Dear White People, With Love

Dear White People, With Love

How I learned to love being Asian in a white man's world.

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Dear white people,

A part of me will always envy you. A part of me has wanted to be you from the moment I understood that my mom's cooking was not the same as what my friends had in their lunch boxes. I hated opening up containers of fish, knowing the smell would bring my peers to crinkle their face, plug their noses, and voice their repulsion.

It probably began when I was about seven years old. I didn't even understand race yet. But there I was, already starting to beg my white father to do pickup, drop off, and the volunteer shifts. I was so scared my classmates would meet my mother and laugh at her accent. When I was eight, I refused to tell people my middle name. It's mandarin and translates to "field of dreams", and I loved it at first, but pretty soon, I learned to hate that too. When I was ten, I asked my mom if I could change my middle name to "Julia" and that's how I referred to myself for the whole year. I was only in the fifth grade, but all I wanted was to be you, and I worked hard to erase any sign of ethnicity that I could. I dreamed of having blue eyes and light hair and not having to worry about people pulling their eyes back when they wanted to get my attention. But even though I did my best to pretend I was like you, I knew 50% would never be enough to fool anybody.

As I grew up, I learned to appreciate the dumplings my mom would make for me, I enjoyed getting to celebrate two New Years, and I began to like how my black hair and brown eyes popped when I wore the color red. But while I was making progress, a whole new slew of reasons to envy you began. From seventh grade through my sophomore year, I just wanted to be asked to a dance. In hindsight, it seems silly. But I still desperately wanted to be seen as American and a school dance was the most American thing I could think of. Well, long story short, I was never asked. And I envied that white people never had to sit in their bed in the ninth grade and wonder if the reason no one ever asked you to the dance was because you weren't as pretty as the white girls. I thought about being uglier than white girls every day.

I also began to hate that I was Asian and smart. Again, it seems silly, but all I wanted in middle school was to be invited to a party with all of the white girls and jump in the pool and eat "normal" snacks. Well, surprise surprise, very few nonwhite people were invited to those parties. And being seen as the stereotypical smart Asian kid wasn't the way to do it. Deep down, I knew I wasn't the nerd that people thought I was, but in my head, it didn't matter. I was the one who had to circle around the amphitheater at lunch pretending to look for the group of friends that I didn't have. And I was the one who had to eat in the bathroom when I got too hungry to keep walking. So I just thought I was the problem.

And so it went. One step forward in accepting my ethnicity, and then two steps back.

Now, I'm twenty. It's just me and my mom, and Lord knows I'd punch anyone who dared make fun of her accent. I cook fish in my apartment, and I buy my own frozen dumplings from Trader Joes. I also ask my mom to make them from scratch when I'm home because Trader Joes just isn't the real thing. I have a wonderful boyfriend who thinks I'm beautiful, the greatest friends, and I'm proud to tell people that I'm a double major at USC. I'm still proud to be half white, but I no longer feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. Being seen as full Asian is no longer an insult to me. I also recognize the privilege I have as someone who is half white and is East Asian, not brown or black. I know that I do not have to face a lot of the threats and violence that other minorities do, and I have learned to be aware of that and do my best to be an ally for those who don't have the privilege that I do.

Overall, I'm proud of how far I've come, but I also recognize that I don't know if I'll ever stop envying you completely. Racism still sucks. Being ignored and getting talked over in meetings and classes sucks. Majoring in theatre and being shut out of 90% of roles because the person who originally played it looked like you and not me, sucks. White people not recognizing the privilege that they have and subconsciously or consciously adding to the problem, sucks. Forever being seen as less than you, no matter what I do, sucks. But even though my passion against racism is still blazing, my envy isn't the intense shade of green that it used to be. Now it's softer, maybe more of a pastel. Yes, sometimes I do think about how much easier life would be if I were like you. The difference is, now my envy is because I wish everyone could get the treatment that you get. It's no longer because I wish I were white because white is superior. And I'm really proud of that progress. Who knows, maybe that pastel green will never go away, but at least I'm finally happy being yellow.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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