The Asian American Reality 2021
By Anna Deng
Chink Chink Chink. The noise made by nails hitting the railroad tracks as Chinese workers pound nails into the American ground and into my history of the transcontinental railroad
ching chong, ling ling, ding dong, disease, nerd, virus. Food: stinky, disgusting, gross
Family weird, abnormal, OMG did you hear them speaking Chinese?! clothes ugly, strange, “Ewww did you see her shoes”
Why don’t you talk?
Aren’t you supposed to be smart or something? No offense but Chinese people are weird
(dui bu qi wo ting bu dong) (sorry I can’t understand) (ze shi she me yi si?) What does that mean?
This is the story of many.
Asian girl feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Too Asian for America because of her glasses or her smarts. Doesn’t fit in with her ethnic country either due to language and cultural barriers.
I’m quite the opposite. Yet that’s still how the story goes. I talk too much
Wear t-shirts and jeans Eat sandwiches for lunch
Grew up in white suburban towns just like all the others
But for some reason, I will always be seen as exotic and different Asian will always be the first thing people see.
No matter how I dress, who I’m friends with, or what I eat I will always be the girl from overseas
The airplane to china Suitcase?
Check Passport? check
Fluent mandarin? Check
Study Chinese poetry to impress the uncles? Check
Memorize Chinese history to impress the aunties? Check
(wai guo ren 外國⼈), outsider
“Xiang jiao Banana” (yellow on the outside white on the inside)
Lao wei, foreigner
“Have you ever thought about dieting or bleaching your skin?”
“Wow.. Americans are fat, I mean look at you. Is your body type normal over there haha?” “I trust you’ll be successful one day and make us proud” “You won’t let us down right?”
The thing is I get good grades and win awards but I know I’ll never measure up to the cousin that got into Yale or Columbia or the family friend from MIT or the one that went to Harvard.
Dreading the moment I will reveal I’m not like the others; I continue to pretend until the day where bam I am an outsider once again.
See the life of an Asian immigrant isn’t doctors degrees and Ivy Leagues It’s translating legal documents before you learn to ride a bike
Let me put you in my shoes for a moment so you can see how it feels. Imagine how it feels to constantly be glared at in public.
Imagine how it feels to get staples shot at you from a staple gun in my 8th grade science class. Imagine how it feels for your classmates to shame you for eating a dog. Something you don’t even do, something you’d never even heard of.
Imagine how it feels for a student in your class to wear a mask, but only when they are around you. That’s not even the worst part.
Imagine telling your teachers and the guidance office and all they respond with is “well I don’t know what to tell you, boys will be boys”
“Also, can you do what you did today and just try to block the staples with your hands?”
Oh, did I forget to tell you? There was a whopping 1300% increase in Asian American hate crimes from 2017- 2020.
Truly just Imagine for a moment. Imagine what it’s like.
Now I’m telling you all of this not for you to pity me, not for you to apologize.
But I am telling you this for you to know racism and xenophobia isn’t a problem that is distant from you, but a problem that is in this community, this town, and even in this school. However, this is a problem far beyond anything a few people can fix.
See I grew up seeing girls that looked like me in movies or on TV. Looking at them with disgust, thinking they were ugly.
While they saw media that depicted who they wanted to be Making my blonde barbie doll bully the Chinese
Because the world teaches me the blonde one is supreme Trying to change my eye shape as a 5-year-old, Stretching them open holding a clothing on my nose
I am desperate to be,
To look like one of those Disney princesses or the girls in magazines. But there’s Mulan, right?
Where their princesses sit poised and pretty It is a man mine pretends to be
So how can you expect me to feel pretty when the only representation I see is an Asian man with exaggerated pulled-back eyes or the weird nerd as seen on TV.
You see Asian is the first thing people notice about me. And that’s how it will forever be
But that’s okay because
I am stronger than the steel my people died for I am more than an investment people bid for I am the future my people worked their lives for I am finally the woman I fight for
About the author: Anna is a 11th grade high school student. She joined AAC Youth in March 2022 and has just become our high school intern for the fall 2022 semester.