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.