What It Means To Be Asian American

Growing up in a whitewashed home, I never really gave much thought to my Asian American identity. Growing up we ate toast and cereal for breakfast, not rice with tea. Both of my parents spoke English, and as a family I didn’t really celebrate the typical Chinese or Korean holidays.

It’s always seemed strange to me the way other have judge what is okay for me to do and say based off of my race.

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It wasn’t until I got older that I started realizing how much culture played a part in my worldview, life decisions and even my interest in romantic partners.

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Especially now that terms like “cultural appropriation ” and “cultural sensitive attire” have become popular. I’ve had to reevaluate.

Why is it okay for me, an Asian American woman, to wear Japanese festival attire as a fashion statement, but it’s not okay for white celebrities? Even if my intention for wearing a cultural garment in non-cultural, it’s automatically accepted as alright because of my race.

Fashion is supposed to be about expression and celebration of beauty and creativity. I would hope that we could celebrate and share cultural aspects of each community. Maybe I am naive and foolish for thinking this, but if a person of any race or color wants to wear an Asian – styled article of clothing, who am I to say that they should or should not?

 

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Unfortunately, no matter what anyone says, appearance matters. I don’t speak a lick of Chinese, but countless Chinese ladies have barked at me  on the bus expecting me to speak back in Mandarin and visible show their  disappointment when I cannot. This isn’t an experience singular to me either:  my Hispanic, French and Korean friends all tell me that they are looked down upon for not speaking the language that they ‘look like’.

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Because the truth is, no matter how much an Asian person or any person of color may feel American and ‘whitewashed’. The reality is skin and cultural background do define. It defines how people envision you, how desirable you are to certain employers, potential partners and even schools. It’s the reason that the demographics bubble even exists when applying for colleges, surveys, etc.

We are not all born equal. Each person is born with different talents, different skills and into different types of families and cultures. But being different doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for equality and justice. It doesn’t mean discrimination and racism are nonexistent, it just means that we need to fight against discrimination and teach in a way that is not condemning or negative.

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Me when I haven’t had lunch yet

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I am proud of being an Asian American woman. I don’t feel disadvantaged or discriminated against because of those titles, I feel honored and blessed. I have a chance to represent woman, represent Asian Americans and represent myself in a positive light. I have a chance to be the best I can be for myself and for others.

As the Asian American community moves forward in supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and Muslim Americans, I am reminded of the history that minorities have faced in America.

I think of my own family, and I am thankful to my mother, father, and my grandparents and relatives long before me who struggled and worked so that I didn’t have to live such a hard life.

And I am grateful to live in the United States, a country that ( however flawed ) is still fighting for what matters: people.

 

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