Sometimes I Forget I Am A Minority

Sometimes I Forget I Am A Minority

But should that bother me?

The title says it all. I forget. How do I forget? I, fortunately, feel lucky enough to have never undergone much adversity when it came to my race - Asian. Specifically, however, I am Korean. "North or South?" one may ask. Without hesitation, I would answer "South" and jokingly respond that there would be a slim-to-none chance I would be standing here talking to you if I was North Korean.

I've grown up experiencing a range of demographics from moving homes throughout my lifetime. In between moving schools as well, I learned about many cultures and religions growing up. But in between dance classes, horse shows, and even in the classroom, I never saw myself as anything, really. I knew I was Korean. I knew I was American. But straddling both realms was something I didn't think I'd struggle with, until now.

When I was on the beach in the Dominican Republic, I remember my brothers and I were making a sand castle. We were laughing and playing, speaking in English, until a grown man walking by stopped to say, "Ni Hao." I knew that was "Hello" in Chinese. But that experience became a story to laugh about later on.

I've taken Mandarin at school for the past 7 years of my life, and it didn't hit any of my peers that there was a possibility of me not being Chinese. It wasn't until I was asked if I spoke the language at home, if I was fluent, or I just flat out said I was tri-lingual in Korean (because my parents are Korean), Mandarin, and English.

The other day, I got a text late at night, from someone I had not heard from in a while. It read, "Have you ever ate a dog?" I knew this person. I knew this wasn't a question I would be asked from this person. They know me. Until the next morning, I got an apology because the question was asked to prove a point.

Sometimes I forget I am a minority because I never saw myself any different from anyone else around me. There would be times where I would strongly stand my ground amongst my differences with others, but most of the time, I just thought of myself as, well, American.

But I am an American. I was born in New Jersey. I never had a problem with friends. My parents tried their best to protect me from ever having to face any obstacle that could be associated with my ethnicity. But I am proud of who I am. Heck, my college essay was even about my culture and how my "Teddy" was also from Korea.

This may be an uncomfortable topic for some. And for anyone that knows me, this isn't really a topic I would ever really talk about at all. But maybe that's the problem. And I find some kind of responsibility to shed light on this issue that anyone can face, forgetting their "roots" in the process of "Americanization." But before I conclude, I just wanted to thank my friends.

Past, current, and even future.

For all the people that have known me in my lifetime, never pointing out our differences, never excluding me on purpose, and accepting me for who I am. I feel so grateful to have never met someone who didn't do any of that.

I am proud to be an American. This country is so diverse. But sometimes we try to ignore our differences and find a relatable similarity in the smaller, maybe even materialistic things in life such as a pair of Jack Rogers or Lululemon pants. There is nothing wrong with that. But it doesn't hurt to embrace our differences, too.

Cover Image Credit: Naya Shim

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8 Things Every Asian American Is Tired Of Hearing

Surprise, we don’t see a slanted world and no, we don’t eat our pets.

Today, cellphones can be charged wirelessly, drones are a household item, and we can order something online to have it arrive at our doorstep 24 hours later. In this same time period, it’s hard to imagine that racism and discrimination still exists. To the 90% who make conscious decisions to be respectful to all races: you rock, keep doing what you’re doing. To the 10% who don’t - this is for you.

Asian Americans have always been considered the model minority - the group who never speaks up and just accepts everything thrown at them, but we have limits too. Here are 8 things that 99% of us have heard countless times and are tired of hearing.

1. ”Where are you really from?”

This is a question that anyone who isn’t Caucasian is probably tired of hearing. Is it really so hard to accept that someone who wears a hijab or someone with straight black hair and mono-lid eyes could be born in Texas? Can only people with pale skin and blue eyes have been born in one of the biggest cultural melting pots in the world?

Don’t get me wrong. We don’t get offended if you want to know about our history. We just don’t like being categorized into a race simply because of certain features we have.

2. Comments on the size of our eyes

We have heard many variations of “Do you see a slanted world?” and “Nice eyes!” making fun of our eye size. Our world looks the same as any other person (I know, what a surprise). While it is true that Asians tend to have more monolids and smaller eyes, it’s just plain rude to insult someone and make assumptions about someone just by their appearance. We don’t comment on your physical features, so don’t comment on ours if you have nothing constructive to say.

3. “You must be good at math”

For the record, being thought to be smarter than you think you are is inherently not a bad thing. However, being thought to be good at a specific subject based on your race is not. In classes throughout middle school and high school, people I didn’t even know would come to me and ask me to solve math problems they couldn’t solve before even asking for my name. These same people would talk to me in math class, then completely ignore my existence the other 90% of the time.

Joke’s on you - I suck at math. Probably even gave you some wrong answers.

4. “You’re always so stingy”

There’s a difference between being stingy and being conscious about money spending habits. Most of us were taught at a young age to save money, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to manage money well. Yes, we might give up a hangout because we wanted to spend that $30 on groceries and necessities instead, but what’s wrong with that? At the end of the day, we’re just trying to budget well and be responsible in case something unexpected happens.

5. Puns on our names

A common one I hear often is: “If I hit some pans together it sounds like your last name!”

Our first and last names have much deeper meanings and nicer sounding tones in our original language, so don’t disrespect that. If your name is translated into another language, I’m sure it wouldn’t sound like how it’s supposed to either. Sometimes it’s better to just not speak if you don’t have anything constructive to say. So just don’t.

6. “What are you eating?? That’s disgusting.”

Every culture has its own cuisine and all cuisines are going to smell and look different. Just because samosas or chicken feet don’t smell like rosemary and thyme, that doesn’t mean you have the right to call it gross. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. Don’t comment on it. Just let us be.

7. “Ni Hao”, “Konnichiwa”

First of all, just because we look a certain race, that does not mean we speak that language. In fact, most of the time people do this, they don’t even get the right language. I speak English perfectly fine, so don’t greet us like this if you don’t plan on speaking a full conversation in that language. If you really want to learn a new language, make sure the person you’re talking to actually speaks the language.

8. “I’m not racist because I have Asian friends too”

By that logic, I would be good at basketball because I owned basketball shoes. Having friends the same race as me does not mean racism rules don’t apply to you. In fact, having Asian American friends should make you even more aware of the social issues we face every day instead of being completely ignorant of them.

If you’ve said one of these before, don’t sweat it. Learn from this and don’t do it again.

It’s not that hard to just be polite.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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10 Things You'll Relate To If You're Asian-American

A bunch of similarities that we all have.

I'm proud of my Asian heritage and culture, and I know I'm not the only one. There's a number of things that every Asian-American can relate to; we all share some similarities. From lion statues to zodiac animals, you know you love the culture.

1. You drink bubble tea more often than you get Dunkin Donuts.

I mean, what else are you going to get instead of a lychee boba drink? And can't forget that large straw.

2. You have a PhD in chopstick usage.

Everyone knows you're the expert. You spend time teaching your friends the art of the two-stick utensil.

3. Instead of worrying about your "American" zodiac, you're more concerned with your Chinese zodiac animal.

Come on, you know you like knowing if your friend is a snake or a rooster. Tiger girl over here.

4. 'Helicopter parenting' is a familiar term.

You're no stranger to the harshness and strictness of Asian parenting, and most of your non-Asian counterparts struggle to understand why you can't leave the house past 10:00 PM.

5. Grades are *especially* important.

Let me break down the Asian grading system for you. A is average. B is bad. C is catastrophic. D is disowned. F is forgotten forever. So make sure you always keep your grades up... just in case your mom gets a new 'back scratcher'.

6. You look forward to Chinese New Year.

Not just for the money, but for the red decorations, bins full of candy, and, yeah, getting new clothes.

7. Your friends ask you to go to the nail salon with them.

We all know why. But, to clarify, it's because nail artists are notorious for mumbling dirt about you while taking care of your nails and pressuring you to spend more money that you don't have. Bridging the communication gap is always helpful in learning gossip about yourself while saving a couple dollars at the salon.

8. You like obscure foods that smell and/or taste weird.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm talking about tofu, soy sauce, durian, lychee, longan, persimmon, various odd herbs... did I forget anything?

9. You feel at home in Chinatown.

There's nothing like walking through the gate and just feeling COMFORTABLE. Lion statues, cute little novelty stores, pho restaurants, jade bracelets, and the smell. Everything is a comforting reminder of 'home', even if you're not actually from China or any other Asian country, for that matter.

10. You have an old photo of you in front of an 'offering table' wearing some traditional clothing.

We all know it's hidden away in the back of your mind. Don't worry, your secret's safe with us.

Cover Image Credit: pxhere

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