation. I am half Chinese on my mother’s side, and half white. My mom enforced Asian culture on me from my birth, so a lot of my habits reflect those of Chinese heritage. I grew up in the Bay Area, CA where Asians, mostly Chinese, were pervasive, and so I never felt unwelcome for embracing my Chinese traditions. However, by appearance, no one would guess that I was any part Asian if I didn’t inform them. Even after twelve years of the same school, people still are shocked when I tell them of my ethnicity. All my friends tell me that I look so white, but I act so Asian. It was and still is really confusing. My high school was 75% Chinese and Indian, and I always felt that I was one of them, until someone would jokingly point out that I was a minority (for being white). This whole mix of culture is really confusing, and I think I came out to Georgetown (where I am now) to immerse myself in a more ‘white’ culture to see which side of my heritage I identify the most with. I still haven’t reached a conclusion, but I do have a box of Asian snacks sent from home every semester, because I honestly can’t imagine not having them.

    Your revelations in this piece have inspired me to take another look at my attitude towards my two cultures. The difference between the east coast and my hometown in Cali are so different, and I’m starting to see what you wrote about out here. I really enjoyed your piece! Thank you for sharing.

  110. Wong Weng Han October 17, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    Reply

    Godlike essay

  111. Vanessa Teck October 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Reply

    Hi Connie,

    I just wanted to applaud and congratulate you for writing this blog. I think that it takes a lot of courage to share something to complex and personal about one’s identity, particularly on the internet where people have the accessible to pick and pull at your experiences. I, myself, am Cambodian American and have gone through the same type of awakening that you went through during college. I spent much of my elementary and middle school years in ESL, despite my fluent English skills. Due to the model minority, I was often lumped into the same category of other Asian Americans and my experience as a daughter of refugees was never even discussed. It is unfortunate reading some of the comments because it is clear that many of us continue to internalize the model minority.

    For those commenting, I would like to remind you that these are CONNIE’s experiences, which are valid and as real as it gets. It is NOT your place to invalidate her personal life experiences. We all develop our identity in different ways, but there are clear trends. Just because you also identify as APIA, White, Black, insertamultitudeofidentitieshere, does not mean your experience is more valid than hers. I think that the issue is that we are so quick to critique and “correct” the experiences of others and to place blame on the individual…. but we really need to examine society as a whole and the systemic and institutional structures that make us feel/think this way.

    Thanks again, Connie :) stay awesome.

    In solidarity.

    • Vanessa Teck October 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      Reply

      Whoops. please excuse my many typos. Commenting on a phone isn’t very fun. :)

    • WheelLiam October 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm

      Reply

      (Like)

  112. Jose A. October 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Reply

    Well that was very eye opening. I’m not asian myself, but a lot of what you said can be applied to the multiple “Blank”-American races. I never really considered something like this a race. I always thought that it was just a mixing of cultures, but somehow still separate. I guess it’s not like oil and water at all haha. Thanks for writing this. Very interesting.

  113. WheelLiam October 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Reply

    Reading this has left me frustrated and optimistic.

    Quote: “America’s darkest days were about slavery and the civil rights movement. There’s a lot to be said about the resilient nature of the African-American people. Schools teach to let us never forget where America came from and from the mistakes of our past, we can learn justice and tolerance. However, even to this day, as sad as it is, we still struggle with racism among the two.” <<< YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!! There are still so many social issues (i.e. prison reform, homelessness, community rebuilding, education and urban poverty, etc.) present in this country today, and a lot of it goes unreported/unrecognized. So I totally agree that we have come very "far" from Slavery (rather we shifted with the change in times and attitudes), but we have so much more to accomplish.

    I am very glad this entry was shared via FaceBook by one of my 'friends'…In your final paragraph, I very much like how you tied in the better of both worlds/cultures into arriving at some form of unity between the two very different cultures. Respect for authority, yes, (unless power is abused). Respect for elders, yes, (unless they abuse their status). Be resourceful..yes yes yes! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter. I am glad there are others out there who have gone through similar experiences as I have. Good luck in your ongoing discovery of finding your inner comfort zone. Cheers.

  114. inthesouth October 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Reply

    it’s absolutely relieving to see that i’m not the only Asian-American who feels this way. i’m “originally” from California, but I chose to go to school down in the south and the experience has been both eye-opening and painful. never in my life have i felt so out of place and segregated, since back at home, where I’m from, Asian culture pervaded everything. we were the majority and the culturally most influential.

    thanks for writing this piece.

  115. SuzyP October 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Reply

    Great piece…although we are very different I can identify in so many ways as well. And to be quite honest I learned a couple things too – thanks for sharing your perspective!

  116. John R. October 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Reply

    I’m kind of curious if you’ve read Edward Iwata’s “Race Without a Face”? Its very similar to what you have to say and I think you might enjoy it.

  117. Eden Wen October 17, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Reply

    You said everything I’ve always wanted to say but never could because I can’t organize my thoughts as well as you did here. Thank you.

    Eden Wen

    p.s. I’ll probably post a link to this piece on my own blog. I liked what you said.

  118. dtf October 17, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Reply

    How do you think it is being literally half-white and half-asian?
    Like this article, but magnified.

    Everybody stay strong!

  119. moobxyooj October 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Reply

    I like, I like. :)

  120. Kenneth October 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Reply

    Great essay. Totally agreed. Now add on Asian American male to this, now you got me.

  121. J Sanchez October 17, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Reply

    Latino here. Almost everything you described can be cut and paste for many of us who are the sons and daughters of anyone south of the border.

    I never felt shunned or discriminated against (at least not to my face), but having an identity crisis was something many non-white kids went through. And for me it wasn’t even just white, it’s that I didn’t feel or look American enough for Americans or Mexican enough for my family in Mexico. My English had an accent and so did my Spanish. It also doesn’t help I grew up in the melting pot of LA where kids from all different background spoke another language besides English and so accents were inevitable even if they were born here. Many of my friends growing up were Mexican, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, or from some Central American country like Guatemala or El Salvador. I had very few white or black friends. In fact, at one point I had more fingers on my hands than white or black friends.

    “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” which translates “Not from here, not from there” is the best way to describe my experience. Now I fully understand that America does not automatically mean Caucasian. It’s OK if your not like the people on TV which sadly is almost entirely white. Embrace the fact that your different and that you bring a different perspective and experience to the table.

    I remember in High School, we had “International Food Festivals” about once a month. The Mexicans sold Mexican food, the Chinese sold Chinese, Salvadoreans sold Pupusas, etc…. It was such an awesome experience. Nothing brings people closer together like food! I never once bought Mexican food. I was always lining up for Chinese food, Vietnamese sandwiches, or Beef bulgogi with kimchi!

    And I don’t mean to sound racist or like a flat out bigot….but why are whites the most Xenophobic of the bunch? In LA you see Latinos, Blacks, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos all intermixing, hanging out or becoming part of each others posse. Rarely do I see whites hanging out outside of their circle of white friends so I am happy when I make a new white friend. It’s actually nice to see.

  122. Gerri October 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Reply

    This essay was really great! I totally understand where you’re coming from, and this essay made my day :D You’re awesome

  123. OMG_Ju October 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Reply

    It’s like you read my mind and was able to translate it very-well down in writing. Thank You. This is so relatable I cant even..

  124. Benjamin October 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Reply

    To be fair, I think the reason people tend to ask Asian-Americans where they are “originally from” (as opposed to asking white or black people the same question) is because white and black people have been part of America for much longer than Asian-Americans have. Compared to most white or black Americans, most Asian-Americans are a relatively more recent generation, often descended from immigrants who arrived in the United States only 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

    Also, many Asian-Americans ask each other basically the same question, too – “where are you from originally? Are you Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese?” etc. Etc.

    (I’m Asian-American myself, too.)

    • Paphoua October 20, 2013 at 4:01 am

      Reply

      If I were to inquire about where a person is from, the American in me would introduce myself as being from the Twin Cities of MN, and then inquire where the person is from (already having referenced that I’m talking state-side). If I wanted to dig deeper, I would then inquire about their ethnic origin (Hmong, Taiwanese, Korean, African, Australian, Sweedish, Brazilian, etc.).

  125. Chloe October 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Reply

    This is so beautifully written! You speak the heart of so many of us!

  126. Kevin Lau October 17, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Reply

    I’ve had the exact same thoughts, but I came to the conclusion that my heritage doesn’t define who I am. We have the luxury of being the sum of many parts in the US and can choose who we want to be. My relationships with my friends and family are what define me, not what I look like or what my friends look like. My passions hobbies and interests are what keep me going. I live my life on my own terms not the pre conceived notion of what an “Asian american” is. Please don’t feel the need to have an “us against the world” mentality, it doesn’t help.

  127. C October 17, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Reply

    Hmm, this is interesting. I hadn’t thought of the “ignored” minority idea before. This might actually explain why some asian people I’ve met, especially at Ivy League schools, are fine saying derogatory things about black people. It might be a kind of jealousy that African-Americans get so much coverage of their struggles in society, whereas asians get very little.
    Of course it also might be because a lot of people at Ivy League schools are arrogant pricks.

  128. M October 18, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Reply

    Hi Connie,
    You already have so many comments (read through half of them and raced to the bottom of the page so I can comment myself) so I’ll try to keep mine sweet and short. If you were to write a second piece, I think it’s interesting to see to what extent we are of either American or Asian culture. I grew up half in Taiwan and half in California, and literally all my “ABC” friends tell me “You are so… Asian” (yea I read Chinese novels in public and get that comment). All my “FOB” friends think I have perfect English and I’m so American (because I play beer pong?!). Then when white people hear that I’m an immigrant, they just look at me like I’m an exotic species because I have no accent. I take flattery and often comfort myself that I have the “best of two worlds”. But, truth is, I feel left out when my FOB friends post in perfect Chinese, and I feel embarrassed when my ABC friends find out that I don’t follow Breaking Bad or I’ve never seen Office Space (ok, just watched it a few months ago). It’s quite an interesting place to be! Just wanted to share my “more-extreme” end of the fobby and american spectrum.

  129. Flawed Premise October 18, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Reply

    The problem lies in trying to identify several countries through a singular, all-inclusive term that refers to entire continent.

    To sum it up – the term “Asian-American” is utter **** ****

    Who came up with this term? People who don’t have the mental fortitude in differentiating foreign cultures – they like to simplify their world by classifying millions and millions of different people by single characteristics – like skin color or the shape of their eyes.

    For crying out loud, countries like Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are classified as Asian countries by scientists and the freakin’ U.N.

    With identity “Middle-eastern” (another bull-ssss term) and Muslim identities going through hell in American society in the past 10 years, who is really being misrepresented?

    I am Filipino. Word has it I’m Asian. Who knows? Chinese, Japanese and Korean people have told me I’m not Asian. Non-Asians have told me I’m not Asian. And frankly, I don’t care.

    If you’re Chinese, be proud of being Chinese. If you’re Korean, be proud of being Korean. I’m proud to be Filipino.

    Again, “Asian-American” doesn’t mean anything to me.

    and regarding the use of the word “Oriental” – get off your high horse. This is political correctness gone mad. If a comparison between “Oriental” peppers truly threatens how you define yourself, then your concept of self is very weak. That is a personal issue that you can address internally, long before you or I solve any societal woes.

    I mean, Do Italian people complain about being compared to a salad dressing? LMAO, literally.

  130. Alexandra Wallace October 18, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Reply

    Were you typing away furiously when you had your epiphany?

  131. Haroon Waseem October 18, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Reply

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing :)

  132. cxu October 18, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Reply

    Hell yeah. I go to USC, and even though I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, there truly exists a living race barrier in a diverse university like ours. It’s a byproduct of a large difference in socioeconomic statuses, and though we can blame our vain, overly traditional school administration for its Orwellian need to control the threat of our surrounding (poorer) community that is mostly Hispanic, Latino, and black to our school’s image, we students enforce this too, and for that we are a highly segregated institution.

    And for a school that is about 30% Asian and Asian-American, the racial divide is acutely felt too. Asian-Americans tend to hang out together if they “act Asian”–otherwise they “act white” or eschew their Asianness (i.e. become “white-washed”) and often become part of that all-American crowd that is privileged, beautiful by Western standards, knowably exclusive, and faintly xenophobic. Asians and other international students don’t socialize with many students who are natively American, especially those who are Caucasian. It all sucks. Trying to find a side to blame for this is futile, since we can become friends with whoever we damn please for whatever reason we like, but Connie, you can imagine why these peers would never interact in the first place. It bums me out because a lot of these differences are erased when students participate in international study programs together, but does it really take an artificial environment like that to forge friendships across racial divides?

    Who knows. Reading blogs like this make me wonder why I’m one of the few Asian kids at an alt-J concert, and one of thousands at a rave.

    • Robin October 18, 2013 at 1:36 am

      Reply

      Every rave I attend, I think I see more Asians than any other skin color LOL. But I /do/ currently attend one of the most diverse schools in America (according to us news)

  133. Michael Liu October 18, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Reply

    I think we have a pretty good lot, but it does annoy me greatly when people brush Asians, especially Eastern Asians off as the “model minority” and the fact that we are well paid, well educated, etc etc

    I don’t want to complain, like I said we have it pretty good. You can’t really whine about having hardworking parents and then being hardworking yourself. But when people say “Oh you’re Chinese you don’t even have struggles.” Oh I just want them to shut up.

  134. Matt October 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Reply

    Thanks for writing that. It resonates a lot with me.

  135. Sophia October 18, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Reply

    Thanks for sharing this. This is exactly what I am going through.

  136. Robin October 18, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Reply

    I moved from NJ to CA in middle school. I’ve grown up in a predominantly white suburban area in NJ and moved to skmewhere similar in CA. I thought I was white and so was everyone else (even if they were black or hispanic, they were not a color). When I moved to CA I experienced racism while registering for classes. They put me in low English classes and even asked me if I could speak it for the record, before I moved, I was a spelling bee champion and was in the gifted program. English was my best subject. I was just shy and quiet and got thrown into a class that did not fit me because they jump to the conclusion that I don’t speak English. What.

  137. Oliver October 18, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Reply

    Okay? But the real question is where are your parents from?

  138. Jerimiah Willhite October 18, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Reply

    I didn’t see this posted, but here’s Ken Tanaka’s take on the issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWynJkN5HbQ

    Also, as a professional white Chinese/English translator, it is bullshit when “Chinese heritage” native English speakers don’t get their studies recognized, and sometimes even made fun of or demeaned for not being able to speak Mandarin in China, yet a white person gets praised for saying 你好 because “omg tones must have been so hard for you”. I’ve had several friends go over to actually learn Mandarin, and get burnt out because of how unfairly they get treated. Mainland China has a lot of learning to do in that respect (and to be fair, a homogenized nation won’t be as sensitive to race issues as the US). I definitely agree with your post that Asian-Americans are sort of a unique minority in the US, because they are caught between two extremely proud cultures. Hopefully not everyone you encounter is an asshat about race.

  139. Jenny October 18, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Reply

    This is actually so accurate it hurts.

  140. Jason October 18, 2013 at 2:43 am

    Reply

    I mean the whole “forgotten minority” thing, a bit dramatic. The reason Blacks and Whites are in the history books so much are because of the 200 year history of slavery, so be thankful your people didn’t have to deal with that. Also stereotypes are never good, but I’m not going to sympathize with your major stereotype being you’re too smart.

    • Emily October 18, 2013 at 5:43 am

      Reply

      Maybe you should review your history before making a comment. Cheap Chinese labor was a large part of American history in the early 19th century, so… I think that makes it a part of that 200 year history. Albeit, not slave history, but a history of a mistreated humans.

      How about the major stereotype that Blacks or African-Americans are good at sports? That’s “positive” isn’t it? Stereotypes are never good. We never asked you to sympathize.

      • jk2001 October 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm

        Reply

        It wasn’t a “slave history” but the importation of Chinese labor happened in the west starting around 1848, into a “free” state, and then Chinese labor was also moving into the South post-Civil War, and was seen as a substitute for Black labor. After slavery was abolished, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and Mexican workers did the same jobs that Blacks had done under slavery. Also, in South America, there was Asian slavery for a while.

    • yoyomama October 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Reply

      I mean I get what you’re saying, but what Connie really wants is for Asian Americans to get some more publicity and…”memory”. As an asian american comfortably living in suburbia, I can’t fairly compare the troubles that asians have had in the recent past to Jim Crow era. But even so? Chinese have recieved persecution under the hands of white people in the railroad construction to the west in the 19th century. The Japanese were placed in camps in World War 2 in America. What a lot of asian americans feel is that these situations have been understated in textbooks. No, I’m not going to compare verbally harrassing an individual due to his or her race to the public high-school lynch party of a black kid in the mid 20th century – but hey, asian americans want their sorrows to be remembered, too. People want representation – and white people do get a lot of it, so naturally small minority groups want to have a part, too…even a little bit. In my time in AP US history, we never really ever talked about the troubles of asian americans.

      Another important aspect is that these are Connie’s personal experiences. She has not experienced extensive questioning by the police in regards of illicit drug usage primarily because of her skin. Obviously her race does not get scape-goated for crimes and is not constantly under suspicion by the majority. But these experiences of her are just as valid. She’s a young adult in the 21st century, developed America. She does not remember clearly 200 years of torture and shame. She’s just talking about her troubles and making sense of her race and how that plays a part in her life.

      Just because someone hasn’t been tormented as harshly as another doesn’t mean that the 1st person’s hurts are any less valid. In fact, having an open mind and being able to comprehend another person’s discomfort, at least to an extent, is the most intelligent thing someone can do.

  141. Lucy October 18, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Reply

    I love how when white-washed Asian people decide to finally come back to their “roots”. Better late than never I guess. The yellow struggle has always been there. Like it or not we are the invisible race. Writing a post about it with caps, bolds and italics on every other sentence is not gonna make or break it. Just my 2 cents.

  142. A Regular Guy October 18, 2013 at 3:00 am

    Reply

    I’m an American Hispanic and definitely know where you’re coming from. What’s worst is how everyone thinks that I only know Spanish just because of the color of my skin.

  143. bb49 October 18, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Reply

    Thanks for making others aware of our struggle to find our own identity. I’m much older than you and I remember back in the mid ’60’s when the first Asian-American Studies courses were introduced. And still after all this time Asian Americans have been nothing more than a footnote in the fabric of this great nation we call home.
    To make my point, name 10 Asian Americans who have made a difference in the history of the United States. If what pops into head are news broadcasters, actors, or Jeremy Lin, then that shows you just how little our own knowledge base is of who we are.
    Can you name 10 events in Asian American History?
    Will we only be know for New Year’s celebrations, acupuncture, kung fu, fortune cookies, spicy food, cheap massages, boba drinks, and trophy spouses (with those cute hapa babies)? How much stereotyping, racism and prejudice will we tolerate? Will these issues matter to your children?
    In May, does our nation celebrate Asian-American Heritage Month nationwide our is it only regional? And what do we celebrate?
    The greatest problem I see is not allowing ourselves to embrace our culture while trying to live out the Asian American dream and a lack of heroes to call our own that the rest of America can embrace. The closest I’ve ever seen in a national hero was when Linsanity happened as short lived as it was. btw, the movie is a must see for everyone in your generation because it touches on the very issues you speak of. See it before it’s limited engagement ends.
    Could it be that with your background you will be the one to make people aware of who we are on a national scale? Or will we still be viewed as the Model Minority and nothing more?
    Good luck and keep up the good work.

  144. Jasse October 18, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Reply

    Connie,
    I really enjoyed your insights about the race issues and growing up as an Asian American. I can totally relate how youI feel as i myself being a Brazilian-Asian. Lived most of my life. conflicted and not knowing where i belonged with the same f*@$ing questions ‘where are you from’, and always need to explain and give the same f*@$ing answer.
    But there is one thing I learned throughout my experiences is that the best place to live is the one where people respect you the most and considered as the, ‘elite’ in their society.

    I did my undergraduate studies in philly for 5yrs, which have also noticed how the race issue has always been black /white. (hint: lookup the ethnicity of previous majors in office in philly). But keep calm… I have faith that within a few years as white Americans become more familiar with the Asian culture mix, they will elect a Asian Prez. (I BET WILL BE OUT OF CALIFORNIA where I noticed that the state that has a good blend of Asians)

    Ps… Hahaha, i also get the same looks when i go back to Taiwan and visit relatives and friends, w/ my Brazilian – American accent. Have been labeled as a FOB, ABC.. and other crap. But looking back, i am really proud of my background, how I grew up, and how we stick out from the rest of the crowd ;-)

  145. Nicole October 18, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Reply

    I just wrote an essay on my social identity and social location and I wrote much of what you said in your writing. I really agree with you statement “I felt trapped between two worlds.” I’m a Korean immigrant living in Canada for 12 years and I still get comments “Wow you’re English is very good,” or the question “But where are you really from?”. It makes me laugh everytime.

  146. J1 October 18, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Reply

    As much as I thought that was very well written I’d have to say that was a very lon: “be yourself, as long as you’re not being an asshole”

  147. Andrew Kim October 18, 2013 at 4:18 am

    Reply

    You’re a beautiful human being.

  148. Mary October 18, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Reply

    I actually assume everyone I meet in America is American. What a silly notion. I know I can’t be one of the only ones though…

  149. Fifers October 18, 2013 at 5:21 am

    Reply

    Great essay, loved it. :) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because there is a large group of new freshmen at my college who hang out together and happen to be of Asian descent, but they have American accents! It’s awesome, and great for me because I tend to assume that if there is a group of people (sorry, but yes, especially Asians on my campus) who happen to be a minority that they are probably not from the US. Culture and most especially language make getting around more difficult for any foreigner in any country.

  150. Emily October 18, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m in a teacher education program at my University and more recently, I’ve wondered why Asian Americans are so often left out of studies when it comes to student learning. I’ve also noticed that when the rare occasion does happen that Asian Americans are considered a minority, Asians are all lumped together with no regard to the differences in regions and cultures.

    I’ve also had classmates in an African-American studies class tell me that I have no right to say that I am a colored person because the racism agains Asians is not nearly as bad as it is against Blacks. Since when did we compare the prejudice against us.

    Again, thank you so much. You’ve given so many of my thoughts the words that they needed. I’m going to share this with everybody!

  151. David H. Vuong October 18, 2013 at 5:37 am

    Reply

    Thank Connie…very insightful and thoughtful essay…let me share with you something along that line also. My “AhhHHaa” moment was 7th Grade. I’m Vietnamese American…so like you, because we’re perceived to look differently than main stream American, were put into ESL classes, which started for my friend and I since the 3rd grade. Well…anyway…first semester of 7th Grade, my friend Danny (Also Vietnamese American) and Melissa (Filipino American) were top 3 student of our school and district with perfect GPA. Teachers and Principal were asking why we’re being taken out of class and sent to ESL, while we’ve mastered and aced all the testes. They complained that it’s very disruptive to other students trying to learn…yet somehow it wasn’t disruptive for us to leave the classroom and endured “creative social waste” called ESL. Mind you we were rank top 1% of our district. With perfect 4.0 GPA, in every course, yet the mentality was, let’s test them out of ESL. As if the daily homework and testes given to us were not enough to gauge our strength and intellect, we wasted another 3 day testing out of every course just so we can be labeled competent to sit through regular schedule as many AMERICAN do in “Honor Courses.” Funny thing, at the end of each year, 7th-11th we consistently took home every awards conceivable. I’m 30 now, and life hasn’t changed that much…I still endured the same issues, although not as prevalent as before,I can relate to your essay wholeheartedly. I say not as prevalent, because I now identify myself as Vietnamese American, served my country (USAF) in Afghan and Iraq, and can with confidence deal with social inequality/bigotry that comes my way. Very refreshing…thank you! God bless and continue to delight us with your thoughts… =)

  152. William October 18, 2013 at 5:50 am

    Reply

    Your voice is as compelling as it is courageous! Thank you for reminding me of the positive values the American culture does convey (potentially) to us all even as it throws down a gauntlet of prejudice for many.

  153. Gordon October 18, 2013 at 7:22 am

    Reply

    Great essay. I can relate to many of the things you mentioned. Thanks for writing this.

  154. Carolyn October 18, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Reply

    Hi Connie,
    I totally agree with you on how US is a so-called melting pot yet non-Whites are expected to assimilated or be considered different. I may not have been born in the US but my short exchange programme stint in the US has caused me to feel EXACTLY the same way you feel, especially seeing and learning the best of both worlds despite the setbacks. Thank you so much for expressing it so well and for sharing it with the rest of the world =)

  155. Daniel Conley October 18, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Reply

    Did you ever think that they put you in ESL because your parents didn’t speak perfect English? If your parents were second generation and spoke perfect eglish I doubt that they would have placed you in ESL.

  156. donneyh October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Reply

    worth the read, and i’m struggling as a SEA chinese in canada :/ just great

  157. Jared Asachika October 18, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Reply

    I relate too well to the struggle. Thank you for your outright and unfiltered opinions – need to spread some recognition. I’m going to touch on one of your mentioned examples.

    The Japanese Interment Camps

    It is depressing to hear, from my older relatives, about the Japanese Internment camps and how the imprisoned Japanese people were unfairly and untimely stripped from their homes. My relatives were held in Poston, Arizona. During their imprisonment, some of my uncles entered into the European front of World War 2 to prove a loyalty that didn’t need to be proved. They came back from the war with Purple Hearts, a symbolic form of Japanese “loyalty” and American Government “apology”. When the war was over, my relatives described, many Japanese Americans were not compensated fairly for the unjust time spent within the camps – some didn’t even receive compensation ( my relatives were fortunate enough to start a large farm in Orange County and to later sell their land). Did my high school American History textbook talk about the interment camps or the followed emotional and economic impact for more than 1 paragraph? The answer is, sadly, quite obvious (of course it’s no).
    It’s not the interment camps that most high school children remember – it’s Pearl Harbor. Why? Well, maybe it’s because my American History textbook had a whole 2 chapters on World War 2.

    The feeling was all too awkward when we watched a documentary on Pearl Harbor and Americas’ retaliation with the nuke bombs. One classmate said to me,”We got you guys back for what your people did to America – nobody messes with America, gook.” Some just gave me blank stares as if I, personally, were to blame (because I was obviously a part of that culture and generation). I just laughed off all racial slurs and offenses and tried to assimilate myself as one of them – as a White American.

    You may know this feeling all too well and I may just be regurgitating feelings that should have been left dormant, but for those who do not have such insight to the life some Asian Americans live, I hope this response sheds light on a “swept-under-the-rug” topic.

  158. eva October 18, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Reply

    I think you just wrote the screen play of my life! Nice!

  159. fivetwosix October 18, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Reply

    The funny thing is, I also ask fellow Asians I meet for the first time where are their parents from. I won’t feel insulted upon if they were to ask me too. As us Asians are not a homogenous race to begin with. Because the thing is, to be identified or understood by your racial features is in itself not a negative thing. We are all trying to make sense of the world and the people around us, so we inevitably draw on limited information we have or what our sight offers the first time we meet a “stranger”.

    Racism swings to a negative notion when civil rights and privileges are being excluded strictly due to one’s race. In my Southeast Asian heritage, many of us grew up under “racial politics” where it is decided upon one dominant race who have access to State privileges that if you are not born into that race you do not. Genocides, whether in Cambodia, Germany or Africa, or even Indonesia, where your life is endangered because of your race — that is what I understood of racism growing up.

    By the time I moved to a “white-dominated” country in my teens, stereotypes on my Asian race have little bearing on me because those things are to me perceived racism at best a la perception is only reality if you let it be. I love my Asian heritage and want to tell the world about it. :) There is a fine line of difference between a stranger’s lack of cultural awareness vs discrimination. I always saw the onus is on me to create the ‘new-age’, accurate, understandings of my race, creating positive stereotypes.

    It starts from me. Because I know that being Asian-American brings with it more privileges that billions of Asians in Asia so badly need. :)

  160. TonyTran October 18, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Reply

    Should check out Vancouver Canada… where all the beautiful Asian people live LOL Even the white folk wanna be Asian lmao

  161. Puddles & Price October 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Reply

    As a white mom with two white children and two beautiful Asian girls we have encountered many of these same things. I always tell my girls….who wants to be white anyway. We have such a history of meanness and we age far to fast! We thank you for such an honest post.

  162. This is not my real name October 18, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Reply

    I am an Asian male that comes from two different Asian cultures, though I was born in the states. I love being Asian, it is a part that makes me unique and I embrace it fully. I pretty much grew up white though, playing sports and hanging out with Asians and non-Asians. The only downsides I would say from being Asian are that Asians are discriminated against in their SAT scores and applications when applying to some colleges, that I am not taller, and having to live up to the Asian “smart” stereotype sometimes (I went to an Ivy, but who cares? I still don’t like living up to being “smart”). By the way, I love Asian girls, I think they are more attractive than plain white women (generally speaking). I literally didn’t give a sh** when Asians were not mentioned in history textbooks or anything like that (I know this is so un-PC). We have the best food, culture, and women. On a side note, another thing that bothers me was the Jeremy Lin thing, because he is a good basketball player, but it sucks the amount of adversity he had to go through just because he was Asian. It seems he was pretty good coming out of high school but did not play at a major ncaa conference just because he was Asian, as Asians are not perceived as being particularly good ball players.

    I have also been to the two countries where my parents are from, and just like you, I am so “Americanized.” That’s ok though, I can’t help it. I know it seems like I am rambling, but I read your post and thought I would just follow-up with a semi-coherent response. By the way, check out the shows K-Town and Roll Models on youtube, you will get a laugh and be entertained like I did (I hope).

  163. Beth October 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Reply

    Terrific post, Connie. As the mom of two daughters who were adopted from China, I await that “awakening” with them, and have always tried to incorporate racial identity into their lives. We do Chinese school and culture classes, although I know that doesn’t go very far to giving them a real comfort level in the culture. I hope it at least gives them a comfort level in the local Chinese community, which I believe it has accomplished. They both have Asian and white friends (and black as well). They feel comfortable enough to tease about either race (“Nyah nyah, Mom, you’re NOT Chinese!” or “That’s another one of those over-achieving Asian families.”) but I do believe they understand the stereotypes are just that. My 17 year old also knows that people identify her as white because she has white parents and a Jewish last name…. and that next year when she moves away to college, that will change – drastically. She’ll probably experience the whole “where are you from?” thing and truly being seen as Asian or different for the first time in her life. She’s prepared for it though, so it shouldn’t come as a shock. I don’t think I’d want to be on the receiving end of whatever zinger retorts she throws back at idiots…. they’ll know immediately they’re not talking to their stereotype of a demure Asian girl.

  164. Amy October 18, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Reply

    Excellent post! Replies also stirring. So all these things make sense as to what white people/majority culture does wrong…it would also be helpful to learn what to do right/what is not offensive. If a person wants to learn about another person…and learn their story…it is usually easiest to start with things seen on the surface/outside. We totally make a million assumptions about everything around us. When a person hears the same question a billion times, it can be annoying and offensive…but in making society aware of the issues – society also needs to be educated in how to show interest, and what it looks like to show and give equality. Racism is an issue of the heart…many are unknowingly entrenched in it – others want to hold on to it knowingly and there are still others who are fighting against it in the world and within themselves. Unless the heart is changed, then is all just becomes about being PC. As we wait for hearts to change and awareness to increase, what are some things that can communicate awareness of the Asian American culture.

  165. Cameron Garcia October 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Reply

    If you think being 2nd generation was bad for you in 2000; then try being a Filipino child in the 1950’s, where all we saw were brown people in our own community club. We all spoke perfect English, even deciding among ourselves that to speak our parents dialect, complete with the accent was not in our best interests. Even our parents decided that their children should not speak their language (Visayan). But, we all managed to slip into mainstream White Society, and were generally accepted, though we all had a perpetual tan, which most white folks wished they had. Fast forward to 2013. We’re now in our 60’s, many of us have 1 or 5 grandchildren, our spouses are NON-Fiipino, a few of us a LGBT, and many of us are perfectly happy…. In short, it depends on how you look at life. Are you willing to let the skin color and language become your crutch, or are you willing to accept that all of us Asians all have something to contribute to the population…. BE Proud of who you are..

  166. Leah October 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Reply

    I appreciate your insight and perspective about your Asian identity and experience. As someone who works with students of color in a university setting, I have witnessed my Asian students (both at my present and previous institutions) struggle with finding their place and articulating the experiences of their cultural communities. Now, working with Asian students who do not fit the ‘model minority’ mold there is even more felt pressure to live up to a standard that is ill-fit. Simultaneously, I do not believe you have to devalue the experiences of African-Americans to affirm those of Asian Americans. Our history is also distorted, truncated, and ignored in many ways too. We don’t have to value one at the expense of another.

  167. Steven Chen October 18, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Reply

    Connie – thanks so much for expressing feelings most Asian Americans struggle to identify.

    As a follow up to your spot-on characterization of us as the marginalized minority, I’d propose this: that we are in every sense American. I think it’s incumbent upon us as a group to challenge the traditional notions of what it means to be really just plain American – by co-opting it. We don’t usually say German-American or Irish-American, and yet we specifically feel the need to engage in a very complicated hyphenated identity.

    We contribute to this American culture just as much as anyone, adding to the already long list of cultures that have been incorporated within. Ordering Chinese take-out is probably one of the most old, traditional American things I can do. Focusing on education is one of the underpinnings of good civic society. Taking care of your elders, last I heard, is pretty much the high school community service gold standard. Being a team player is the watchword of the new, modern company. Math-focused and computer science geeks run the nation’s banks and drive the Silicon Valley innovation that is at the very core of being American (e.g. Steve Chen of YouTube).

    I’ll be dammed if anyone tells me that I’m not a 100 percent, red-blooded American.

  168. Anthony October 18, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Reply

    @Andrea @Sang

    I do admire the fact you guys can focus on the positives and for a time I thought the same way:
    “Asians are just assumed to be smart so we don’t have to prove we are”
    “No one ever thinks I’m the one who did anything wrong”
    I wish I could still focus on the positives but as I’ve grown up, I found that discrimination against Asians is every bit as deleterious as discrimination against other groups. Sure being thought of as a good worker, smart, or good at math is a good thing but the flip side of the Asian narrative is we are unathletic, unattractive, nerdy, socially incompetent, homogenous, shy, uncool, basically unworthy of other peoples’ attention. A huge proportion of Asian American kids grow up with social anxiety as a result and will always carry the scars of it. The stunted social development adversely impacts every single aspect of one’s life. I know every single Asian American has had a time a potential sexual partner rejected him or her because they’re “not into Asians” or was blatantly ignored in a social situation in favor of a non-Asian. Sure this sort of discrimination seems rather innocuous but impacts the ability of Asian Americans to get a girl/boyfriend, make connections, get promoted to a managerial position of work, all of which are much more acute issues. Personally, I grew up with crippling social anxiety as a result of, what I now realize is discrimination, and while I have gotten much better, I still have to deal with effects. I even grew up in a college town that’s home to an elite university and Asians make up 14% of the population. These stereotypes about Asians permeate American society and this sort of discrimination is extremely insidious as it causes Asians to believe they are subject to “good” discrimination and ignore the detrimental effects.

    At the core this is about fairness and self determination. Why should we all be thought of as a homogenous group of people? Why should we allow White and Black Americans determine our narrative and identity? Why can a White American identify as Irish or American and everyone just goes along with it? Why should we have to prove ourselves more so than anyone else before we are thought of as leaders? If the struggle for fairness and self determination isn’t noble and essentially human, what is?

  169. More & Again October 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Reply

    I hope I don’t come across as trying to hi-jack your thread. I know you’re speaking your truth, and it’s something will resonate with a lot of people. I’m disappointed, though, because you seem to be under the impression that Black people don’t have their American-ness questioned, when that’s far from the truth. You can definitely call out racism without making the claim that Black people are on some kind of even footing with White people.

  170. Anna October 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Reply

    I’m Polish and my famiy ridicules me for my english accent. For a while I felt like an outcast of my own culture.

  171. Connie Zhou October 18, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Reply

    Hey everyone! I love the conversation that is going on here, and am blown away by this amazing response. I just wanted to clarify a few things and maybe take these into consideration when reading this blog post:

    1. I think it’s important to take note that this is a BLOG POST – not an article. I based everything on experience and conversations I’ve had with people going through the same thing. I can’t give you numbers, history facts, or sociological research because I did not go forth writing this as an article. It was something that rested heavily on my chest and I wanted to get it out. I appreciate everyone that’s been linking me to articles and good reads, definitely going to check them out.

    2. I am in NO way ashamed of my heritage. I think I failed to mention that I have come to terms with who I am and embrace it. I proudly proclaim my racial identity. I obviously can’t speak for ALL Asian-Americans, I’m only speaking for the majority that do feel this way. I am not an ambassador for Asian-Americans, I’m just one of you! I just want people to know that what they are going through/went through is sadly normal. I want to encourage people to transcend the struggles and to speak loudly about their concerns, your voice is worthy of being heard.

    3. I am not discrediting any other race. I understand that many other minorities go through the same thing (even in different countries). I’m not saying that black people don’t undergo racism, I’m just saying that it’s talked about more frequently than other minorities – and it makes sense, black people have underwent so many trials in this country and have been here since the beginning of our country and have a larger population.

    4. I know a few people have felt that I’m complaining or I have a bad attitude, I’m sorry that is how you interpreted it. I also don’t identify myself as a writer. I like to write, but I did not anticipate this many people would be reading this! I’m sorry if some of my wording, tone, or grammar is rubbing you the wrong way, believe me that is not my intention. I also wrote all of this (and the really embarrassing 5 min. sloppy Photoshop) in a hurry without really proofreading it (like I said earlier I didn’t think this many people would be reading it) so thank you for all those who have called me out on my typos. If you know anything about me, you’d know typos are my worst nightmares. If I had known this would’ve been spreading to this magnitude I would’ve been more careful about my thoughts (and totally redone the image).

    Lastly I just wanted to thank everyone for their encouragement and replies – I try to read every single one of your comments, tweets, emails, posts and so many of you have such insightful comments that I had never even thought about. I appreciate every single one of you and understand that you’re all entitled to your own opinions as am I.

    Thank you x35426356357357

  172. Kansai_mojo October 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Reply

    First, I want to say that I respect you for attempting to put your struggles of identity on the screen to help others. Though I appreciate the issues of identity you have gone through, I did want to raise a few points. Most of these are minor and I’m only stating them to present a different side.
    First, the experience of Asian born Americans who find themselves between cultures is not dissimilar to the thousands of other groups in NA who are 2nd generation and so on. It also applies to 1st generation expats. Trying to separate “Asian americans” as a different race/label is a bad idea only in that it assumes that it is a problem of ethnicity and unique to Asians. Or if we accept the argument then we have to argue for millions of sub races… and in that case foreign born white girls living in Mongolia would be a different race too… Im not sure if that is a helpful label.
    A really small point, and though im sure it is not what you meant to imply, your analogy seem to imply that being whites means to not have an otherness or a divergence of mainstream culture. That to be white is to wear your shoes in your house, smell like butter, speak only English or only one language at home, etc. The fact is of course that there is no such thing as “whiteness” just as there is no such thing as “Asian” Its all socially constructed. There are cultural identities /norms etc which people either morph into or rebel against. For every red meat eating hunting foot ball loving never been out side of texas only English speaking white guy there is another white guy who eats only vegan, practices calligraphy and speaks 4 languages fluently.

    Also, keep in mind that the in between position you feel you hold in the States is the same other minorities feel in other countries. As you know, there are different grades of discrimination and that even positive discrimination (like people thinking you’re smart) can have its blow backs… but be careful to know that it is all geographical. If you were a white girl born in China you would have similar issues.
    What I mean to say is that the discrimination you feel IS about race but is NOT about race. Or specifically its not about s specific race but about being the “other” in a society where you are not hated (as the African Americans were) but not accepted. I lived in Asia for 6 years, I speak lower advanced Japanese and (semi- decent French) And though I was not born there, I experienced the same. Try having to start every new friendship with “you can use chopsicks wow.” “your Japanese is so good” (I had just said 2 sentences a 2 year old could say) or “can you eat Japanese food?” Try going into stores and having staff freak out when they see you coming because they expect you wont be able to communicate with them. Or being with a visiting Canadian Asian friend at a restaurant and being ignored because the staff assumes you cant speak and they speak to your non Japanese peaking friend because he is Asian. I didn’t face the discrimination faced by japan born Koreans but I had to be cautious of every friendship knowing that some only wanted to know me for a free English lesson, or to be friends with a foreigner etc. I had to deal with guys asking me if I had yellow fever, and heard the word “outsider” in reference to me from strangers at least once a week. There was also outward discrimination like the time I was punched by a biker as he passed and yelled at me to leave japan.. but every country has their super rednecks. I also know of many second generation white people in Japan who say they will never be fully accepted. My one friend who has never lived outside Japan was told by his manager that he would never become a manager or higher because he was an outsider.
    I have friends born in China and Taiwan who have had the same problems in those countries too Etc etc.
    I think my main point here is to point out that your discussion of identity is not about being white vs being Asian… it’s about being white American versus Asian American with emphasis on the American and the white part being only coincidental and geographically relevant.

  173. queuedanger October 18, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Reply

    An excellent post! Have you ever read Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor or Chinese America: The Untold Story of America’s Oldest New Community?

  174. WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY October 18, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Reply

    Connie, nice job on building up your points in your article. You’re an inspiring Asian American.

    P.S: poorly blended image of yourself. What’s with the triangles? Am I missing some sort of metaphor?

  175. Prince Pai October 18, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Reply

    “Asian-American Power!” whites/blacks go silent. I loved your article because it says what they never say and you hit them in the tooth. Things they’ll never admit to. Things they don’t realize they’re doing. They think they try to understand us, but in reality they’re pushing around stereotypes. Not many people are vocal enough to say anything (especially growing up) because we’re taught to be the bigger person and we can live with that decision. People are too caught up with what other people think.

    Blacks are way ahead of the Asians as far as social movements. I always saw that growing up. I admire the way the black community comes together, the way Asians don’t. All we’ve got is Chinese School – where they didn’t even teach us about us. I’ve seen the Asian effort and I see an extremely slow movement that’s growing. I think some Asians content with where we are is a problem – we’re too comfortable our shells or this itchy sweater. We think we understand our roles in society, but we don’t have clearly defined goals as a community. We’re not here to beat anyone out, but we want fair opportunities. We’re good at being turtles, but this turtle isn’t racing.

  176. jk2001 October 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Reply

    I enjoyed reading your post, but was also kind of saddened that this kind of thing still happens. When I was in college 20 years ago, I read a lot of stories like yours, though, perhaps a little more tortured. So, it’s gotten a little better, but not as much as I’d hoped.

    Then, as now, I cannot really relate, because I grew up in a part of Los Angeles County that didn’t have a large white population. It was mostly Latino, Mexican American and immigrants, and Asian Americans and immigrants. I am Japanese American, 2.5 generation. So, we didn’t feel white. At the same time, though, whites had most of the power, so we felt a kind of universal presence of whiteness, even though whites were only around 10% of us. (And, frankly, our whites were not necessarily non-immigrant or mainstream.) Still, it wasn’t like only white people had power; this was in the post-civil

    However, one thing that did exist was a division between immigrants and non-immigrants in each group. The non-immigrants would tend to look down on immigrants, and I admit I did some of that. It was a kind of self-hate, and hate in general, that we shouldn’t have engaged in. As usual, immigrants were seen an incoming minority, and most Latinos and Asians in that community were 2nd to 5th generation Americans. It seems like we wanted so badly to be Americans, maybe to be accepted by whites, that we bore hostility to immigrants.

    Today, I live in an immigrant community, and have lived in such communities for most of my life. Looking backward and forward, I see in the people around me both the desire to maintain cultures, and the desire to blend together into America, just like our immigrant ancestors.

    • Kansai_mojo October 18, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      Reply

      white immigrants and white 2nd and third generation North Americans have had the same “otherness” experience. Read up on the history of discrimination against the Irish immigrants or eastern europeans for example. It is a mistake to identify “whites” with american and a history of power wanting to be accepted by the “whites” .. rather you should refer to a specific kind of caucasian… predominantly of English backgrounds. Maybe a more appropriate label would be the “anglo saxan privilege”. Yes, in history the majority were white but people in the minority were also white. This implies that whiteness did not imply privilage… but rather cultural background and a specific kind of Caucasian. Looking at all whites and putting them in the same catagory of “privilage” is like saying all asians have equal power and plight. Having traveled a lot of asia.. thats definitely not the case. My point being that using the term “whites” seems to commit the same offence that the orriginal article was complaining about when people judged her for her asianness.

  177. Diana Xu October 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Reply

    Hi Connie,

    I am the publicity chair of Michigan State University’ Asian Pacific American Student Organization. May we link this blog post in our next newsletter? If you would to contribute anything to the newsletter, please let us know as well!!

    This was such a great blog post and really gave us some awesome discussion ideas for our next event!

    Thanks,
    Diana

  178. Val October 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Reply

    Thanks for writing this. I was so irritated that both of my sons were assumed to be foreign exchange students, by both students and teachers, for a long time after they started high school. Even teachers that knew they were not treated them oddly at times. There were a couple other Asian students that experienced the same issues. I saw one comment from a Mom saying she was going to forward this to her child’s school and advisor. I may do the same.

  179. Alexis October 18, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Reply

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. :)

  180. kimberly powell October 18, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Reply

    Enjoyed your article. My daughters are in elementary school and have both asked me about their race – are they black or white. When I explain to them neither, they have asked me whose side they would be on. They are left out of the history in the books and are trying to see where they fit in the picture. We were talking about getting the right to vote and I had to google it – Asians were the last to get the right to vote! They have another layer being adopted so I am sure it will make things more complicated for them. Thank you for your insight.

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  182. Jean Fong October 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Reply

    It is very easy to get lost when u carry two or more cultures. But it is also gonna be a plus, because you will learn all the best from all the culture!

  183. Shelly October 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    Reply

    Excellent article. Especially the line, “I’m tired of taxi drivers asking where I’m “originally” from. If we’re being truly honest here, a white or black person may say they’re from Chicago and that’s the end of that, but I always get the followup question… “but where are your people from?”

    I had a similar situation just last weekend. A guy approached me at a bar: “Where are you from?” Me: “Los Angeles”, Him: “*laugh* No, where are you *really* from?”, Me: “I was born and raised in Southern California.” Him: “What’s your name?” Me: “Shelly”, Him: “No, what’s your *real* name?” It took all of my might not to pour my entire cocktail over his ignorant head.

    Anyways, thank you so much!

  184. B October 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Reply

    It’s awesome know that I wasn’t alone in this–growing up in Ohio, being placed in ESL because I was quiet and so unbearably not white, not fitting in when you’re visiting your “homeland.” It’s a strange way to grow up, but I’m happy reading this and feeling like someone else (besides my sister) can relate.

    Sometimes I still feel pretty trapped, but thanks for the read, Connie.

  185. Vikram Singh October 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Reply

    Very Interesting to see your perspective. I really enjoyed reading your article because I was able to draw a lot of parallels between your experiences and my own as an American born “Indian”. My parents are from India but I definitely identify myself as an American as it was my place of birth and upbringing. Most Sikhs aren’t too fond of the Indian Government anyways. But I saw you mention a lot of similar values that I learned from Indian and Punjabi culture and I thought that was interesting.

    Continue reflecting and sharing, I hope you have a wonderful journey!

  186. Kitty October 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Reply

    OK after reading through almost all the comments……I must say I’m quite lucky……Although I do question about which culture group I really belong to, but I never have a problem with defining myself as Chinese or Canadian (I’m in Canada btw)……If people ask where I’m from, I never get offended…..I’m from China, and I’m always from China, hehehe~ I guess that’s because I wasn’t born in Canada. But I do feel some of the concerns you raised, since people also like to categorize me as a typical smart and hard-working Chinese student who should ace Math and Sciences and think that studying Philosophy is weird or something……No, I really wanna say you guys shut the f**k up please and thank you……lol~ Interestingly many of these comments come from my Chinese friends……/_\ So sad……

    Anyway, I can see you have grown into a very talented and pretty woman! Happy for you :D

  187. Lilian October 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Reply

    THIS IS AWESOME!! When I read through your article, my mouth dropped open because I couldn’t stop making connections to my own life. I shared this article with friends, and they were amazed at how your descriptions paralleled their lives. You’ve got a great writing style and I definitely look forward to any future blog posts! Stay awesome.

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  189. Farhan October 18, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Reply

    WOW, Very Impressed! Most Asians I meet I just don’t feel get it, you really get it! “You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white” YUP YUP

  190. spider October 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Reply

    CONNIE!!!!! I really lover this so much say cool yeah man

  191. Raizel October 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Reply

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It was interesting to get a glimpse of this kind of thinking in, I suppose, a search for an “identity” in an area where the population is less Asian-dense (like Ohio, or New Hampshire).

    Growing up in the Los Angeles area, it’s a pretty big melting pot. The schools were such a mix of ethnic cultures, and I guess the whole Asian culture thing was pretty accepted. I guess that happens when you have huge populations of Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese around. Perhaps there are questions asked on things like “why does such-and-such culture” do this? But really, there is little in the way of racism or segregation in the area. Maybe with our parents generation, there’s a thinking of “us VS them.” But among my peers, I get the feeling that there’s a more global identity to culture, and an excitement to discovering new cultures, their foods, and their people.

    Maybe some Asians try to meld in to a more “white culture,” but conversely, I see Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites culturalizing themselves in a more Asian fashion; here in southern California.

  192. stacey October 18, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Reply

    That when some people speak slowly to you, it’s not because they’re trying to be *articulate*, but it’s because they think you don’t understand English.

    SIGH* i hope you know what articulate means because it is totally used incorrectly. I truly feel sad for the author.

    • Connie Zhou October 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm

      Reply

      Hi Stacey,

      I kind of stopped replying to comments since there way too many, but I just wanted to say that you don’t have to feel sad for me because I know what articulate means, used it in the right context, and meant what I said.

      Taken straight out of Webster’s: “to say or pronounce (something, such as a word) in a way that can be clearly heard and understood.”

      Just wanted to remind you that a word has multiple meanings; we truly speak a complicated language.

      Thanks for reading my post though – never stop questioning things!

      • Connie Zhou October 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm

        Reply

        “since there were* way too many”

        typos man! I hate them.

    • fiona October 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm

      Reply

      noooo homie she meant articulate as an adjective (pronounced articul-ET) as opposed to a verb (articul-ATE) so yeah it’s used completely correctly. oh, the irony. no need to be condescending.

  193. Steve Kho October 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Reply

    Thank you for writing this, it was a very good read and hit home. While I agree and disagree with different parts of your essay (no 2 people agree on everything after all), it’s good to see that there are others out there with similar life experiences. I imagine we will begin to influence much of what you describe for the better as our numbers grow. We just happen to be part of the fortunate/unfortunate group that has to do the building.

    PS – I had the same first day of kindergarten.

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  195. Christina October 18, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Reply

    Thank you for your insightful words. It completely sums up everything I’ve been feeling and everything I’ve found difficult to articulate to people. It’s good to know we’re not alone.

  196. Isabelle Lee October 19, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Reply

    Beautifully written. I’m sure many can identify with this piece.

  197. Steven October 19, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Reply

    Excellent article. I am a 25 year old black American and I identified with soo much of what you wrote. Very enlightening.

  198. Denver October 19, 2013 at 3:10 am

    Reply

    I’m biracial (multiracial actually, but thanks to America only two (black & white) really ‘count’).

    Thank you for writing this and sharing your story. I often times feel that biracial people get overlooked as a minority in a similar manner. Granted, we fall under the same blanket of racism that African-Americans face by default — but biracial minorities have their own unique set of experiences that people tend to disregard.

    I don’t have really anything else to say, except for that your story touched me. Thanks again.

  199. Blain October 19, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Reply

    This article and every one I’ve read like it screams “this is who I am, if you don’t like me you’re racist”.

    Believe what you want, act how you want (lawfully of course) and be who you feel comfortable being. Then surround yourself with like minded people regardless of the colour of their skin.

    If I don’t like the taste of oranges, why do you feel you have the right to change things the way you want and make everyone like oranges. It’s just silly.

    I accept other cultures, enjoy experiencing parts of most of them. You chose your path in life, as did I. Nobody is controlling our limbs and that’s how it should be.

    On another note: does anyone REALLY give much of a shit about their countries history?

  200. Jenn October 19, 2013 at 3:31 am

    Reply

    Im half korean and half white….born and raised in California…one time a korean lady asked me if I feel more korean or more white…I said I feel human. Thank you for asking. Haha. My mother thinks im too disrespectful to be fully korean and all my friends who are white, black, etc consider me to be just asian. I can take a joke but the asian jokes get old quick. So I make racist jokes right back at them. Mine usually gets them to shut up. Haha. Yay for me! But the jokes get really annoying. I really enjoyed reading this. Its a topic that ive been thinking about for a long time. Thank you for sharing. :)

  201. Akemi October 19, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Reply

    This piece really spoke to me. I get so tired of the follow up questions that would not apply to others, I just answer that I am American rather than Chinese, because I know they really just want to know what brand of Asian I am. My realizing that I’m not white story occurred when I was in the 5th grade. My science teacher was doing a class census and asked all the white kids to stand up. I stood up with them because I assumed my skin color was light, so I was white. My teacher said, “No Julia, you sit down.” And I sat down in my seat, not really sure why I had to sit down while basically the entire class was standing up. That was my moment of why am I different from everybody else? I guess that is when some of my naivety went out the window. The world wasn’t just black and white.

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  203. Vi October 19, 2013 at 4:15 am

    Reply

    Connie, I am so glad that one of my friends sent me a link to this post. I can assure you that you are not alone in your experiences. I actually did not remember or realize how discriminatory a similar ESL situation that happened to me in middle school. I was marked to be enrolled in an ESL class in the 8th grade despite being a top English student from years K-7…

    And when I went to Asia on a study abroad this summer (my first time being in Asia) one of my white friends once made a comment saying that she was sick of seeing Asians everywhere but that I didn’t count :/ How was I supposed to feel about that? I honestly did not know in that moment.

    Have you heard of the Asian American Identity Development Model? Your experiences seem to fit those phases exactly, whereas when I tried to place myself in the theory I had trouble distinguishing where the lines could be drawn

  204. Alia Jones October 19, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Reply

    Connie! I somehow stumbled upon this article via my good friend Emily Liebau, she knows you through Wenxin Yang. Anyways, to keep it short, I absolutely loved this. I’m adopted from China so I couldn’t 100% relate, but I related enough to know where you’re mostly coming from. Keep up the good work and I hope you’re having fun at OSU!

  205. Kim Buff October 19, 2013 at 4:45 am

    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this great information. I am the mother of three wonderful children adopted from Korea which throws a whole other spin on things. I myself half learned so much being their mother and also how (sorry) ignorant people can be. For instance whenever one of my kids receives an award or acknowledgement for an academic achievement I sometimes hear a comment implying it’s because they are “Asian”. While I am proud of their heritage and want them to be as well, it really has nothing to do with their heritage. It has more to do with the fact that they worked their fannies off, studied hard and tried their best.

    It has amazed me how broad this ignorance spans. Such as when my kids were younger one of their classmates saying something about them being Chinese. When they were finished I said, “Well, actually he is Korean”. Her response was something like, “Whatever, it doesn’t matter which one.” All the way to a “professional” telling me some of the minor “speech concerns” mild child was having were probably because English was his “second language”. Mind you this was shortly after discussing that he was 4 MONTHS OLD when he came home.

    Again, I appreciate you sharing these important thoughts. It is sometimes difficult as an adoptive parent to know how to approach or support things for my children. I think it is very helpful for them to be able to see articles such as this to know that maybe some of the same feelings they may have are not unusual and they are not alone. Thanks again and I wish you the very best!!

  206. Kiri October 19, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Reply

    In my junior year of high school, my English teacher told the class that there was a surprising amount of low scores on our essays, and that she assumed that it was because most of us spoke English as a second language. Everyone in the class that did speak another language, was born in the United States and could speak English just as well an anyone else. This angered us all and made us dislike her as a teacher even more than we already did. Another day in class, we were having a discussion, and my teacher asked, “Why do “all of you” sit by each other?” And by “all of you”, she meant the Asians and Hispanics. What I don’t understand is how she failed to realize that all of the white students also sat next to each other in class. Our class was fully divided by race, yet she only questioned us, the minorities. The rest of the class then started to ask us why we didn’t have any white friends. The question could easily be reversed and we could’ve asked them why they didn’t have any non-white friends.This was one of my most upsetting moments in high school and I am glad to be over with that class. I really don’t understand what’s wrong for minorities to hang out in groups and why we’re always given “the look” when we do, but when it’s a group of white people, it’s normal.

  207. Theresa October 19, 2013 at 5:48 am

    Reply

    I emailed this article to my mother, who moved to the states from Seoul when she was five. She’s apparently not familiar with the practice of internet commenting, but she said that, although you’re probably “a good thirty years younger” than her, she completely relates. Particularly to your story about visiting China describes how she felt when she went back to Korea at 17.

    “I remember being shocked that even strangers just walking down the street knew immediately that YS and I were from America even though we were wearing borrowed Korean clothes and we weren’t speaking English. At one point, we were sitting silently in a taxi in a traffic jam, and some guy in the car next to us asked Abba whether this was the first time that the children (us) had visited Seoul. It was as though we had “American” tattooed on our foreheads. I felt completely betrayed by Umma/Abba who for 12 years had told me that I was different from Americans and it was okay to be different and indeed necessary to be different from Americans because I was Korean – suddenly I knew that I wasn’t even Korean. I was an alien in both places. Needless to say, it did not put me in a happy frame of mind for the rest of the visit or for the rest of high school, for that matter. I think that’s one of the reasons I went to Italy in college and loved being in Italy. Here was a place where I was an alien because I truly was an alien; I had no reason to resent the country for failing to recognize me as one of its own, so I felt liberated.”

    As for me, as a wasian hybrid, I usually get asked “where are your parents originally from?” rather than “where are you really from?” since I’m quite obviously white-but-not-entirely. My family acts very American, culturally, except that nobody ever wears shoes in the house. I always sort of wished that I was more in-touch with my Korean side, but sometimes that makes me feel almost like a white girl who is culturally appropriating some aspects of Koreanness because she wants to “play Asian.” It’s a weird middle-ground, and it’s very different from yours, but I can still understand the general weirdness of living in ambiguity.

    I didn’t realize I wasn’t white until high school, when I realized that no matter how much I dieted and exercised, I’d never lose the round Korean face. My next moment came when I moved to the midwest for college. I swear, the next creep who comes to me with his Asian fetish is getting a handful of kimchi where the sun don’t shine.

  208. Yunzhou Wei October 19, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Reply

    Aa a first generation immigrant from China and father of two, I always wonder how my girls will grow up in such situation. Very nice article and enjoyed reading it.

  209. HD October 19, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Reply

    You should travel to California and visit the UC’s campuses esp. UC Berkeley. This should make you feel better. However, everyone does travel in packs, specialized packs to be more precise. There is a distinction between Asian-Americans and Asians because AAs are not minority, only Asians are (international and recent immigrants). You will see why and where the stereotypes come from by visiting cities like SF, LA, SJ, and Oakland.

    • Meera October 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Reply

      I live in the Bay Area, and despite the concentrated population of Asians and Indians, racism towards them is still just as relevant and present. Daily I’m affected by racism and racist people.
      Visit UC Berkeley even I guarantee you you’ll find Asian-Americans making fun of FOBs the same way Connie did. You’ll find the white minority on the campus spewing racist bs towards the majority. And go out into the cities in the Bay Area you’ll find Asian American racism EVERYWHERE.

  210. Doing my best! October 19, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Reply

    So hard to be Asian

  211. Dsizzle October 19, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Reply

    This article made me think of my childhood, growing up in the U.S. and the shit I went through. Great writing. Keep up the good work!

  212. shanchinrock October 19, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Reply

    The race issue in America is that people define the meaning of an American to be a white person. That people in other countries and certain people in America associate America with the European look and hold them above other races in America. This is why on any media the majority of people are white disproportionate to their actual ratio. In addition they have higher hiring rates. People think the public expect to see white people because that’s a typical American.

  213. Edna October 19, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Reply

    Oh yeah, I’ve definitely been there. So much of this relates (even the little details — I’m also a Zhou, born in Ohio!).

    Thanks for writing this — I did a post myself on facing racism while traveling abroad — http://expatedna.com/2012/05/11/encountering-racism-abroad-or-why-i-sometimes-wish-i-was-white/ — and I’ll definitely send folks to your post as well; power in numbers! Thanks again.

    • Connie Zhou October 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

      Reply

      Girl, I totally relate with you. That part about the voice-over was heartbreaking. It’s interesting that as the world is becoming smaller (thanks to globalization) we still struggle with accepting one another. I would like to think that one day America can become the shining beacon of hope for racial equality, setting an example for other countries as well, but then again our failure of foreign policies may speak otherwise haha

  214. Michael Richter October 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Reply

    I call it the American Cultural Dialectic. Like the kolatchkiy one finds at Panaderia Central under the California El stop, something quite distinct for either of the cultural traditions that produced it. Which result I rate a positive, however un-positive the process.

  215. David October 19, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Reply

    I commented a while back, but I thought I’d leave another tidbit of information that came up when my friend brought up this article:

    For anyone really, it talks about racial reconciliation beyond black&white. In this case, however, it’s looking specifically at the Evangelical Church (relevant because a lot of Asian American Christians are part of this denomination. Especially in light of the knowledge that the Evangelical Covenant Church boasts the deepest focus on “diversity” in their church).

    I guess what I am introducing is another layer to the Asian American experience, the Asian American Christian experience.
    http://nextgenerasianchurch.com/2013/10/13/an-open-letter-to-the-evangelical-church-from-the-asian-american-community/

  216. Rache October 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Reply

    It’s amazing how many people can relate to this. The funny thing is, growing up, many of us didn’t realize others were experiencing the exact same thing.

  217. speakingthetruth October 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Reply

    “I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shattering moment in our childhood when we realize we’re not white.”
    “You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.”

    Like many others, I take it the 3rd way: Never for a second have I thought myself as “white”. I was raised in the United States since I was age 1 and now in my low 20’s and never for a minute or a second in my life have I thought of myself as “white”. I am ethnically Chinese and PROUD but nationally I consider myself American. Racial confusion have never crossed my mind, but I do know many racially confused white people. Some think they are Native Americans, some think they are Latinos, some even think they are black (African).

    But I think I can sort of understand where you are coming from, since you were raised and born Ohio, where demographically, Asians represents a small ethnic percentage compared to European-Americans or “white” which makes up the majority. It would be like raising a kitten with a bunch of little dog pups. The kitten (you) will grow up thinking it is a dog (white). I think that is your case, though, not all Americans of Asian descent raised in predominantly European-American habitats become confused racially and thinks they are white. However, your case is not uncommon.

    But please, I would really appreciate it if you did not try to represent ALL Asian-Americans like this because you are in the minority here.

    • Connie Zhou October 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

      Reply

      Hi, Thanks for your response!

      I didn’t say that I’m trying to represent all Asian-Americans – I only said I HOPE I can speak for MOST. I actually grew up in a pretty diverse area – around Chicago, not Ohio. I wouldn’t say what I went through is in the minority. If anything Asian-Americans generally occupy a small population in the US, unless you live in California or in Chinatown. Judging by the response that I’ve been getting there are many many people who are going through/went through what I did. It’s a very common experience and there’s nothing wrong with feeling confused.

      But the whole premise of my post was acceptance not confusion.

      I also did say that I am proud of my heritage.

      The whole moment when I realized I wasn’t white was when I was very very young… elementary school young. The response to it however took up a huge chunk of my adolescence. I think that’s what you are trying to pick at. I believe your whole argument is pointing to a very short time so it isn’t necessarily something to be focusing on.

      Obviously this is not a research journal so everything I spoke about is based on experience and conversations I’ve had with people throughout my life.

      I think you actually fall in the first category – you are proud that you’re Chinese-American and you like the fact that you’re not white. Keep being proud of who you are.

  218. hugh richards October 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    Reply

    You’re not aware of the tribulations of others and then you use your negligence as the grounds of your angst. Why don’t Europeans get bashed on and told to go home? THEY DO. You think that Latin Americans don’t feel underrepresented in the middle-school history books? THEY DO.

    This whole post would be much more compelling if it had nothing to do with being Asian-American, and rather just a minority.

  219. Larry Lin October 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Reply

    Solid post! I totally relate. I also just read your About Me, and I see that you’ve done stuff with Cru! I’m on part-time staff with them, and it’s exciting for me to see Cru people having these dialogues.

    • Connie Zhou October 19, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Reply

      That’s awesome! Yay Cru! I was actually on summer project working with the PSW region. Opened my eyes to all the hard work that staff does.

  220. Emily October 19, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Reply

    This is great! I’m from Vancouver in Canada and definitely feel this as well, despite Asians somewhat being the majority here. We are a hybrid of the two. For most people, 1+1=2, but in our case we fit the 1+1=3. When you mix Asian background and western culture, they grow up to be neither asian nor american/Canadian but Asian-American, something that stands completely on its own. Thanks for this post, glad to see more awareness going on!

  221. Quincie Li October 19, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    Reply

    Connie, thanks for this really well-worded post. I’ve come to a lot of the same realizations as you lately… although I think I’m still struggling with this idea more than you are. I’ve never been embarrassed of my Chinese heritage and I’m still not, but going to a college where the majority of the students are Caucasian has been difficult (especially because it is so different from my hometown where there is a high Asian American population).

    I’m sad that people judge so quickly on outer appearance. I’m sad that racism against Asian Americans goes unnoticed in the media constantly. I’m sad that people think being a “model minority” is only a good thing. I’m sad that, even though I’m incredibly proud to be Chinese, most days I think “Life would be easier if I were white.”

    I want to share a quote with you that I came across recently:

    “We do not live in a postracial society, nor do we desire a world that is color-blind. Quite the contrary, we desire a world that fully acknowledges color and embraces differences but does not discriminate based on race or ethnicity. Stated simply, we envision a world that is not postracial but, rather, postracism.” – Randal Pinkett, author and winner of The Apprentice

    I’m not sure if we’ll ever get there, but I hope we can make people and ourselves more cognizant of these issues.

  222. Michael October 19, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Reply

    Very interesting read. I really do like the fact that you talked about how race and race relations with asian americans are not brought up so often in American schools. I study history at my university and this is the first semester where I studied how asian americans were treated during the 19th and 20th centuries, especially during WWII where the US placed over 100,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. This topic also included a biography from a woman who lived there (this book is called “Farewell to Manzanar”) Its a quick read where she describes the harsh living conditions her and her family faced there along with being discriminated against after she got out. I really did enjoy reading this and I look forward to reading more from you.

    Best Regards,
    Michael C

  223. dude October 20, 2013 at 12:55 am

    Reply

    nigga who even cares

  224. uclazingaround October 20, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Reply

    It’s very nice to see how much you’ve reflected on this topic. Unfortunately, race matters in this country more than it should (and more than we as Americans would like to admit). Thank you for writing this.

  225. Naiyacool October 20, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Reply

    hi, this is really an amazing post. i’m so glad someone has put it out there – almost every single sentence hit so close to home for me (except the being american part – i’m canadian). you’re an amazing writer! keep up the awesome work! can i reference you for a school project?

  226. Corey October 20, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Reply

    hey Connie thank you for the article i can relate to it on so many levels. i have felt the same way about my Indian heritage and in the past have felt like I was stuck between Indian and American struggling to fit in either. its good to know that i’m not alone in this experience.

  227. bbc guy October 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Reply

    Hi there,

    I’m not Asian-American (British-born-Chinese), but I think you should check out the writings by Frantz Fanon particularly Black Skin White Masks. Yes it is written in what may seem as a completely different era and what may seem as a viewpoint that does not corroborate with your own experience of race, but many of the issues he wrote are significant as they were then and the ideas, I think, are universal, although of course not wholly, for people living in the “Western” world that are not white. I enjoyed your article with some of the things you wrote, your experiences, sometimes intersecting with my own, although I do not live on your side of the world. I think there is a universality to the experience of East-Asians (the term Asian-American always confuses me, because here in the UK the term Asian defines South-Asians and East-Asians are grouped seperately: British-Chinese for example) in the Western world.

    Thanks for reading.

  228. Priya Chidambaram October 20, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Reply

    Wow, I can relate to this so much. I was not born in the states, but came here when I was five years old and have been here my whole life. I started school pretty early in India and had went to an English school, so I knew how to read, write, speak, etc. before I was here. Looking back, I realized that not only did they put me back a grade(without bothering to see what I knew), they also put me in an ESL kind of class, where I would get pulled out of regular class and have to go read with some special ed lady or something. My parents were never notified of this or anything, and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal until I grew up and looked back. I know my situation is a bit different than yours, but I still call my self Indian/Asian-American and it always made me wonder throughout middle school and high school why there was no “Asian-american history month”, and it always seemed like we were always classified as immigrants, although I technically am, my sister, who was born here wasn’t. Yet she still has to go through the same stuff I did…sigh I don’t know where I’m going with this, but I just wanted to say thank you, I’m awakened :)

  229. Franz Boas October 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Reply

    read anthropology. better yet, major in anthropology. better yet, become an anthropologist. and THEN talk about race, society, and culture.

  230. julienenebaghei October 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Reply

    Connie, thank you for writing this! I come from Indian and Iranian heritage, and yes, both of my parents immigrated to this country. Growing up, there were so many clashes with the values I was brought up and the values accepted by society. I remember the moment I actually realized “Oh, hey, y’all I’m not white” as one of those oh-my-gosh-that’s-really-my-face-in-the-mirror moments. It truly was a moment of “awakening.” Thanks for the post, I feel like I can totally relate to almost every single point you made. <3

  231. Beth October 20, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Reply

    I did already reply, but just had to mention a funny reverse aspect to all of this. I had one of those ‘is that really my face in the mirror’ moments too – as a new mom of an Asian baby, she filled my days, my mind, my everything with her little face and her needs. I remember one particular very-tired moment, catching sight of my own face in the bathroom mirror, after she’d been home with us for maybe a month or two. There was momentary confusion and shock… who was that white person and how could she really be THAT pale? Oh yeah…. I’m not Asian.

  232. xn October 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am an Asian parent (although I am not exactly the FOB type) with 2 young children who have yet to discover their ‘unwhiteness’. If you could go back in time, were there anything you wish your parents had done differently to help you with the situation? There are 3 generations living under one roof in my home, and the cultural differences are jarring.

  233. Stephanie Sheh October 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Reply

    I had a very similar experience. When I started grade school they insisted I go to ESL. My mother protested and met with the principal trying to explain that I was born in Michigan and I speak perfect English and could read etc… The principal said it was policy. At that age I had no idea what racism was and I didn’t know why my mom was so angry. I went to ESL and after 2 days, it was clear that my English was BETTER than the ESL teacher’s who was a Chinese woman fluent in both English and Mandarin, but a non-native English speaker. The ESL teacher spoke to the principal kicked me out of ESL and asked me to tutor the other Chinese kids in my class since I was bilingual in Mandarin and English.

    Now thinking back, it was so racist. I look back and there are countless number of things that have happened and ways that I was treated that were racist, but as a child I didn’t see color I had no idea what was happening when it happened. To this day as an actress, people still judge and limit me based on their assumptions of race. Thank you for this post. I love my culture and how it has taught me patience, honor, respect, forgiveness. It’s a constant balance as an Asian American to balance acceptance and generosity of my heart, with educating other people and standing up for my rights.

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  236. Megan October 20, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Reply

    This was an awesome post. I’m American Black and its good to see a broader spectrum of racial experiences being discussed…the scary part about that though, is that I think it’s going to get harder. The ugly reality is that America LOVES the concept of racial superiority (we all even internalize the superiority of Whiteness and inferiority of Blackness on some twisted sort of race-scale, where everyone else incorrectly falls in-between) but a lot of people feel that the Civil Rights movement was enough and everything was solved. I’m noticing the conversation getting shot down almost reflexively (and more aggressively) these days.

  237. Sherry Meng October 20, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Reply

    Thank you for writing this. I can’t imagine how long it would take for me to write a great post like this! I still remember the day I realized my high school counselor put me in the special-ESL class (class size of 4) just because my birth name isn’t American. It was a small town and I was the only Asian at my school. My counselor just assumed I didn’t speak English by looking at my name on the computer or something. I had to fight for not wasting a year sitting in a class I didn’t really need. Thankfully, he finally moved me into the English class which all my friends were in after a few days (which was probably the main reason I fought for..but I’m sure you get the point). It has been long since I last felt so connected to an online post on a personal level! Very well written. I enjoyed reading this piece :)

  238. Brian October 21, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Reply

    Just thank you so much for this. You pretty much put most of my thoughts and experiences into words! I am so grateful right now you have no idea.
    It hasn’t affected me as I grew up when Americans regarded me as “Asian” and not American because there were minor culture differences. BUT it hurts me so deeply when my friends from Asian countries call me “American” and neglect the fact I am Asian and am multilingual. Maybe a few of you understand this I’m not so sure. But thank you so much Connie as well as everyone who placed a relative post!

  239. Ron W October 21, 2013 at 3:41 am

    Reply

    You are a brave lady Connie, but I think as you grow older you will note more and more ‘white’ Americans seeking friendships with ‘Asian’ Americans. We are all learning from each other and befriending each other daily.

  240. pbui08 October 21, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Reply

    Thank you for writing this post. I feel like it speaks so much about me/to me. Keep up the good work!

  241. mark kett October 21, 2013 at 4:13 am

    Reply

    nice essay…we live in a white establishment so it explains your experience. so are you having trouble finding your white boy?

  242. celeste starbird October 21, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Reply

    I’m speechless with your accurate and beautiful article. I’m a white women with 2 beautiful Chinese daughters , and they were adopted as babies. I have experienced so many STUPID questions about my very academic middle school daughters IE: old ladies asking ,”Does she speak English?” What the &$#* do they think they speak? I just wanted to say thank you for laying out information that everyone should know about all minorities. Many kids like my girls really get stuck in the middle of two cultures. Your article gives me hope that we can all grow and enjoy this beautiful American salad.

  243. Christian Scott R. (@sukotsuto) October 21, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Reply

    These categorizations had always been ridiculous. Hispanics are in itself racially diverse, while Asian is too catch-all for a large, extremely diverse continent filled with different nationalities and ethnicities. This “model minority” nonsense is equally just as racial, since it means these “Asians” are “tolerable” and are always put in a spot where they’re always the example to follow, already giving an assumption that it must be black people that must be coddled in order for things to be “equal” under whitey perspective.

    Not necessarily the professor’s fault, it’s just society in general and how powerful the media influence is. And the danger with this same society and media is that no matter how bad a lie or whatever nonsense being spread about is, get it repeated a lot of times by a bunch of people and it somehow becomes truth.

  244. Andy Tsui October 21, 2013 at 6:37 am

    Reply

    That was a very nice critique of your struggle to find your self-identity. This problem is very prevalent for Asian Americans and I’ve read various articles discussing it. Though I can’t recall where exactly from, there was one article where the writer coined the term “third world child” for people like us. It makes sense, as we’re born in a new world, yet our parents bring the old world with them, thus we’re forced to create a completely different world to fit the clashing of both cultures.

    I’m glad you were able to find a balance between your Eastern and Western cultures, because so many more Asian Americans out there are still struggling to achieve this in-between.

  245. Justin October 21, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Reply

    When I was a kid I used to always wonder why we had black history month but Asians, Native Americans, and so on got swept to the side. I figured all the other months were white history months in our textbooks. I used to wonder why American history books start in Europe and not with the people who had been living there for centuries before.

    Anyway, another interesting thing is that white people who grow up in Asia have more or less the same issues. Ok, I can’t speak for the whole continent, but I have definitely seen it here in Japan. I had a day where I looked in the mirror and realized my eyes were blue. There are times when people compliment me for my ability to speak Japanese which causes me to be confused for a few seconds and then I remember that I am white. I usually counter with a sarcastic retort by complimenting their ability to speak Japanese which always gets a good laugh.

    We’re commonly stereotyped as being completely incapable of learning the local language (although they seem to think that the reverse – them learning our language – doesn’t fit the same impossibility). The reason this is particularly irritating is because other Asians (Chinese and Koreans in particular) are expected to be able to speak Japanese. What I can’t understand is that even half Japanese people are often met with surprise when they show a level of linguistic fluency (and they are Japanese citizens).

    Another friend of mine always complains about how every time she has to make a phone call, it starts out smoothly but as soon as she says her name the person on the other side suddenly changes their tone and starts speaking slower and more clearly (regardless of how long she had shown herself to be a native level speaker).

    One time I was in a movie/video game store and although I was speaking Japanese to the girl at the counter, she wouldn’t respond in kind. Instead, she wrote her responses on a post-it note and handed them to me (her English writing skill was really good in retrospect).

    The worst example was when I was pretty far out in the countryside. There was an old lady working a cash register who had the most stunned look on her face when I came to pay. She just sat there agape for a second and then eventually pointed to the number displayed on the register. Even though I spoke Japanese to her, she still just stood there stunned.

    Another thing that always bothered me is that when we are shown speaking Japanese on TV, we are always subtitled in the katakana alphabet (the one used for loan words from other languages). As if to say we’re using Japanese words, but we aren’t actually speaking it.

    I can honestly say from first-hand experience that the innate skill with math stereotype is way off. I had a great moment with one of my English students who discovered this stereotype.
    Kouhei: “Is it true that Americans think we’re all good at math?”
    Me: “That is the stereotype.”
    Kouhei: “That’s bullshit. I suck at math.”

    I went to an international university and was a math tutor (both in the tutoring center and in private/group lessons) and it was definitely an even split down the middle on where my students’ origins were.

    I looked into the stereotype a bit and found where it came from: bullshit statistics. What happened was that data taken on standardized high school test scores. Asian kids scored better than American kids. However, there is a very large oversight in the data. In some Asian countries, high school is not mandatory while in America everyone must go (at least until they reach the legal age to drop out). What this means is that on one side only people who are good at taking tests can get into high school and those who aren’t get weeded out. Simply put, the people who would bring the “average” down to where it should be aren’t taking any tests at all.

    The problem with statistics is that the numbers don’t lie, but the people who interpret them do.

    I’ve worked at a couple Japanese companies and I always ran into problems where no one took me seriously. I’ve had my input dismissed because I was either “too American” or “too Japanese” (whichever one was more convenient at the time I was being insulted). All of my advice and warnings were constantly ignored regardless of how many times I got to say “I told you so.” I have since given up on businesses and moved into the education sector where my input is a bit more appreciated (although the only subject I am allowed to teach is English).

    Finally, dating is a nightmare. I can’t speak for what the not male and/or heterosexuals go through, but it isn’t fun for me. Because of the stereotype that we are all transient (6 months to a year), many locals look at us as just a way to fly off to some other country. They think we all live in a mansion in California or a castle in Europe (I lived in my car surrounded by cornfields). It almost always happens. I am on a first date with someone and they ask the one question that always kills the mood, “When are you going back to America?” They always ask it with this really expectant look on their face which immediately turns to a drooping let-down when I respond with “I’m not. I don’t have a home to go back to.” Every girl who has asked me this question did not come back for a second date. FML. The other problem we often run in to is that we are treated as “trophy boyfriends” whose sole purpose is so that she can show off to others. People will either think that she is so cool or that she is so smart (because they will assume she speaks English) when they see her with me. Or at least that is what she tells herself. This frustrates the crap out of me. They will always give you crap about the way you speak or act and tell you how you should do it because of “what other people will think.” This is because “what other people will think” is the only reason she is dating you.

    There is some progress. Younger generations are a bit more open-minded. Well, just a little bit anyway.

    I guess the point of all of this (which turned out much longer than I originally intended) is that this sort of thing happens everywhere. The world is slowly (although way too slowly) coming to terms with the concept that all humans are humans and that the lines that connect us are more meaningful than the lines that separate us. I personally believe that the things we cannot change, such as the circumstances of our birth, don’t define us but the choices we make as individuals do (which is why I hate stereotypes so much). It is my hope that some day we won’t notice these outer differences and not see each other as anything other than another human.

    • Jaks October 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Reply

      Justin, unlikely that is how Asians behave, yet to find one, that is nothing. Not as troublesome like Anglo America. Just read all the English bashing on any online forums, mocking..along with other discrimination, inequality, issues..etc http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/12/99-grammar/

  246. bitterasianguy October 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Reply

    At least most parts of the US is slowly coming to grips with it. When society gets more and more used to the Asians in real life and in media (which we can hopefully still keep pushing), we will get there. Unfortunately this also means sticking up for ourselves, shedding our more reserved and conformist Asian way of thinking and actions, all the meanwhile keeping the parts of culture that make us who we are (food, tradition, etc.) But we really do need to fight for our right here – there is not much gained from noting the “Oh, where are you REALLY from” aspect – that’s old news. Hell, take a trip to Europe and travel outside London. Much like visiting the south and midwest in the US – very little racial diversity. Just imagine the questions you get there.

    Lastly – I’d just like to mention one other thing. And this goes for both sexes, but unfortunately one more than the other. I find it highly ironic when I meet people who claim to be super into preserving their culture, complaining about the plight of their racial disadvantage, but then they turn around and marry a non-asian. At least be honest to yourself. Vie for a more multicultural world, where all races are intermingled and intermarried. Don’t just keep pointing out the stink that your own race receives. Brown, Yellow, we’re all in this together. I absolutely hate it when that happens.

  247. Taylor October 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Reply

    My grandmother was born and raised in Hawaii. On my mother’s side alone I am Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Native American, Spanish, English, German. I’ve been questioned my entire life about my racial identity, have experienced first hand racism and yet am not considered a “person of color” or a minority by many. I resonate so strongly with the term “ignored minority”. I have dealt so often with defending my plethora of nationalities and have been experiencing especially as of late the phenomenon of being pushed aside or forgotten by the main-stream American culture. I understand that on the surface, racism in the U.S. extends only towards blacks versus whites, but I have been so hurt and confused by the rejection that my family and the Asian-American society has faced when it comes to the race issues that are still happening everyday in this country.

  248. Leonardo October 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Reply

    You should really check out how asians are treated in the UK, you think the Americans are stuck? Well, Americans are at least trying to move, the British just sits there on their pretend throne thinking they’re on top of the world when they are clearly not. Everyone is so up their own bottoms that if anyone foreign tries to tell them they are wrong on a certain matter, their opinions are discarded immediately. In fact, a simple conversation can turn into a racial insult fest. Trust me, America is way better off than the UK.

    • Connie Zhou October 21, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      Reply

      Hi Leonardo, thanks for your comment.

      I am actually living in the UK right now for a few months so I get what you mean. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to discredit that there isn’t a struggle in the USA by comparing it with the seemingly harsher struggles elsewhere. The difference between America and the UK and why I think it’s just as bad here is that America boasts its diversity and talks about how we are so racially accepting where in reality we aren’t. America is built on immigrants and racial diversity so for us to continue having racism is a step backwards.

      But I totally agree that the UK struggle with these issues. I’ve experienced a lot of racism here too.

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  251. Jaime J October 21, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Reply

    LOVE. Thanks for putting this out there.

  252. Wesley October 21, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Reply

    Thanks for this. I’ve recently gone through a bit on my own in regards to my identity as a Korean-American. I’ve realized I needed to write up what I’ve been going through as a result of this. I think many of us that are neither one nor the other feel this sort of tug and have had similar experiences in attempting to assimilate so much that we try to become white. Thank you so much for writing this.

  253. J October 21, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Reply

    “I would tell my parents to keep quiet in public in attempts to save my face and stray from being different because I was scared their accent or what they say would embarrass me. My dad caught on to this pretty quick. Before I left for college he told me, “Hey, be nice to the international students, I was one of them.” It got to the point where I was making fun of the FOBs (but of course only Asians were allowed to make fun of Asians).”

    I hope you don’t feel this way anymore. I think the worst thing that someone of an ethnic minority can do is to be ashamed of their origins. Only until you embrace your distinctions will other people respect them as well. I’m a 2nd generation Chinese in Canada and I hate it when some of my friends from the same background make fun of “fobs”. When you mock “Asian” qualities (emphasis on the quotation marks), you’re making it seem as if being Asian is something undesirable. Sure culturally you’re not 100% Chinese, but you’re not 100% western either. I think that’s what makes living in Canada and the US so interesting. It’s interesting to see the blend of cultures from 2nd generation ethic minorities. Embrace, be proud of and stand up for your cultural duality because it’s what makes you unique!

  254. Frannie Jane October 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Reply

    I see where you’re coming from where you feel that you have been treated differently because you’re asian and plenty of other people of different races have gone through the same thing. But this falls under a lot of different factors. If you act like you’re not from here you’re treated differently. People look at people of other races like Asians for example, and automatically look at them like a minority, outsider. I see what you mean from one persons aspect of it. But the bigger picture is that many people from certain countries come here to America, a lot of the times illegally, and i’m not saying you are, I’m saying this in a general sense. The part where you mention that a white boy asked you ‘How come Asians stay together?’ made me think and it made me apply that question to real life and i’ve noticed that certain races such as hispanic and Asian often stick together in towns where it’s just people of that race, and I’ve known from past experiences, being in these towns the people often don’t speak english. I find that as almost an insult. As a person who takes a lot of pride in America and everything that it stands for, as well as everything we have fought for, I feel like people who come here from other countries should conform and blend into our culture, should speak english and be useful in some way to our country rather than sticking together in different towns, speaking their own language. I feel like that if you live in America you should act American and be proud that you have the opportunity to live in a country like this. Again, I’m speaking in a general sense. So I think that when people see a person who is from a different country, in your case an Asian country, they reflect on the fact that a great deal of these people may not be able to speak english or may have a problem with it. I’m not sure how it is Ohio, but again i’m speaking generally, almost sure that it’s the same anywhere in America.

    I also think that the fact you were put in an ESL program doesn’t mean that all people who are Asian are placed in ESL classes because of the fact that they are Asian. Race may have had a thing to do with it as well as the fact that you may have been a shy kid. But I don’t think that just because that happened to you and maybe some of the people replying to this, means that it happens to everyone of a minority race.

    I’m not trying to come off as racist in any way by saying this. You spoke your opinions based on experience and I’m speaking mine based on my experiences.

    • Wesley October 22, 2013 at 12:13 am

      Reply

      I’m curious, what do you mean as a lot of immigrants are illegal? Or that often people don’t speak english? I’m also very curious as to what it is to act American? I’ve lived here for 35 years and I can honestly say I have no clue what it is to “act American.”

  255. kani October 22, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Reply

    I was just wondering if you included Indians when you say Asians? But great article nonetheless!

  256. Rick Knowles October 22, 2013 at 4:42 am

    Reply

    Well stated. An American Indian brother of mine is called an “apple” by others on the reservation. An apple is someone who is red on the outside but white on the inside. To me it’s like a black person being called an Uncle Tom.

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  258. Jeff October 22, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Reply

    While I’m sure many ABCs may share the sentiment, I’d like you to take a look at the other side and realize that considering us Asian Americans as a separate race and culture really isn’t the right way forward. As an American born in Wisconsin, I would imagine it’s a bit more “white bread/cheese head” than ohio.

    The idea that there are different “races” within America is really the underlying problem isn’t it?

    I was recently in Oklahoma. My family was probably one of under a handful of Chinese looking people in Tulsa. A family friend was throwing a bridal shower and after a few drinks, I had a few people come up to me and ask me if I was Chinese. When I replied I was American, the response was “I didn’t realize you spoke such great english”.
    I could have been angry, I could have been offended, but I’m not. We had a great conversation talking about how America is indeed a melting pot and that we were both American, and then we drank ourselves silly. Can you imagine what the impression of the individual I was talking with would have been if I had told him that I was Asian American? Going forward, I’m sure he would have thought, oh there are Asians in this country that do speak and understand “his” culture. That is exactly the wrong kind of impression one should give.

    We’re all american. When I’m in london, they hear me talk and say I’m American, when I’m in China or taiwan, they look at me and call me American. Actually, every foreign country I’ve been to has associated me with being American, not asian american. So why is it that when I’m in this country I’m labeled Asian / Asian American? Is there such an inane need to categorize oneself? Is it the grouping of familiarity that forces us to label ourselves in a rather demeaning way? Why are we even proposing that we are anything but pure American? Can we not consider that an American culture can include taking off ones shoes when entering the house? Is America no longer that melting pot of acceptance?

    No.

    I am NOT a separate “race” nor a “culture”. I *AM* what defines to be truly American.

  259. Mark October 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Reply

    This is BEAUTIFUL. Thank you for saying what needs to be said.

  260. Janelle October 23, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Reply

    I enjoyed reading your post! I went through something similar to this, except, I am half white and half asian. Growing up I noticed that both groups had their racial biases towards each other. Used to bother me that I was never quite accepted within the “Asian” or “white” community. But, with time, you learn to surround yourself with people who can look beyond race. With that said, acceptance into a group based on race is no longer an issue.

  261. Lex October 23, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Reply

    I’m so sympathetic to the gripe regarding the question “where are you from.” I’m a white American with Scandinavian looks, and was raised with no racial or national identity beyond being simply “American.” In the United States, it was mostly okay for me to answer that I’m American, or from Oregon, and to just sort of shrug if people asked for more clarification. But my experience of the question radically changed when I visited Europe… People would no longer accept American as an answer. I felt demanded to be something more, something else than I had been, something others could more closely relate to, or more easily compartmentalize… And with each asking, no matter the intent, the question grew more grating, seemed more reductive and dismissive. I assume the question is similar for you, but more persistent and inescapable than it is for me. Sorry, it must get tiresome.

    Anyway, thanks for the article!

  262. mg October 23, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Reply

    This article nailed it.

    As you get older, one of the best things you can do is seek out workplaces which are highly professional, where people care first and foremost about getting things done, and where race (for people of all colors) and other possible discrimination points just don’t matter because no one has time to think about them.

    There are definite problems with being Asian-American, eventually you can figure out which parts are just more fridge-buzz noise, and not worth the time or effort.

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  264. .devii October 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Reply

    Respect from an Asian-Australian brother

  265. Gerry St. Louis October 23, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Reply

    Though; I agree with you, Connie, for the most part, but one thing I realized through my interaction with many Asian and Hispanic people that I know is a sense of not knowing what race they really are.
    When I was in elementary school, I learned there were 4 races: Black, White, Red, and Yellow. I also was taught that Indians was red race, while Asians were yellow. However; at least 90% of Hispanics that I know, or came across tend to say that they’re white; while about the same percentage of Asians would also say they’re white. One thing I noted, for the most part; the Mexicans would say they’re brown.
    Finally, I would say, it’s important to know who we are as people; and to also know our race, creed and national origin. In my opinion, only then, we’d be respected for who we are; though, one may not like you.

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  267. Alice Zindagi Pua October 24, 2013 at 12:44 am

    Reply

    This is absolutely beautiful and you are utterly brilliant. Unfortunately, Asians are the second most bullied group in the US and a child would have to be gay to be the recipient of more bullying:

    http://www.abcsofattraction.com/blog/the-racist-bullying-crisis-why-54-of-asian-american-children-are-targeted-by-bullies/

    The problem with that is that because Asians are a “model” minority and perceived to benefit rather than suffer from their minority status, nobody wants to pay attention to the bullying, racism, and stereotypes levied against them. “But you guys are so smart and get into the good colleges, what are you worried about?” (Which, incidentally, is also why nobody is paying attention to the epidemic of educational setbacks facing the SEA community and those East Asians who do not fit the “model” minority mold.) Stereotypes hurt – period – and I am shocked that anyone in this day and age still contributes to them.

    Coincidentally, I experienced somewhat of the same thing as your childhood, but in reverse. Although I am Irish American, I was raised in a very heavily Chinese community and was integrated / borderline adopted into some of the daughterless families nearby. My mother encouraged it because this was the early 90s and China was a rising power. She thought a little cultural exposure would be good for me… and I ended up growing up into a fobby Chinese girl with a white face. The ridicule I faced for even simple things like not knowing who Justin Bieber was until earlier this year was astounding, not withstanding the things that were much worse. I laughed it off (partially because I feel that it should be applauded to not know Justin Bieber), but I know all too well what it feels like to have people try and force you into a neat little box, and for that I applaud you for speaking out.

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  269. Greg October 24, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Reply

    PREACH.

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  271. Buk Lao October 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Reply

    If y’all wanna keep it real, do not care what other people think, understand your inner self, don’t forget where you came from and stand up for yourself, I was adopted by a military man when war machines destroyed my town and our family farm land in Vietnam, which left me lost and wandering on my own. I did not expect to be going to America nor did i want to leave my hometown. I was a young kid but i had a mature mindset, When i stepped foot in America i knew i was going to be stuck here i had a strong feeling that this will be my new home i had to accept this change and never forget where i came from.

    I grew up in America in a small town in the middle of nowhere and survived on mash potatoes and steak. The military mans wife was a high school teacher so she home schooled me until i was 18, my best friend was a German Shepard. Soon after i went to college to study philosophy and Physiology then left about a year later because of all the hate and nonsense. still as of today i still get dirty look’s or a spit on the ground in front of me from racist people but i would understand what’s going through their mind, for these types of people i don’t care much i just give them the whats up head nod if they give me the dirty stare down, i see them as arrogant piece of flesh and don’t understand that they live in a colorful world plus they don’t know that i have a farm where i grow Fruits and Vegetables and most of the local restaurants and diners buy from me everyday i see the racist people eating their salads and fruits grown by a Asian person i laugh it puts a smile on my face.

  272. Mark F. October 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Reply

    You have started a much important dialog that has been missing for many of us young Asian-Americans. Thank you, so much.

  273. DJ Prontotally October 25, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Reply

    I feel America lacks alot of fundamentals even till this day that is causing alot of social problems. Which in turn led to the ignorance of the people but alot of other factors come into play here when talking about the necessary basics that America lacks e.g education, healthcare (maybe not anymore?), unemployment, the money behind politics, etc and because of all the missing building blocks the people living in it are uninformed and struggling. Therefore they only have time to see whats put in front of them e.g media. And currently in media most of the lead roles in movies/series are predominantly white so therefore even i say that the media has alot to do with it. So if there were more Asians in media it will definitely breakdown the racial stereotyping and name-calling bit by bit. Not just on screen but off screen e.g casting, script, programming, etc so as to increase the chances of Asians being featured more often in media. Just look at the African-Americans, if they can do it i believe so can we. Signs are already starting to show e.g Kpop

    p.s I’m a FOB from Singapore living in NY for 2.5years. Moved here cuz i love the Hiphop Culture. (Theres your chinese stereotype out the window)

  274. Katie Zottoli Wenta October 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Reply

    I was in college before I ever heard a word breathed about the Japanese Internment camps… and not by a professor, but by a good friend who was of Japanese heritage (and whose family had been impacted by the camps). I was incredulous. Prison camps that were constructed to house people because they were of a specific race? It couldn’t be. I felt foolish and naive. I mean, after all, all these years of schooling had pretty much established in my mind that Nazi Germany was the only one monstrous enough to utilize prison camps. Yet here I was, confronted with the fact that the grand ol’ US of A was just as guilty. At least my eyes were opened. But I felt angry about the half-truths presented to me, and still being presented to our youth.

    Your article has been informative, insightful and eye-opening. Your willingness to be so raw and real helps push the discussion farther. Thanks so much.

  275. Christina October 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Reply

    As an a Chinese-Canadian born in Southern Ontario to two Chinese parents born in Canada, I can definitely relate to this. Never took the effort to fully immerse myself in the Chinese culture to the extent you did, but had much of the same realizations.

    When I’m walking down the street or on the bus, I’m not focused on my heritage, ethnicity or background until some else says “ni hao.” First of all, I dont speak mandarin; I’m cantonese. Second, I can’t speak Chinese. I speak English and French. But when someone says “ni hao,” the conversation has become about race.

    I don’t feel badly or insulted by people who ask where I “originally” come from because in Southern Ontario where I live, we’re generally curious and friendly. All it has done is made me feel more self-aware of the fact that I’m not white. But my attitudes, mannerisms and behaviours are Canadian/North American and this perceived cultural dissonance confuses people.

  276. Beth October 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Reply

    I keep coming back to this blog entry, because it’s resonating more and more with me. I’m Caucasian and my two daughters are Asian. I’m watching the older one apply to colleges now, and find that she keeps coming up against programs designed for minorities that exclude her as an Asian. I understand that these programs are designed to attract minority groups that are typically under-represented on college campuses – and that traditionally, Asians would not be considered under-represented. Yet, we rarely find a college campus on the East Coast with an Asian population higher than about 10 – 13% (there are exceptions). I find it grating that my daughter is most definitely treated like a minority but then not encouraged to apply to these programs aimed at other non-white students.

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  278. McD October 26, 2013 at 3:21 am

    Reply

    Thank you for summing up my struggles to find a place I can call ‘home’. Like you, I am American born, but after 24 years of feeling out of place in the US, I moved to China 2 years ago. Hell of a transition, but I can’t say this place feels any more foreign than my birth-country.

  279. Mina October 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Reply

    Wow, thank you for writing this well written, accurate portrayal of all 1.5-2nd Generation Asian Americans.

    Thanks again!
    Mina

  280. Michaela October 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Reply

    I love everything you wrote. I’m just confused about my own heritage and identity. I’m half Filipina and half Caucasian. My mom is Filipina, and was born in Chicago after her parents moved there. She never learned Tagalog, and neither did I or any of my siblings. My dad was born in Oregon. I was born in North Carolina.
    I may be smart and studious, but I don’t feel like the person people stereotype me to be. I’m always asked where I’m from. I say North Carolina. If they specify ethnicity, I’ll say I’m half Filipina. However, my family isn’t super intimate, we walk around the house with our shoes on, and my mom doesn’t always cook Asian meals. So do I even have any heritage? I hate that I feel pressured to be smart and get perfect grades because of how people stereotype me. Maybe I’m pushing myself to be that “smart Asian” because of how people around me think. I don’t even know what to think anymore.

  281. Angie October 26, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Reply

    I have faced a similar type of oppression as a “halfie”. In high school, my friends were half Korean and half white like myself. As I aged, I realized that this was because I was not white enough to be accepted by the white community and not Korean enough to be accepted by the Korean community. I always wondered when I might be accepted as an American which is who I am.

  282. Andreas October 26, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Reply

    This is a pretty provocative piece and I completely disagree with your ideas. Just before I start, I want to say that I too am part of a minority and am not “white” (a term which by the way expresses the same feelings you’re complaining about in this piece). It doesn’t really sound like you’re suffering from any racial injustices.

    The scenarios you describe do not paint a picture of any sort of inequality or prejudice. What you’re experiencing is a perfectly natural phenomenon where humans prefer people of their culture and race. People exhibit this kind of behavior because they can relate to their own culture and find other cultures strange and new, they are not putting their culture above yours. This is comparable to not liking some genre of music or some food upon the first time you experience it. You will always experience these things the first time with caution and suspicion rather than acceptance and enjoyment. People are the same way, as long as you identify and participate in a culture that differs from someone else there is going to be these sorts of feelings. Ultimately you’re asking too much of society, you’re asking to change some sort of basic human instinct. To say that you are legitimately racially hurt is nonsense.

  283. Jason October 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Reply

    Thanks for writing this!

    I had the same kind of realization that race relations was often thought of as a black and white issue. When people talk about underrepresented groups like fewer female CEOs or fewer black lead actors or actresses I think “…..yes. That’s very true. We need to work on that. But don’t forget, when the hell was the last time you saw a Middle Eastern lead? Who wasn’t stereotyped for his roots? When was the last time you saw an Asian love interest who wasn’t ‘exotic?’ Maybe even a male Asian or South Asian or even Arabic love interest? Don’t forget that we need to work on these issues too”

    You’re right, we shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as “FOBs” who are un-American or “white-washed” 3+ generationals or rushed along towards one side or the other. There’s plenty of room for people of each group to be accepted as they are.

  284. Max Sleigh-Parrott October 27, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Reply

    Just finished reading this. Sick article. I’m only a quarter Chinese and I’ve grown up in the UK, but I still understand where you’re coming from as there have been points growing up where I have felt like I didn’t fit in completely; to Chinese kids I was still “guai lo” and to some white kids I was not quite fully white and would get the occasional comment about that. Anyways, since getting in touch with my Chinese roots and learning Canto (where my roots are from) and Mandarin I’ve felt a lot more complete. Your comment “you’re not white nor are you solely Asian, you’re Asian-American” is really interesting and shows an acceptance of who you are, instead of trying to fit into certain categories and make everything black and white, excuse the pun. Anyways, thanks for the article, keep on writing. Max, 梁悦信

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  286. Annie Ngo October 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Reply

    Great article. I could totally relate, seeing as I was put in ESL in 2nd grade (native born in San Diego, perfect English). They didn’t figure it out until two months later when I was acting out due to boredom since I was finishing the work without any trouble. Wishing I was white happened around 6th grade when I truly felt stuck between worlds. So thank you for eloquently describing a phenomenon that Asian Americans experience / can relate to. When I try to describe this same story to others I get incredulous looks, that I shouldn’t be “complaining” since we Asians have it so great (supposedly).

  287. Yelimi October 29, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Reply

    This is a great essay. My family and I are all Asian immigrants, specifically from Korea. I know my parents have a hard time with American life sometimes, and I sometimes feel like I’m rejecting my own culture and heritage. I know I’m not white – I’ve always realized that, though I think I try to pretend I am sometimes. I go to a school where there are a lot of Asians, and we’re seen as the “smart people.” I openly acknowledge that I am not as smart as people think I am, though I play up on the stereotype when it suits me. Not sure if I’m taking it the right way, but I’m pretty happy with it.

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  289. Amy Jacobe November 2, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Reply

    The shock is the moment your friends say something stupid like why don’t you act more Asian and speak Chinese or Tagalog and I say for the same reason you don’t speak German, Polish or wherever your family was originally from and act more like that as well. Then they understand.

    Another annoyance is the assumption I know every Asian on this planet and my reply is so do you know (made up name). He’s white. Then they understand.

    One last annoyance are comments that I am so white washed. Really?? How logical is that? There are whites living in Europe, South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I don’t act like all those whites. The truth of the matter is culturally, I am so American and demographically soooo Californian. I am Asian American, but now I hear Filipinos are being recategorized as Pacific Islanders so maybe I am Pacific Islander American. Regardless, I am American. Most whites don’t understand that. Doesn’t matter. I understand that and I decided people will define me anyway they want, but I know who I am. I am a Christian and a child of God. To me that is more important than being Asian American or is that Pacific Islander American? That always changes, but being a child of God never changes.

  290. Louis November 11, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Reply

    Story of my life!

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  292. Jenny November 19, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Reply

    As an Asian American mom ( one of those international students like your parents), I am so proud of you. An excellent treatise on the Asian American Race. Years ago, I told my friends and colleagues, that we are really caught in between, rejected by both societies to some extent. Great job, Connie. I wish you success in doing everything that you are passionate about! Again, very very proud of you!

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  294. Pedro Arroyo November 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Reply

    Hi! I just read this and identified on two totally different levels.

    First, I’m from Puerto Rico, which makes me a minority (Hispanic). Although English is my first language, as I have lived in the states before, when I recently moved here (Ohio), people are “amazed” at how well I speak English, and that I don’t have an accent. People are constantly asking me the same stereotypical questions, about what we have in Puerto Rico, where did I learn English, and the usual “I want to go to Puerto Rico! It seems so lovely”. However, I’m also on the “white” level, as I’ve met many Asian students where I live now (and frankly, there aren’t many Asians in Puerto Rico, so this is new to me). I have been the person to ask where are you originally from. And I have been the person to say that I want to visit China or Japan, and by reading this, I realize that those questions/comments may seem annoying to others as they may annoy me as well.

    One of my favorite quotes from your essay is “Yes, ethnically I’m Asian, but culturally I’m not.” I can totally identify with this. People have the misconception that ALL Puerto Ricans are drunks, party animals, have an accent, etc. I’m most CERTAINLY NOT a party animal. I hardly ever drink. They just think I’m going to be a wild salsa dancer at the party, and I can barely dance salsa. So applying this phrase, Yes, ethnically I’m Puerto Rican, but culturally, I’m not. Then, what am I culturally? I don’t consider myself as white, culturally speaking. Nor black, nor asian… What does it mean to be of a certain race ethnically but not culturally? This is a whole new level of identity discussion I have never thought about before. Now I’m confused! Just kidding.

    Thank you for this! I have some thinking and analyzing to do.

    Best wishes,
    Pedro Arroyo

  295. HereIam November 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Reply

    “You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.”

    No you don’t have to be. You can be your ownself. Acknowledging “white” and “asians” is just putting yourself in the same racist paradigm that you’re trying to fight against. Even if the outside world throws down those labels, define your world in your own terms. And if everyone of us started developing their own perspective of life rather than submitting themselves to the socially common ones, you can bet the current social problems would be no more.

    Let me tell you a little bit about me. I am no Asian, I am what the media here calls a “middle eastern” (a name that has ambiguous boundaries & meanings and an imaginary link between all that barely exists!). I was born in the UAE but my parents moved from another “middle eastern” country (they worked there for a while). During the time I stayed in this place, not even once was I referred to as a citizen. I was always referred to as a “foreigner”, with the expectation of bugging out of the country when I reach 18 – unless I get a job with an employer that is (in that case, I can only work there as long as I am an employee until I hit the retirement age and bugger off for good). Whenever I visited my parent’s country, I get treated as a foreigner as well, simply because I wasn’t born/raised there and I don’t act & speak the way they do.

    A few years later, our family moved to North America and has been living here ever since then. During then, I managed to educate myself, develop my OWN personality and outlook in life. To the extent that if I mingle with what people call “white people” I don’t feel I belong, and if I mingle with “asian”/indian/arabs/persians/etc I don’t feel I belong either. People just mingle with their supposedly “own” race due to fallacious reasons. The people I managed to make friends with came from all walks of life and from all backgrounds. Its really the personality, mentality and whats bring you in common that makes a lasting friendship.

    You think racism against “Asian-Americans” is bad? At least you’re acknowledged as a minority in the media/daily life. Society here lumps everyone from a “middle eastern” background into one category and tries its hardest to pretend we don’t exist. And heavens forbid that someone try to instigate a conversation with you based on your looks (I have a white complexion btw, but with Mediterranean facial features). They ask you where you are from and if they don’t receive a “convincing” answer, the question morphs to “But where are your parents from?” & “Where are they ORIGINALLY from?”. Yeah, I dunno. Outer space? Then queue in the questions and assumptions that get fired at you when they realize you have a
    “connection” to that part of the world. It ranges from verbal abuse such as “Why do you bomb people?” “You are terrorists!” “You treat women badly!” “You religion is !#$@^” etc etc to fear and trying to stay away and finally, “the exotic experience!”, where they want to “try you out” because you’re “different”.

    That’s only one face of the coin. The other face of racism came from “middle eastern” people from different nationalities. Like Iranians, Indians, Turks and Lebanese inquiring where “I am originally from”. Then of course, losing interest completely when they figure you’re not “one of their own”.

    Mankind is just one huge mess that needs to be fixed. At the end of the day, we were just a sperm and ovum that was conceived in our mummy’s tummy, then we got into this lonely planet drifting in space with no similar existences of intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms and then we’ll die someday and return to ashes and bones. And yet all we can think of is how different is the color of the pigment on our skin and how “different” we are (as if!).

  296. Web December 8, 2013 at 5:20 am

    Reply

    Hi Connie. I live in California so the not being an American thing doesn’t hurt me as much. I have my US passport and my US citizenship so I am an American no matter what others say. If people are too stupid or ignorant about American being a nationality and not a race or ethnicity, I couldn’t care less. However, I’d like to mention that as a Vietnamese-American living in an Asian dominant area isn’t a piece of cake either. It’s not always roses and rainbows. Sometimes it hurts more when you try to get in tune with your Asian side and get rejected at almost every instant. You can’t speak the language? You’re too whitewashed and a failure. They never consider that you were never formally educated in Vietnamese and that you were raised in the US. You have a horrible accent when you try to speak it? They mock and laugh. They don’t consider that you’re trying to learn the language to the best of your abilities and you never mock their accent even though it’s 10 times worse. You go to any Vietnamese owned business and old people will start talking behind your back and assume you don’t understand what they’re saying. My god, the hundreds of mean things that I’ve heard. Luckily for me, I know the language quite well and I’ve been speaking both Vietnamese and English since birth so I don’t have a foreign accent in either languages. So it’s not much of a problem for me. Still, since I don’t look full blooded, and people assume I’m “one of those white-washed, overly Americanized, culture-less people who forgot where they came from ” it stings.

    Also, I despise the model minority stereotype. They refuse to discriminate between an immigrant ( one who chooses to move to another country because of his or her own whim) versus a refugee ( one who has no choice to move since it is either life or death for them). Also, the model minority stereotypes trivializes all the problems that us second generation children of refugees have to face. You’re only smart because you’re Asian the outside world says. You have any sort of problem, you’re not a refugee and haven’t faced the hardships of the previous generations so your problems are not important ( I was in prison, I had to go on a boat, I had nothing etc….). It leads to a constant cycle of craziness. I had several bouts of depression about this and well, you know the Asian community doesn’t take kindly to the words “mental-illness”. Yup, that was my identity crisis.

  297. Connie December 8, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Reply

    Late comment, but I’ve read your article before, Connie.

    I agree with what you wrote, but I think I was lucky enough to have grown up in a heavily concentrated area of Asians and Asian-Americans that I never had that moment where I found out I wasn’t white.

    I also took a sociology class in college where my professor acknowledged the lack of social data on Asians. He explained that the methods to gather such data for Asians are a mess compared to the other minorities, and the incredibly wealthy Asians are lumped in with the struggling-to-live Asians. He also said that based on some census, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a lot of Asians live in low-income neighborhoods. I just wish more people could realize that Asians are neglected and truly a forgotten minority.

    Also, I have had the same experience with the “where are you from?” questions. I was working at a shop, and I had a Middle Eastern (not white!) customer come in and make small talk while my boss was packing up the customer’s purchases. He asked, “Where are you from?” “Here,” I said. Then he has the nerve to say, “No, really, where were you born?” At this point, I was getting incredibly irritated and kind of hissed, “I was born here.” And he looked surprised. Like all the other experiences people had, he then started talking about China and his affinity for it after he finally got it out of me that that was where my parents had come from.

    Anyway, I just kind of needed to let that out. Good luck in your future, Connie, and take care! Also, you have a great name! ;)