"Why do you only hang out with Asians?"

I've been thinking a lot about this in the last like year and a half when I realized about 90% of my close friends were Asian or Asian American and the same was true of both my parents as well as my sister.
  1. I get this question a lot. I've always gotten this question a lot.
  2. I should preface this by saying, no not all my friends are Asian, but yes, a majority of them are.
  3. I'm Asian-American. I'm half Korean/half Chinese, born and raised in the United States.
  4. I grew up in a small town where about 15% of the town was Asian. The rest was white.
    My high school class was about 40% Asian.
  5. Growing up, I pushed back against this Asian-ness. I did more typically "white" activities.
    I danced, I did softball, soccer, I did musical theatre, acting, and technical theatre. I wrote.
  6. I did this because my Asian heritage was always something that was used against me: stereotypes of heritage, misunderstandings about Asian culture, large, sweeping generalizations about who I was.
  7. And it wasn't until later that I realized that despite having a lot of white friends, doing all these white things, that I would never really be white. That the identification that I had with my Asian and Asian American friends was deeper than being in the same classes.
  8. Why do Asians hang out together?
  9. It really is a cultural thing: our social experiences are more similar than dissimilar.
  10. For example, with my Asian friends, I can participate in events like celebrating the Lunar New Year.
  11. And whilst I can do this with my white friends, explaining the cultural heritage to them when they frankly don't care, to me seems incredibly disrespectful to the culture, itself.
    Jeremy Lin talked about once how he doesn't bring his team to traditional Chinese food because he tried it once with his team in college and it was very hit or miss. It isn't not wanting to share our culture. It is simply that there isn't an appreciation for it. Whilst Jeremy tried to introduce his team to his culture they'd rather have a caricature of it with P.f. chang's.
  12. And that's not to say that all white people feel this way (obviously), however there is a camaraderie between people of similar cultures and heritage because we experience similar things, there is not a need for the background to some situation.
  13. I'll give another example, more general, often times (and more often than you think) I'll walk down the street and be called a "chink."
  14. I often ignore it.
  15. And when I'm with Asian friends the experience is all too similar. We don't speak about it. We've felt the word press against us too many times in our lives.
  16. And yet with white friends they often have two reactions:
  17. The first is utter shock. Not believing that someone would say something like that to a stranger
    They do not understand why I do not choose to confront this person, why I am able to internalize that, that this name calling is part of my experience not being white
  18. The other, perhaps worse, is a lack of understanding culturally why this is a problem.
    Chink, some would argue is as problematic at the n-word and whilst I do not agree, I do think that it helps to think of it this way to get the point across. It is a derogatory term to generalize an entire race of people. Yes it's problematic and yes it's offensive. Full stop.
  19. I have white friends and yet there is a comfort in being around friends who are Asian.
  20. I feel like I have to explain myself less, I feel as though my experiences as a person of color are more validated
  21. There is less of "what do you mean by that" and more of "I've experienced that too" and "I know exactly what you mean."
  22. And this won't be for all Asians, but understand that our heritage and culture and upbringing tells us that we have to straddle two worlds
  23. We are neither American nor Asian.
  24. We are defined by the hyphen. Almost no other cultural group is so divided between two social spheres, unwanted by both societies in some ways.
  25. And so yes we find strength in companionship, in numbers, how else can we go on?