Throughout my life, I have had countless people ask me the question: “Why do all Asians hang out together?” or “Why do Asians only hang out with other Asians?” This has become a common stereotype across high school and college campuses – a stereotype that Asians are exclusive and only choose to hang out with others of their own race. Popular movies and TV shows have not helped this stereotype, like the movie Mean Girls, where a certain scene described the “Cool Asians” and the “Asian Nerds” as different cliques present in a high school cafeteria. The cliques that were depicted in this scene ranged from “sexually-active band geeks” to “varsity jocks” to “unfriendly Black hotties”. The issue here was that every clique that was composed of White people was described by something other than the race of the people, while the only three cliques with people of color were named solely after their race. Why is it that the all-White table of varsity jocks wasn’t called the “White varsity jocks”? How about the table of White girls eating hamburgers? Why weren’t they called the “White girls who ate their feelings”? This Mean Girls scene is, unfortunately, a solid depiction of the classification of minority groups in our country. Minorities in the United States are usually classified by their race before all else, especially on high school and college campuses. A group of Asians sitting at a table in the dining hall is no different than a group of White people sitting at a table, except for the fact that Asians are stereotyped for it. This creates a double standard against Asians and other minorities – a group of Asians is seen as exclusive, while a group of White people seems normal. Next time you want to ask an Asian person why they only hang out with other Asians, maybe you should first ask yourself how diverse your own friend group is.
Even though you have seen how problematic this question is, you still want to know the answer. Why do all Asians hang out together?
First of all, we don’t. I can’t think of any Asian person who only has Asian friends. You may see a group of Asian people sitting together, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have non-Asian friends. Let’s repeat this.
Just because an Asian person has some Asian friends, doesn’t mean all of their friends are Asian.
Also, spending time with people of the same race is not a crime. A lot of times, people of the same race share similar experiences, and we can empathize with the struggles we all encounter as people of color in this country. My Asian friends are the only ones who understand the struggle of having such a small representation in popular media, and how Asian advocacy is never taken seriously in our society. We all share the burden of media-created Asian stereotypes, which have repercussions that the rest of the world is blind to. We also have similar family lives. Almost all Asians share the experience of having a “tiger mom”. If you had an Asian mother, you would understand what kind of a bond this forms between Asians. Asian parents place a lot of emphasis on education, so tiger moms are a force to be reckoned with.
As Asians, we all come from a very rich cultural background, and it feels great to spend time with other people who have the same cultural identity. I love being able to talk about chicken adobo, Tinikling, and jeepneys with other Filipinos, because they are the only other people who will understand that aspect of my life. What’s so wrong with spending time with other people who share the same culture? Not to mention how fun it is to have a shared language with your friends. If I’m in public with one of my Filipino friends, I can say, “Kailangan kong umihi” and no one else will know what I’m saying.
So, yes. I have Asian friends. I have Asian friends for a reason, too. However, I don’t only hang out with other Asians.
Next time you want to ask an Asian person why they only hang out with other Asians, don’t.