Disclaimer: For me writing is a tool, I write to understand my personal life and experiences as well as to sort through things I don’t quite understand. I’m rarely an expert in the things I write about, but I use writing as a proactive response to reinterpret and create.
Last year I decided to try writing spoken word poetry, because sometimes the things I find myself writing about just need to be said out loud. This piece is not written out of anger and is not meant to make anyone feel guilty, instead everything here is a reflection on my personal experiences growing up as a Chinese American, and some of the barriers and obstacles I had to overcome. In writing this it’s been wonderful to see that though these are my experiences I don’t feel many of these things anymore, but giving voice to these experiences is still important to me. This is a work in progress, just what I have so far. Thanks for trying on my perspective.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, to walk into the classroom on the first day of classes and not find myself strategically sitting away from the other Asians to make myself more approachable, even recognizable.
In college I repeat this. I find my seat where the white kids don’t assume I’m an international student who drives fancy cars and sports designer bags as the stereotype goes. I seat myself so they know I will carry my weight on team projects, and they won’t have to shoulder the inconvenience of a cross-cultural experience.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority so when attendance is taken I don’t find myself closing my eyes wincing at the chuckles at the repeated Chengs, Li’s, Lee’s, and Wang’s.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so when I’m barely awake in my Monday morning 8AM, while everyone is sharing stories about the weekend’s parties and most recent hookups, my “haven’t had coffee yet silence” is not mistaken for me fitting into any “Shy, quiet, Asian girl stereotype”.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, to not have to assert myself so zealously in introductions so there’s no mistaking that English is not my first language and to make sure you don’t think I am a follower since I’m Asian and I am a girl.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so you wouldn’t feel the need to tell me, as if it’s a compliment, that I’m a “cool Asian” not like “those other Asians” who only care about their gpa. Acting surprised that I have a personality.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, where I feel the need to distance myself from my culture, no matter to what I degree I identify with it, in order to be more approachable.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so I wouldn’t feel the pressure to be on my guard, a human GPS system, there to “recalculate” and change the topic of conversations lest someone makes a racist joke at my expense, and then having to pretend to find it funny and acceptable or else be criticized for being too sensitive and easily offended.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so when I accompany my white friends to a party and a guy takes notice of me I don’t have to worry about any fetishization and hear any snide remarks of yellow fever.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, in high school while my white friends spent their time dedicated to championing civil rights causes and awakening a spirit of consciousness in our peers I was just busy trying to fit in to feel like I earned my place. And while I wasn’t the only minority present, every school I’ve ever been to the Black kids had other Black kids when it got too much to be minorities, Hispanics had other Hispanics, but I was always one of two Asian Americans and our paths stayed forever like two parallel lines lest we self-sabotage and prevent each other from being able to be friends with other people.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so I am not your go to person for all your questions about Asia (you do realize you are asking me about an entire continent made up of very diverse nations, with specific languages, and cultural traditions…).
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so you wouldn’t go and take my personal opinions and mistake them for or worse designate them as the official opinion of the Asian American or Asian American female.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so you would have to make more of an effort when we first meet to find things to talk about. Please don’t default yet again to asking me “Where I’m really from”, “If I speak English at home”, or to teach you how to say something in Chinese.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, so when I came home from my first semester of college I wouldn’t have felt embarrassed when you pointed out how I suddenly have so many Asian friends, and how it was “cute” that I was “getting in touch with my roots”…because that was the logical reason for having friends who looked like me not the possibility that I just enjoyed their company and not having to explain myself to them.
I wonder what it’s like to be in the majority, where I don’t find myself assuming the role of educator – as a POC (that’s person of color) it’s not my job by any means to educate people about racism and it gets really tiring, but unfortunately it’s a responsibility we carry reluctantly.
I don’t know what it’s like to be in the majority, but these days that’s not something I am asking for.