10 Things About Not Being "American Enough"
I've grappled my emigre life with this weird in between of not being "Asian enough" and simultaneously not being "American enough."
- •You will be asked: "where are you from?"The first few times it will throw you off. What a weird opening line. You'll respond that you're from New Jersey. But that is not the answer to the question, because what follows is, "no but where are you REALLY from?" New York, you'll say, confused, a little offended though you don't know why. "No, sorry, where are your people from?" An offensive question, yes. You will learn that when people ask where you're from in the future, this is what they mean. You don't look American, you must not be.
- •You will wish that you were white.Because when you are young and naive, why wouldn't you want to be white? From your clouded eyes, they have all the fun: eating lunchables, sleeping in late on weekends, no 학원, no mandatory lessons, being allowed to "follow your dreams." All those people on tv, make it look great.
- •You will try to push your culture away from you."You look Asian, so you eat dog right?" "No, I don't even like Chinese food." That's a lie. You do like Chinese food, but that's easier than explaining that the practice of eating dogs and cats is an ancient poor people tradition that yes, still exists today in dire necessity and tradition.
- •You'll wonder why you never see anyone who looks like you on TV, in movies, in magazines, and at award shows.
- •And when you do, you'll wonder why these people are caricatures of your culture, why these stories are flimsy and plastic, why these stories aren't and can't be your story, and when your story is finally going to be told.In forty one years at SNL, there hasn't been one single eastern Asian American cast member, host, or musical guest. FOB's biggest fault from the Asian American community: "that's not me." The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's despicable portrayal of AA activism (S02E03).
- •You will struggle with issues of morality, of issues relating to other people of color, with things like affirmative action.I'm not saying that I oppose it, but I do grapple with it. Because as an Asian person, I am on the worse off end. When we think about plus points, here's what actually happens. White people are neutral, other minorities receive plus points to improve diversity, Asian Americans and other Asians receive negative points. Because Asian actually counts against their getting into college. They may not get into college because despite being qualified, the school reached their Asian quota.
- •You'll get angry.Because in the eyes of your own country you are not American. You are Asian American. Because history tries to erase you. Did you know that Japanese American internment is often translated in history books to the 'evacuation' of the 'Japanese' for their 'safety'? rather than the 'forced imprisonment' of 'Japanese Americans' and those who looked vaguely Japanese. Did you know that most Americans don't even know that Japanese American internment happened? Youll be angry because who's Vincent Chin?
- •You will feel the need to voice your anger in words, and yet not have the words to do it.Because all of this? Everything I've said? Has been said, written down, talked about twice over. Because you are the model minority. You shouldn't have anything to complain about. And there's only so many ways that you can repeat yourself for society to still not get it.
- •You'll wonder if it's ever going to change.I know reasonably that it won't change in my lifetime. But I hope it changes. I hope no little American-Asian kid ever feels ashamed that they look Asian and wishes that they were white
- •And even if after all that, you're still proud to be American, you will never reconcile that you are not "American enough."I have yet to reconcile with the fact that in my lifetime, I will never be "American enough." I am not white. I eat rice a lot. I have small eyes. I am Asian. I will never be "Asian enough." I don't speak Korean or Chinese. I like cheese. I didn't go to the Ivy League. I'm American born. Where does that leave me?
- •Side note: I was reluctant to post this because I've written at length about my Asian American experience but fuck that, it's not talked about enough.