October 14, 2016

Where are you *really* from?

I was in the fourth or fifth grade when I realized I was different. Being quite the homebody has sheltered me within the predominantly white community I grew up in.

I just remember that one day, some of my classmates suddenly didn't want to play with me at recess. It was as if they woke up that morning and thought, "Eden's weird. Let's not play with her." So I played alone. As we got into our orderly lines to go back into class, one of the girls came up to me and asked, "Why is your face so flat?" I stood there, shocked, blushing furiously. What did that mean? Do I have a flat face? I looked around. I guess the only people with flat faces were people who looked like...looked like me.

"Why is your face so flat?"

I still think about that when I look at myself in the mirror.

(This video includes racial slurs and vulgarities.)

#thisis2016: Asian-Americans Respond to Racist Remarks
An editor for The New York Times wrote an open letter to a woman who told him to "go back to China." Asian-Americans responded by sharing their own racist moments using #thisis2016. Here are some of those moments. Warning: This video includes racial slurs and vulgarities.
Posted by The New York Times on Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fortunately, I have never been called a racial slur. In fact, it wasn't till I was a freshman in college when I had to have a friend tell me what the slur was. I'm grateful for that. But, as this video shows and accounts from my Asian American friends, people are still calling us by these vulgarities. People are still ignorant and insensitive, pulling Mickey Rooneys when they impersonate us, using white actors to portray us, using us as the butt of the joke at the Oscars. Because, in the end, I guess we don't belong. I guess my 19 years growing up here doesn't matter. Here's a sampling of what I've heard in my adult life.
Acquaintance at a school gathering: "Ge ga goo blah — hey, it's like I'm speaking Chinese. Eden, what am I saying?" 
Guy in Sunday school, right before he asked me out on a date: "Have you ever had mooncake? I don't speak Chinese, so I haven't." 
Stranger who followed me as I was speed walking to class: "Are you Chinese? You should eat at Chinatown. You'd like it." 
After an interfaith choir concert: "Oh, you grew up here? I was about to say, you don't have an accent." 
Stranger on the train: "Hey, can you help me with my Chinese homework?" 
"Where are you really from?"

This is 2016.

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