Diana: Hey, Mindy.
Mindy: What’s up? Isn’t it like 3am over there?
I can’t sleep.
I was just thinking.
I don’t think kids are done growing up until their personal identity hits them in the face, until they start thinking about where they fit in between the lines of sexuality, race, gender, class, etc…
There’s really no telling when it’s coming, or how it necessarily happens. It kind of snaps into place. And it is just as awkward as when your first pimples start to appear.
I wasn’t even in high school yet. I was in one of those summer before high school enrichment programs. One day we had an Asian substitute. She had an Asian accent. My classmates suddenly thought it was a perfect time to make fun of nail shop workers.
I thought I would never get pissed at a mama joke. They weren’t even saying your mama jokes. They were saying things that were indirectly related to my mama, but I got angry.
"My mom is a nail shop worker. Yeah, her English isn’t good. She works hard, and she’s my mom!
"Nope that didn’t happen. I just stood up and cried.
"Stop *sob *sob *sob talking about my mama. Stop talking about my mom."
No one understood what I was saying but— Hey. They knew that I was angry.
Diana: I dunno. I just feel like I’m the only angry one.
Mindy: At what?
That wasn’t the only time I stood up. Alone. By myself. Angry. Looking crazy.
I ranted to friends about the flirtatious waiter who insisted that I was Chinese. Their reaction? To go to the same cafe but to take a guy with me the next time.
I joined an Asian American organization with the intent to bring back its political activism. Good luck, Diana
I called someone culturally insensitive for sticking his nose up at my avocado smoothie. I was called oversensitive.
Mindy: Hello…answer me…Diana???
If there is anyone who would make a big deal out of everything and anything remotely Asian, I learned that she would be me.
Diana: At shit people say about Asians!!! People should think twice about what they say. They should walk on eggshells.
I think it’s fair. You can walk on eggshells, as I walk on broken glass.
I have been told that my English is exceptional. But if you listen close enough you can hear my Asian accent. (Here, put your ear closer to the speaker and really try to listen for it.)
With a slip of the tongue and a drop of an s, I suddenly arrived to the shores of America; I am fresh off the boat.
I can be either way too Asian or not Asian enough for adding Soy sauce on my eggs, eating with Chopsticks, not professionally playing more than one instrument— nevertheless one instrument, or the recorder, or not being able to read and write in my parent’s language.
The depths of my heritage and ancestry is often reduced to a steaming bottomless bowl of pho. Yes, pho is the bomb.com but where is the love for the fish sauce ‘doh? Pieces of our culture are picked and pulled, like the bean sprouts floating in the bowl of pho, to suit your taste at the expense of us.
Diana: Sorry, I sound so dumb.
I’m not supposed to care, but these little things matter
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
I get that phrase a lot, in different variations. It’s become cemented into my mind like its a fundamental equation, Newtons fourth law, the eleventh commandment, or something.
But what is 1 + 1? It equals 2. Add a backhand comment of how good my English is here, a suggestive comment there, and the total of comments is four.
I have stopped and thought which comments and messages I should let go.
How often did you have to stop and think, for how long?
Mindy: Yeah I know what you mean. It’s tough being Asian.
Diana: I know right?
What’s so tough about being Asian?
There’s this overgeneralizing statistic that says we are successful. Asian Americans disproportionately attend elite academic institutions and earn the most of all demographic groups on average. However, this morsel of praise turned us into scapegoats to suppress. We did it, why can’t they?
The biggest problem is that everyone thinks we have 99 problems but racism happens to not be one of them.
I grew up practicing to sound like an American native, to numb my tongue and hold my throat from producing Vietnamese tones. I let my house air out to dispel not so much the aroma of fried fish, but the fact that my family often eats it.
Yet I’ve seen someone else patted on the back for their struggles attempting to order in Vietnamese. You are suddenly cultured for owning a bottle of fish sauce. Yo, since when have the things I’ve been doing my entire life been super awesome?
Diana: Most of all, even Asians don’t get it.
We are Asian American. It is an experience. It’s not up to you whether or not you like it. It’s not an experience you choose to have.
It’s the experience of code switching between White American eating customs and traditional customs, facing the stereotype threat that we might be acting a little too Asian, and personally removing ourselves from the Asian American community and rejecting our identity.
We all want to automatically be considered American. This sentiment is why we are not. This is why we are Asian American.
You cannot run away from the Asian American experience.
Plastic surgery, new friends, and skin whitening may make some changes
But I will always be Asian American.
Diana: Mindy, I’m the only Asian American who has a problem.
Mindy: No, it is just that not everyone has recognized it yet.
*gif credit to Buzzfeed and giphy.com