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September 19, 2013
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Loner. That is perhaps the last thing I’d want to feel. As a 15-year-old girl, I feel a need to belong somewhere, to be needed somewhere.

I was born and raised in (thankfully) New York City, a natural citizen of the United States. I’m not a terribly inquisitive child, so for 15 years I have taken in the knowledge the United States has offered me, of course, in its own point of view. Its ideas are my ideas. Its beliefs are mine. The Constitution holds the rules I abide by, the wars that were fought are my history. When the president uses “we” I imagine myself as part of that collective pronoun. I pledge my allegiance to the United States everyday with the student announcer. In short, it is important for me to identify myself as part of this nation.

First and foremost, I’m considered an outsider anywhere else. To “authentic” Chinese people, people like me are not really Chinese. They have a clever way of calling us: ABC, American Born Chinese. My grandpa has made enough emphasis on this distinction in the past decade for me to remember such a clever name (I like to think I’m American first since A comes before C). ABC is defined, stereotypically, as a person of Chinese descent who’s born in America, speaks some Chinese, and has Western ideas but was raised under Chinese traditions. Anything an ABC does that’s untraditional or unorthodox in Chinese standards is usually excused because he or she is American. Even though there’s a “Chinese” in ABC, that clear distinction already makes me feel like an outsider.

Two years ago, my mother decided to bring me along on her trip back to her home place, Hong Kong. There, I learned two things. One, the food is absolutely delicious. And two, just because my parents are “Hong Kong-nese” and I look like everyone else, eat the same things and speak the same language, I am not “Hong Kong-nese”; I’m treated as an American. My mother’s friends bring us to expensive Western-styled restaurants, for fear that I wasn’t used to Eastern cuisine (which is very ironic actually because I’ve never had much western-styled food in the first place.) Family and friends speak as if I am used to a luxurious life when in actuality I have a tiny piggy bank. Simply because I live halfway across the earth, they like to rely on stereotypes -- and only for me, not my mother.

If I feel foreign even with my own flesh and blood, I must be an alien to Hong Kong society. I remember watching the news in Hong Kong (on the English channel of course) about the employment situation there and asking my mother, “Why doesn’t their government help? Doesn‘t it have some sort of program to help these people, like at home?” In response, she laughed and called me silly, saying there’s no such thing. About four years ago, I read about the arrest of a democratic activist in China which shocked me. Here I was, taking freedom of speech for granted and thinking about how comprehensively the Constitution was written, meanwhile in China, the citizens were not privileged to such rights even in the twenty first century. And so, along with other experiences and epiphanies, I’ve come to a conclusion that, though it might not be entirely flawless, I like America. I like being American. It’s an ineffaceable part of me that makes it (almost) as important as my own life.
When I speak to other Stuy students, I hear some things like: “Oh, Germany has a way better healthcare system.” “Please, pledge allegiance to these fascist states?”, “I would so rather live in Japan.”, or “I’m a quarter Italian, a quarter Irish and half Russian.” While I do understand the pride we take in our roots and heritage (and how romantic the foreign aspect of us is), and that being diverse is part of being American, not many people seem to appreciate the fact that they are American citizens. Perhaps we all take the liberties our founding fathers gave us for granted, and don’t understand why people still continue to immigrate to America like a moth drawn to a flame.

As for me, no matter how proud I am of a heritage eight thousand miles away, a relatively huge chunk of me lives here. While others, except for the “actual” Chinese, see me simply as Chinese, I am American -- not just any kind of American, I’m ABC.

American Born Chinese.

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