Banana

December 6, 2009
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Banana. When I look at this word, neither an ice cream sundae nor monkeys come to mind. Instead, I see my former self: yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Not long ago, when one got to know me, my native color of yellow peeled off, revealing the color of white that consumed the heart of me.
When I entered high school, I began to feel ashamed and inferior because of my ethnicity. This was odd because I live in Hawaii, the paragon of racial diversity. But suddenly, I became aware of shared characteristics Caucasian girls seemed to posses. To me, they were beautiful, intrepid, intelligent, gregarious, and especially confident- all the qualities I longed to have. I began to feel ugly and small, even envious of their defined facial features and the strong certainty, with which they presented themselves. This admiration soon devoured me that I even tried to create double-eyelids with strips of tape. Thus, I was dubbed the nickname “Banana” by my sister. Soon, my mother and friends identified me as this deceiving fruit.
This insecurity consumed me even more when I attended a leadership program in New York City. There, I met the most bright and self-assured girls. As I acted as a spectator throughout the week, my admiration for Caucasians rapidly grew. The division between Asians and Caucasians that constantly lingered in my mind was clearly illustrated one night when SeRyeong, one of the few Asians at the program, and I joined three Caucasian girls to Times Square. As we walked through the Friday night crowd, the three girls were in their own clump, always in front of SeRyeong and me. Everytime we tried to catch up to them, this gap always found its way back. This unconscious form was a mockery that bolstered my assumption: Caucasians would always be better than what I could ever be.
To justify my insecurity, I began to blame the Asian race, especially my Asian parents. I convinced myself of the stereotype that Asians are raised to be submissive, demure, and vulnerable. I was never encouraged to openly raise questions. My family neither converses effusively at the dinner table nor always says “I love you” at the end of phone calls like my Caucasian friends do with their parents. When my parents and I get into a fight, I can never defend myself. Because of their academic expectations and tough love, I can neither achieve their full satisfaction nor that of my own. I believed these characteristics were the reasons why I was a small, insecure banana.
But by constantly scorning my parents and Asian upbringing, I literally like a banana, bruised often and easily. Slowly, I began to realize that my insecurity was not a result of my ethnicity, but of me; my assumptions of Caucasians and Asians did not matter. I only blamed Asians to justify my assumptions and to hide from the fact that I was setting myself up for my own misery and insecurity. I was my own hindrance from becoming the confident person I longed to be and could be; I was bruising myself. All this despondency, jealousy, and deprecation were completely avoidable, thus I’m the only one to blame.
Although my trip to New York City was just about a year and a half ago, as a young woman who is about to become an adult, I had to overcome my weaknesses. As I mentally grew and matured during this time, I knew I needed to let go of this hindering mindset. My years as a banana have been turbulent and belittling, and truthfully, I am still in the process of shedding away my “Banana” name. But, I cherish these years for I learned that I am my most powerful catalyst. I am no longer oblivious to myself as a possible weapon of obstruction from becoming the best of me. I am beginning to let go of my immature and narrow assumption that I need to be Caucasian to feel beautiful, smart, and confident for I can embrace these characteristics regardless of my ethnicity. I am learning to no longer see myself as solely “Asian”, “wannabe-Caucasian”, or “Banana” for these distinctions do not consume me; I alone define myself.





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JonH8880 said...
Jan. 6, 2010 at 7:28 am
I like the essay, but it would have been better if you focused more on the part about overcoming your weakness. Everything else was really well written.
 
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