Saturday, February 11, 2012

Identity Crisis :: Race Part 1

I think the first time I noticed my Asian-ness was in Pre-School, but the time when it really exploded in my face was in second grade.
It was lunch time, and I was chomping a sandwich or taquito or something when I heard a boy named "Ren" singing a song that went something like this: "blahblahblah i forgot the first part, Chinese people pee-pee in their Cokes!!"  I felt myself blush and I was so mortified and embarrassed.  I'm super sensitive, so it was no surprise that I bursted out crying.  In no time, my friends saw my misery, and alerted the adult monitors.  While tears streamed down my face and while my nose was all gloriously snotty, I choked out the reason and pointed to Ren.

He was sent to the principal's office, and apologized to me afterwards.  I remember him being chastised for disrespecting other people's ethnicity.

. . .

"Hey what nationality are you?" the Asian guy, maybe around mid 50s, asked one day at work.  I was just getting in the golf cart to throw trash away.
"Ummm..." I was tempted to say American.  After all, that is my nationality (well more like Chinese-American but whatever).  But, I knew what he meant. 
"I'm Chinese."

. . .

"My dad taught me a way to tell if a person's Chinese or Japanese" a girl said in my 6th grade CORE class said.
"Oh.  What is it?" I asked.
"If the last name is really really long, then they're Japanese.  If the last name is short, then they're Chinese."  I was dumbfounded.  Her words held some truth, but that shouldn't be the deciding factor whether someone's Japanese or Chinese, two VERY different cultures. 

. . .

"I'm half Chinese and half Japanese," a fellow classmate told me.  "But I can't speak either languages."
A wave of sadness and disappointment passed through me.  What will happen to future Asian-Americans?  Will we eventually lose grasp of our rich history, language, culture?

. . .

I screamed and cried almost every week on Saturday afternoons when I was in first through seventh grade.  My sister and I were just about to go to Chinese School.  I hate learning the language.  I hate how I have more schoolwork and homework than my other friends.  I hate how my Saturday afternoons are not free.  Chinese School just about ruined my precious weekends. 
My parents keep telling me that it's all worth it, and how we won't regret it.  My older sisters say how they wished they could go to Chinese school too and learn Mandarin.  Then why didn't they just go?  Because we can't absorb the information as well as you can.  When you're young, it's easier to learn.

. . .

"Romantics have their heads in the clouds.  They emphasized on the individual" said my AP Euro teacher, who was talking about romanticism, and it's message.  "Your parents keep telling you you're special.  None of you guys are special," he then joked.
"Hey you sound like an Asian parent!" I laughed.  I immediately felt guilty.  My parents aren't tiger-parents.  If anything, they're way more lax compared to other Chinese parents. 

Okay, okay.  My twin sister and I had to take piano lessons from kindergarten to seventh grade.  And Chinese school as mentioned before.  And they always emphasized to respect your elders and call every adult we meet by Mr./Mrs./Ms. Lastname.  My parents have never pushed us.  They never really straight up demand A's, even if we did deliver them.  I think they just expect us to get A's because we want to.  We want to make our parents proud.  We know that this is just a baby step to securing some sort of future. 

To end Part 1, I present two hilarious videos.  To understand the jokes, one must have Asian parents or have an Asian friend who have Asian parents.



  1. This is a great post. I just found your blog, I'm Taiwanese American, in my 30s, a step-parent (semi-tiger mom/not really though) and I loved both those youtube videos, AND the two cats talking video. I felt alot like you did when growing up. I totally relate to this post except I'm hella old.

    1. Thanks so much! :) No, you're not old at all haha. My dad is actually Taiwanese as well! He was born there and moved here to go to college.