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On Being Asian in America

through some thoughts or whatever.

Hey everybody. It has been a while since I last showed up. I have been busy.

This is going to be a lot different than basically all of my other thoughts. It was just kind of a spur of the moment thing. I hope you still read an enjoy regardless.

You know, I never realized how much I got bullied as a kid. It took until one of my friends offhandedly throwing out a remark deep into high school which said “Oh man Felix, you got really badly bullied in elementary school”

I did?

Oh.

It’s hard to look back now and remember. The way that I saw all those names and jokes as a sign of endearment. Or how I was hyped up every time I stepped up to participate in an athletic competition during gym despite my terrible lack of skills.

I am not asking for your pity, really. Those times are long gone now. I do things. I read books and write a lot and try to make jokes.

Which are basically the same things which I did back in those days as well. but that’s not a large concern.

I think part of the reason why I didn’t notice is because I didn’t want to notice. That’s the thing about the children of Asian American immigrants which I’ve noticed. A lot of us are quiet. Maybe it’s because we understand the struggles that our parents faced trying to cross the ocean. Maybe because it’s just easier that way.

I wouldn’t know much though about the Asian American immigrant life. I grew up in a near all white community.

There is this interesting flux which Asian-Americans exist in. It can be even seen by the name.

Asian. American. The idea that you can be the model minority, you’re great at math and academics and you play the piano, win some science prizes and show off a great beaming smile in all those photos of success.

At the same time though, the knowledge that no matter how hard you try you will never really fit in. I have never been physically attacked or harassed for my race. I have not experienced the open hate which many other people have suffered. But I have experienced constant strings of indignities over who I am. The constant jokes about the food I eat, the language I can speak, the parents I have.

I remember going to the movies when I was a kid and wondering to myself why there weren’t any people in them that looked like me. I quickly got used to that. Being an Asian in Hollywood means that you get to be the sidekick. The cook in the back of the kitchen. A generic henchman. A haggling merchant. Hey, maybe even the kung fu guy. If you worked hard enough.

Like so many others I struggled to consolidate and reconcile with these feelings for the longest time. “How could we have anything valid to feel or say about race when we, as a model minority, were supposedly accepted by American society? asks Cathy Park Hong. But it is also true as she later notes that just because we were supposedly accept doesn’t mean we were actually accepted. I think that sentiment was always bubbling down inside us.

That’s why I wasn’t particularly surprised when Asian American hate crimes started popping up one by one. That capacity for violence and anger towards us didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It was always there, just waiting underneath the surface. When the leader of the free world called COVID the kung flu, I wasn’t even outraged. I had seen the exact type of jokes countless times on playgrounds and classrooms in my life.

So, again and again we try to prove that we can be what Americans think is great.

“This is what it means to be a model minority: to be invisible in most circumstances because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, like my parents, until we become hypervisible because we are doing what we do too well”- Viet Thanh Nguyen

Elements of fragility are always there. Anybody want to remind me how many people of Japanese heritage we interned during World War II? Oh, right. 127,000. How long did it take for an apology? 1988.

141 members of the House voted against that, by the way.

I guess all that I’m saying is that for the longest time and still even today, I never felt entirely at ease. Just a vibe you know? The nonthreatening kind of person of color and nothing more.

Even now, I still feel like I shouldn’t be saying this. As if I am doing something wrong. This is a common thread I have seen among so many articles and blog posts and journals throughout these last few months. Kids who grew up into adults who were never told what an ugly world it was out there. Silence is insulation, after all. I was always told how hard they worked and that I could succeed too. It’s a wonderful dream. Yet masking over those cracks with tape still leaves them there, waiting.

I get why they didn’t talk about race all that much when I was younger. I really do. They wanted me to feel like I belonged. I was taught to be polite and listen to what the teacher had to say and study hard and get good grades. So, I went to school, chatty and happy but always wondering why I was every day the person who watched the others play at recess.

The feelings within the community have been sitting for hundreds of years. Too often are we covering up our own ability to speak and be seen. We hide those thoughts deep in our hearts and push through our work instead. Just as we are always invisible in the minds of others, we also stay invisible through tragedy and pain.

I am deeply proud of how the Asian American community has responded recently. It would be easy to just go about our lives until the wave fell and we got back to being at arms distance again. But maybe things has changed. I certainly hope so. For the first time, maybe ever I feel like my voice is being listened to by somebody, somewhere.

You know journalists and sociologists weaponized stereotypical Asian cultural ideas against black and latino people? Like, “Wow you guys suck, why can’t you be like those good Asians over there?” We went from being a non white minority to be a non black minority. The white person’s favorite per say. Until we do what they perceive as being wrong, like being just too good.

I am tired of lumping all Asian-Americans under the same banner . There are 22 million of us in the United States, all with a different story. Stop pretending like every Asian is the one you want them to be. I don’t know who that person is. But I really really dislike them. It’s not just about being reated with respect. I have enough of that. And I also have enough of those polite, but tinged with a slight edge questions. Oh, you’re Chinese? Can you speak some mandarin for me? There was always a limit for me somewhere within. It seems like I have finally found it. .

I am terrible at ending posts like this. I’ll just leave you with this note. Beyond Instagrapm graphics, fundraisers on GoFundMe and strongly worded tweets what will you do? When society gives us back the role we so wish to not occupy, are you going to do anything to change it?

I know I will. For all those bullies I never knew.

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