My Journey as An Asian

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May 24, 2021

Growing up in a society that doesn’t take change well is very hard, especially, if you are the change. When you think of America, you may think of blonde hair and blue eyes, riding horses and eating hotdogs, fireworks, the Fourth of July. There are so many things that may come to mind, but I can assume that none of them is Asian. The world we live in is not accepting, many, MANY, people disregard the fact that it is not just white men and their white families living in America anymore, thinking that white is the superior race. Asian people have held a big part of making America what it is today. Though many history books fail to mention it, Asian people have helped build up America, from playing a major role in building the Transcontinental Railroad, considered one of the greatest feats of its time, to working in farms, and factories, doing essential jobs that no one else wants. Sadly, growing up in a country with a majority of pale skinned, wide eyed people, these get covered by the stories that make the white people feel good, that makes them feel like they rule over the United States, that they are the best.
I’ve lived in many places, and although I’ve come to resent some of them, each move adds to my perspective as an Asian living in the United States. I was born in Georgia, with a 4% Asian population, and a 30% black population. I attended three years of school there with all my teachers being black. I grew up knowing that these people were among the most wonderful people ever. My dream job was to become a bus driver, inspired by my bus driver, getting gloves to match hers. My young mind didn’t see many white or Asian role models as I grew up, aside from my mom and dad, and I hadn’t made the connection that white people were the majority and would be treated better than me and my teachers, my bus drivers. Though, before second grade started, I was informed that I would be moving across the country, to the beautiful southern California.
California is an amazing place. But what many people don’t tell you about southern California is its large Asian population. I went to a 7-day Adventist private school. I had previously gone to a public school but transferred half-way through the school year. I spent many years there and I had never seen so many people so like me. The Asian population at that school was very large, and I really liked it. Most of my friends were Filipino, and there was also a very large Latino population. I felt in place at that school, surrounded by people who had the same “label” as me. I can guarantee that if all the Asian population was taken out of Southern California, it would not be able to function properly. I can say that as a child, I did not think about racism much, we even had a hand game where we would sing a song, and at the end the lyrics were “Chinese Japanese and freeze!” These lyrics were innocent, as many of us were Asian and didn’t think much of it, but what really strikes me as interesting today is that as we sang those lyrics, we pulled up the sides of our eyes, for Chinese, and pulled the sides down for Japanese, and we never thought anything of it. When I think back about it, I really see how innocent everything was back then, and how I never truly opened my eyes (no pun intended) until I was older. I think California really shaped my childhood. My whole experience there, I never felt like an outlier, one with a different type of last name, and it was amazing.
My life was great, I had great friends, an amazing school, awesome swim team, and so many more blessings, but that’s where the end of my second experience ends. I was informed that when fifth grade ended, we would be moving to the opposite of always sunny California, the state with ever changing weather, Minnesota.
Moving to Minnesota was a big part of my life, and it is where I currently reside (soon to change though). Moving here probably changed me the most, because I was old enough to be self-aware, and know that in Minnesota, I was not part of the majority, I was in fact, known as a minority. Here in Minnesota, Asians only make up 6% of the population. As I moved here, I was pretty young, and was about to start middle school in a completely different environment. The fact that I went to elementary school in a mainly Asian school, moving to a place with a not so large Asian population was a big change. I would say that 12-year-old me was innocent in the ways of racism. I wasn’t exposed to much racism as a child and starting a big part of my life (middle school) not knowing what I would encounter, did not help me much. I would say that at first, I didn’t experience much racism, but when I look back today, more experienced and mature, I can confidently say that people were racist. As I go remember back to when I lived in Rochester, I don’t remember much. What I can remember is 2019 when I started 7th grade, I was a bit more emotionally mature, I was not as self-aware as I am now, but I did know more about the world. When I do think about what many people have told me, I can see now that these were microaggressions, things like, “Oh you’re Asian! Do you have straight A’s?” or “You are Asian so you must be very good at bargaining!” I didn’t think much about them, thought they were things that everyone got said to at one point, but near the end of 7th grade, before Covid-19 shut down schools, something happened to me that really changed my perspective on the world.
I was walking up the staircase at my mainly white school right before class started, so the halls were empty. As I walked up the staircase, a boy, blonde hair blue eyed privileged male, was walking down the staircase as I did and as he passed by me, he pulled up his eyes as said two words that make my heart hurt to this day, and I would like to say that these words may not mean much to you, but as someone who is often labeled as a dog and bat eater, someone with parents who won’t let you get anything but A’s, someone whose language is mocked every other day, these words really hurt. I don’t think I ever told anyone about this experience until about six months ago, when me and my friends were talking about racism, and I mentioned the encounter. They seemed shocked, which I was a bit surprised about. The truth is that words like that don’t really hurt anymore. The casual racism really doesn’t sting as hard when I think about it now.
I want to end this by saying that in a few months, I will be moving to Pennsylvania, which has a 3.4% Asian population, the least I’ve seen in quite a while. I am excited to start another new journey in my life and see how different places live and interact.

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