I’ve lived in the central coast for as long as I can remember. I happen to live in a suburban area, secluded from different cultures. The Asian-American community is not well represented in my area.
Ever since I was enrolled in school as a kindergartner, I’ve always been of a minority. The majority of my elementary, middle, and high school are made up of Caucasians. I remember rarely ever seeing people of an asian decent. As a child, I remember thinking to myself “how come I don’t see people who look like me?”.
As a kid, I never really thought of topics like racism or discrimination. I thought everyone was my friend, even though I barely knew any of them. However, as time passed, I’ve gotten more and more exposed to the harsh reality of my life.
I believe it started in middle school. My classmates and supposed “friends” made ongoing “jokes”, mocking the asian community and along with it; me.
It started off as mocking the appearance of Asians, our eyes in particular. Ignorant middle schoolers would tape their eyes back and say, “do I look asian now?”. People mostly mocked the community as a whole, but never at me directly. Until, one day, I remember scoring a good grade on a math test in 8th grade. I was the only student in the class to receive an 100%. I walked back to my seat and I heard one of my “best friends” say “she only got that because she’s asian, so it doesn’t count.” Of course, I laughed it off, not wanting to create a scene. But deep down, like many could imagine, it really hurt hearing that from someone that I thought was my best friend. I earned that 100% on my math test, my ethnicity does not justify the hard work I put in.
From those and many other remarks, I also started developing insecurities about my appearance and ethnicity. I hated that I looked different. As a teenager in middle school, I was super insecure about a boy not liking me. All the feelings I had towards someone, was always one-sided. As a thirteen-year-old, i didn’t know any better: I didn’t even know my self worth. I went after boys who had the worst intentions, and I blamed myself after they intentionally hurt me. All the boys I ever had feelings for in middle school, liked girls who looked nothing like me; the Caucasian girls. This led into a spiral of self-hatred and insecurities; I began to “disown” my culture and started adapting to cultures that wasn’t of my Vietnamese descent. I hoped this would help me find my place in society.
I still have issues of insecurities towards my ethnicity. Sometimes, I’m embarrassed to speak Vietnamese at school with my sister. I admit, I’ve felt embarrassed when people turned and made comments and about how “aggressive” my language sounded. Sometimes, I am hesitant to allow my friends to meet my parents, fearing that they will comment on my mother’s broken English. I get anxiety whenever my friend’s parents want to meet my parents; I know they wouldn’t able to communicate well.
However, over time, I learned to embrace the Vietnamese language. My sister and I would use it as our “secret language.” No one understood what we were talking about, so might as well use it towards our advantage!
I am forever grateful to be exposed to 2 different cultures. Family trips in little Saigon, Westminster during Têt, and conversing with my friends at school in english. Many people only get to experience 1 culture, I have the blessing to be exposed to 2. No one can make me feel inferior for that very blessing.
It’s normal to feel insecure, to feel different. But, it’s not okay to hate who you are, due to society’s outlook on you and your culture. Once I knew my self-worth and distinguished my priorities, I never thought twice about a boy’s opinion on me and my unique appearance. Yes, I am of a minority. I have beautiful hooded eyes, and dark black hair. No one else looks like me, therefore I am uniquely beautiful. I’ve learned to love my asian features, I wouldn’t change my culture for the world.