I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about being Asian.
Asians aren’t supposed to be persons of color. We’re supposed to be like pork: America’s other white meat. And because we have a grimace and bear it attitude we let stereotypical and racist remarks fall on us to be locked away under the file, “just you wait asshole”.
Of course the cool thing about being Asian is I can make racist remarks and stereotypical jabs in jest and nobody faults me for it. White people have to tread carefully around years of colonialism, apartheid and questionable race classifications in the same of science. The rest of us? Victims. We never knew what a weapon was until the white man came and showed us. Seriously. All we ever did was lay around and make love.
As an Asian, I can say I’m a person of color. (Thank you Jason Matsui) I can blend in with all the races in the rainbow. Minorities seek each other out. I don’t know why. Like an unwritten code, we gravitate towards one another in most situations. We think same same. We feel “reverse racism” (whatever that’s suppose to mean) and not because we want to piss off white people (it’s not always about you), but because we understand what it is like to be outsiders. You’ll notice Caucasians who gravitate towards hanging out almost exclusively with “minorities” knows what it feels like to be different too.
I guess it’s been a process of accepting my appearance. I’ve always been proud of my family history but I haven’t always liked the way I look. But that’s normal, right? I mean what teenage girl loves the way they look? And when you grow up seeing nothing but white people in your favorite magazines and TV shows, you begin to think maybe I should look like that too. I used to tug on the corner of my eyes to try to make them look rounder. My mom used to tell me to pull my nose up so it would grow out. Although I don’t think I ever really thought about my Asian features until I was the only one around, until the lady at McDonalds told me that I spoke good English and no body at school wanted to be my friend.
My earliest racial memory was not even something I remembered. I had to be told that I came home crying from kindergarten one day because some kid called me “chop suey” and when I complained, my mom laughed.
In college, I heard a group of students yelling, “beef and broccoli” and “sweet and sour pork”. I was halfway home before I began to realize they were talking about me. My body stiffened. It was dark but I wanted to turn around and yell back and kick some serious ass. But my roommate Nadya whispered, keep walking, ignore them, and so I did. But my heart was pounding with anger – so much for higher education.
In a mall in a town I was visiting, a teenager walked up and said nonsense “Chinese” words to my face; another time someone shouted fake Chinese out their car window as they drove by while I was waiting to cross the street. These kinds of things happen to you when you feel safe and normal, doing just whatever people do. And that’s why you can’t think of anything clever to say back and why you stand there feeling violated and crushed that someone took the time to care so damn much about the ethnicity you forgot you were.
Being an Asian American in Asia is like a when I was in a video store and a little girl pointed at me and shouted “Pocahontas!” or the other time when I was called Mulan. I am whatever you think I am.
Sometimes it is easier to say I am from Hawaii and let folks draw their own erroneous conclusions that I am Hawaiian. I am not angry or upset about this. I used to feel frustrated that I didn’t know pasa Thai; that I was some sort of impostor or less than my color. But now I feel fine. I’ve accepted the fact that I have been raised the way that I have been. I know I am lucky. There are many Thais who wished they had my problem.
My mom boarded an airplane 9 months pregnant so I could be born in America. And for reasons I may never understand or know I am learning Thai as an adult, falling back on my English because it is easier. Much easier.
When I asked a friend if he considered me Asian American, he said no. He said Asian Americans speak an Asian language. I’m simply an American. So if speaking Chinese or Thai is what makes a person Asian then I guess I’m not really Asian. I’m like those androids that pretend to be human or a replicant in Blade Runner. A television or movie set without the substance of a real and functioning room or house or bar. But honestly – I don’t believe that. I don’t buy into that advertisement. I think what it means to be Asian American is a complicated sunrise, the atmosphere is what gives it its brilliant shades and oh, how it changes all the time.
I am whatever you think I am and I am whatever I believe.