I’m not really a “true” American because I look very different from what someone would expect an American would look like. Well, so I am told and so I believed for a good portion of my life. I don’t have the “white” skin because it’s “yellow”… supposedly, and my eyes and customs are different. But that’s enough to deem me as foreign.
My first language
…is Vietnamese. And naturally, when I had to change over to English, I had a bit of an accent. I was barely in pre-K and I already had people confused as to how the little girl couldn’t figure out English. So it was obvious she was not from America. So they laughed and acted interested just to hear what other funny things the little girl would say.
For the other kids, it was just funny because we don’t take account to what race one another happen to be, they just talked funny. But the adults who giggled when I spoke had known how condescending it was to do so back then; now I know what it meant.
Vietnamese is a language brought to America, just as English was. Just as every different language we’ve melded into the soil. English is not the only language spoken; and to expect everyone in the world to accommodate him or herself to our way is just not ideal. If so, we degrade the beauty of the other languages, cutting it off just for the rise of one language. And although it would be nice to have one set way to speak, diversity would be diminished and we then cannot appreciate one another's uniqueness. Yet, other countries have started learning our ways, shouldn’t we grant them the same courtesy?
I wasn’t born in Connecticut…
“Oh, so are you from China? Japan? Korea?” Because all Asians were naturally from China or Japan, sometimes I was even confused with Korean and Philippino.
I do not end my sentences there quite often, because it always ends with, "I was born in Louisiana," I am proud to be born out of the state of where I live because it is a part of who I am today. Yes, I am Asian, but just because I was not born in a certain place in America, it does not mean you can assume I was not born in America itself. Everyone has their own story, it would be amazing if I was born out of the country, but I am not. That is just that fact of the matter.
And yes, my heritage traces back to Vietnam, a tiny bit of China and an even smaller bit from France, my person is not physically from Vietnam. If you were seriously curious as to my nationality, just simply ask rather than assume.
I am one of many, but I am not everyone.
Just because there was another Asian in the town, it was thought that I knew all of them or even better, it was “obvious” we are all the same race...
Just because I am Asian, it does not entail my culture or opinions were representative of the whole Asian or Asian American population. I am an individual as are you, that just happens to not share your particular ethnicity.
With that, I love to learn about other cultures and traditions because I have come to appreciate the unique assets that everyone holds. It is not "culture appropriation" that you need to do to understand others, but rather ask questions and research the everything we have in the world. This is why people travel and study abroad, because there is much more than what our parents and teachers have told us.
I’m not pretty. I am pretty for an Asian girl...
I was always being compared to my counterparts that seemed to be more prominent where I lived. Granted my school was more diverse in race and nationality, it was still difficult to adjust to people you could hardly relate to... appearance wise, anyways. I was one of a few Asians in my hometown in Connecticut.
At the college I attend now, there is the same amount but with even more students. This time, my “white” counterparts are more prominent. Granted the women that attend this school are gorgeous, it only heightened the sole fact that I have yet to feel beautiful here. Not from clear and concise situations but the smaller subliminal messages I received: these women were being the ones more sought after or complimented at parties and in general, couples sprinkled everywhere I went, and seeing that these women had more choices in the partners they wanted.
Now, this isn’t bitterness speaking, I recognize the preferences we all have, I am just stating what I have seen and experienced. I just want you as an audience to understand how my looks (although, should not be the only focus) are overlooked because of my ethnicity. I do not do well with compliments, admittedly, but these issues I’ve brought up are not of just my own.
Though hearing those words of "you're pretty for an Asian girl" is not a compliment. It is not flattering and does all but tell me how my ethnic looks are far inferior as compared. Why does being attractive have to be compared to the rest of the population? Can't people be amazing because they just are?
To my classmates in both high school and college, I realized how unique does not always mean good when you’re too different. As a minority, I was consistently being comparative to my “white” counterparts.
Being sexualized as a minority.
On the other side of these, the sexual harassment I’ve experienced and have had the amazement of hearing is ridiculous. I have written about sexualizing women of minorities before in brief, but it is insane how prominent this issue is.
I just would like to bring awareness that women are sexually harassed consistently by men because of the test of manhood, or whatever, but that in no way is considered right or excusable. It is much worse when I am told my Asian heritage makes me subject to sleeping with you because of our “submissive nature”.
Furthermore, telling me you "have a thing for Asians" isn't blush-worthy; it is between the lines of vomiting and curb stomping. Asians are not all the same, we share similar traits which deem us as such, but we are not a hoard of duplicates for you to clump together. So don't be mad if you tick off someone you say this to; guaranteed this girl has heard this line many times before you
And I am not the only one.
I could cry about how awful my experience has been, but I keep myself going with all the good that’s happened.
Embracing the stereotypes, my favorite food to eat is still rice and anything my mom makes, simply because she knows my stomach more than anyone I know. I love the traditional Vietnamese, long dresses because I find them extraordinary. Family is the single most important thing to me because I am taught that my cousins are my siblings, that trusting my own self with my aunt for months without my parents is a norm, that family friends are family without any question, the and list goes on.
I am more proud of who I am than ever because I have come to the realization, I don’t care if I fit in. I strive to be a good person because that is what I was taught. I made and still make mistakes today because I am human. I am an Asian American who embodies both my Vietnamese culture and the American Culture, because I love both. I have surrounded myself with friends and acquaintances of all ages, gender, and culture: diversity in every aspect because it will continue to teach me to grow as a person.
I do not consider myself a good person because I am simply doing what is decently human. Embracing differences, helping others, sharing knowledge, and keeping an open ear and heart: this is how to live, because you will live so much more with these assets.
Live how you should love: unconditionally.