A Little Something About Asian Americans

June 21, 2018
By Anonymous

Dear Society,

I am so, so sorry

For not fitting into your expectations of Asian Americans.


I am not Chinese

Which immediately means that I am not Asian

Because apparently Chinese is a synonym for Asian

And any other ethnicity that falls under this spectrum

Simply does not exist.

I mean, the entire continent of Asia is just China.

Right?


Classmates whispering during Pre-Calculus.

“Just ask Annie. She’s asian, she’d know what to do.”

They turn to me, and ask if I could help explain how to calculate the derivative of a conic.

They ripped me open, and saw that they weren’t the only ones who were clueless in this math class.

Like finding a four leaf clover, my classmates gasped at the rarity.

The rarity that not even an Asian, an Asian, understands the math lesson.


Please, I beg you. Forgive me for not being able to find the derivative of sin x over x in a split second.

Begging my classmates to tutor me, crumbling my homework in frustration because nothing seems to click, googling “is math dyslexia real?”

My actions are unacceptable.


“What do you want to be when you grow up, Annie?” you ask.

“Oh, it’s always been a dream of mine to become a journalist!” I say with excitement.


Your face suddenly scrunches up into a look of confusion.

You take out your little guide on how to identify an Asian American from your pocket and flip through the pages, until the chapter titled, “Identify an Asian American Through Their Occupation” is reached.

You skim through the chapter to discover that journalism is not there.

In fact, there’s not much that’s on there. Just four occupations: doctor, lawyer, engineer, and musical prodigy.

You look back up to me and ask, “What kind of Asian are you?”

 

What kind of Asian am I?

I mean, I choose paintbrushes and typewriters over calculators and telescopes,

I pour my heart into pen and paper rather than into a textbook,

I write poetry about the stars instead of calculating where they are in the universe,

What kind of Asian abandons their trusty calculator?

 

It’s unheard of.

It doesn’t matter that my heart skips a beat everytime I envision myself in the journalism field.

Since I do not fit into the equation, I am not Asian-American.

I am simply a living outcast with very small eyes.


Society, please accept and bless me with your forgiveness.

From the bottom of my heart I am truly sorry for not fitting into the model that you’ve created for Asian Americans.


Porcelain skin

Parents that hold college degrees from ivy leagues

Petite little body, quiet and submissive

3 time chess champion, first chair Violinist

These are the characteristics that all Asian Americans have.


And to your surprise, New York City’s highest poverty rate is held by Asian Americans,

Yet they still receive the lowest amount of welfare.

The struggles within the Asian American community are being masked by an inaccurate stereotype that limits the amount of help they receive.

Society, did you ever stop to think that the ethnicities within Asia that achieve success is just a small percent?


The model minority is the name you’ve labeled us Asian Americans with.

You took your vacuum and sucked out our colorful diversity

East, Southeast, Central, South, Middle East—you threw us all into a mixing bowl, whipped us up and then stamped on a label that classifies us as “successful”.

And then you tell us that because we are labeled the model minority, we have to adjust ourselves to fit into the mold that is created for us.


I was 14 years old, sitting on a little stool in my grandpa’s backyard when he told me the story of how he came to America.

I felt like a little girl, looking up to my grandpa in awe as he told me his story. His exaggerated hand gestures, his hearty laugh when it gets to the “funny” part.

My favorite part of his story was when he said,


“After I made it to California, I worked hard to bring our whole family (your mom and

dad included) from Vietnam,” my grandpa said. “My work ranged from construction to

being a server in a restaurant. Saving up that money was hard, but I did it all for our

family.”


I replayed those words in my head that entire night.

I imagined my grandpa in a cape

He was a superhero, using his aviation superpowers to fly my family members with his own hands from Vietnam to America.

He flew us all to a life here, in America.

For a better life here, in America.


But that isn’t enough.

Sailing across an ocean, working 3 jobs to bring the entire family to America, sacrificing your home and everything you know

That isn’t enough.

Because to be Asian American, you need to have a professional career. You need to have wealth. You need to be the society’s perfect little model: obedient, outstanding citizen, and a helpful contributor to the workforce.


And that is why I am here on my knees, apologizing on my family’s behalf

Because they are the complete opposite of the model minority.

My parents did not go to college.

They instead work 12 hour shifts daily to support our family.

They do not own a big pot of land or Burberry shoes and Chanel handbags.

They are not classified as upper middle class, or even middle class.


Yeah, my family doesn’t fit into the model minority stereotype.


Because they are so much more than a stereotype.

The never-ending 12 hour shifts, the minimum wage paychecks; They are the epitome of hard-working. 

Planting their feet firmly on the ground and refusing to let adversity sweep them off their feet; they are the greatest fighers of all time.

Traveling across the ocean for me, sacrificing everything they had for me; they are the definition of bravery.    


They are Asian American.


I wake up in the morning

With skin that has the pacific sunset surging through my blood

Deep almond eyes that dilate when I see the Vietnamese flag

Ears that perk up when I hear my grandma say, “Nhat An!”

And a heart that unfolds itself whenever I am with my family, who are the reason why I am proud to be Vietnamese.


I am a writer.

I am a fighter.

I am a dreamer.


I am Asian American.


The author's comments:

Hello! My name is An, but everyone calls me Annie.

This piece is a satirical poem that was for my AP Language class. It is a letter to a society that has taken the "model minority" stereoptype out of hand. Being an Asian American myself, I have to live with the standards and watch how it consumed many lives (including mine). I am what you would call the complete opposite of the "model Asian": horrible at math, low-income, and unstudious. For all of my life, my "unusual" qualities have clouded my judgement on my identity. I didn't feel like I "belonged" in my own race; I felt like an alien. I then became angry at the fact that I allowed society to strip my identity down to a couple of stereotypes. 

This piece is meant to challenge the stereotypes. It is meant to show that the model minority does not define Asian Americans, that it is far from accurate, that Asian Americans are a unique blend of culture and qualities. 


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