Against the Standard | Teen Ink

Against the Standard

August 17, 2021
By dj32371 BRONZE, Cresskill, New Jersey
dj32371 BRONZE, Cresskill, New Jersey
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

What sound does an Asian make when it drops pots down the stairs?

Ching chong ching chong!

Boisterous laughter spread through the entire classroom like wildfire, with the class echoing the discriminatory phrase. Even the one who possessed the authority to cease all such guffawing––the teacher––jumped on the bandwagon. Despite the apparent racist implication, I merely regarded the joke as harmless and joined my friends in the laughter. Brian, having made the joke, pointed at me, the only Asian in the room, and yelled, “How about we drop our chink down the stairs?” My heart sank as my supposedly closest friends screamed, “Ching chong ching chong,” cackling hysterically into my ear. I tried to block out the continuous convulsions reverberating amongst my classmates, but it was as though there was an invisible mental barrier being imposed upon my head.

Given my teacher’s weak effort, my classmates proceeded to furtively take photos and videos of my shriveled self with their mobile phones. My body froze as if a sorcerer had cast a spell upon me, and my feet were firmly planted into hard concrete. The constant pressing of the Snapchat photo button, the nonconsensual pokes at my body, and the haunting laughter that bounced off the room’s walls like an elastic ball; I was vividly living every student’s nightmare. I was simply powerless and had no means of fighting back. But somehow, for a split second amongst the chaos, I sensed serene tranquility clearly not in the classroom, but in my mind. Taking advantage of it, I firmly closed my eyes without any further thought, as I navigated my way through the “crowd,” barely managing to stumble out of the room.

Running across the hallway, avoiding the attention of other students, thanking God for the fact that the bell hadn’t rung, I hurriedly locked myself in a bathroom stall. With my hands still shaking uncontrollably, I quickly turned my phone on and opened the Instagram app. As I clicked on Brian’s story, a feeling of dread engulfed my body like a disease. And yes, I was right. It was there. It was posted. All the humiliating videos and photos exposed the vulnerable me to the world and had already totaled over 1000 views. Over and over again, I wished to awake from this nightmare; that I would wake up and go to school, looking forward to hanging out with my “friends”. Embarrassed and pained, I slammed my fist against the stall and threw my phone onto the ground with such force that it shattered the screen. Yet the wrecked phone screen was incomparable to my mental state that had legitimately perished. Without having much of a social reputation prior to this occasion, I knew I would be remembered as “The kid who can’t take a joke”, or simply put, “A pu**y”. What was I to do now? Go back to the classroom or leave school?

Yet I asked myself whether I was merely overreacting. With the sound of the school bell and students pouring into the hallway, I abruptly recollected the memories of my rather ugly past.

Rewinding the clock, I found myself back in 2017, getting ready to party with my closest childhood friends. I was raised under such strict parents who went on and on about the possible dangers of going to a party, like possibly being murdered or smoking for the first time, and blah blah blah. Ugh, parents. Regardless, excitedly walking through the archway of the front door, my eyes were blinded by the vibrant lights flickering across the room, while I squinted at the overwhelming crowd of bodies dancing to the roar of the music. They were simply enjoying the moment, as the “notion” emphasized by schools that good grades lead to a good college, and a good college somehow creates a “successful” life was long gone from everybody’s mind; we had come to tell our struggles to f*** off. We had come to spend one night, just one night, in a utopia developed by us, not parents, not teachers, but us. Nothing could go wrong, everything was perfect. The night was alive.

All of a sudden, a tall cabinet concealed behind the living room caught my eye. It displayed baseballs signed by former Hall of Famers, including the legend himself, Babe Ruth. Noticing my awestruck self, a group of my friends beckoned me towards the couch. My attention was solely glued to the baseball cabinet, but realizing I had to fit in to be considered “cool,” I whipped out my phone from my back pocket while I began to walk towards the couch and pretended to text someone, even pretentiously laughing. I disappointingly reassured myself, “Eh whatever, I can always check it out later.” After I greeted my friends with a customized handshake, I hopped on the couch and started to watch what was playing on the main screen, a discriminatory comedy show called Family Guy. Within two episodes of the show, everyone cracked up whenever a racist or sexist joke was made. I proceeded to chuckle alongside my friends because I mean, yes, I was uncomfortable, but it was simply a joke… right?

Nonetheless, the party never ceased to amaze me. Yet again, everything was as I had dreamed of. All was good, even perfect, until The Box, a trending pop song, blared through the surrounding speakers. As the song’s lyrics contained the n-word several times, I anticipated a clean version to play. To my surprise, my friends loudly sang along, “She sucked a n**** soul, gotta Cash App. Told 'em wipe a n**** nose, say slatt, slatt,” whilst throwing up gang signs and chanting the n-word. Everyone grabbed their phones to record this “shocking” scene, as, of course, they had this need to look “cool” on social media. With a hoard of bodies jumping to music in rhythm, much different from the Family Guy situation, my moral standard simply could not allow me to act as if I was enjoying this moment. Because I was not. I felt uncomfortable. I could no longer put up such an act. Were these the friends I had known for a lifetime?…? Words could not capture my shock. I was beyond speechless, as my mind went blank. Did no one recognize the derogatory nature of the n-word?

With the blink of an eye, I arose from the couch and blurted out, “Guys, stop!” Much like a magical conjuration, everyone paused, as did the music, and dozens of eyes instantly glared at me, with a mixture of confusion and derision. My introverted subpart screamed, “What are you doing?!! I honestly had no idea. It was as if my legs were remote-controlled and the “stand up” button was pressed. I mean, I was clearly not black, so I was not the subject of hate. Why was I speaking up? Should I just sit down and act as if nothing had happened?

But of course, my so-strong moral standard–– not yet challenged by anything close to the world’s true evilness–– could not simply give in. Pushing aside my introverted component, it, figuratively, slapped me in the face to redirect me on my moral compass. I was lost, scattered all over north, east, south, and west; I knew that to regain my sense of direction, I had to “liberate” my voice. As I boldly spoke to cease the ignorant chanting of the racist slur, the room was draped with silence. So naive and childlike, I had simply expected my friends to agree. But no. I was very wrong. In the sea of my friends’ glares, I looked nervously around for a sympathizing set of eyes. None was to be found. As my once closest friends sneered at me, I realized that I had failed to foresee the social consequences of speaking out against immorality. The world was not a perfect place and far from a child’s fantasy.

As if the couch were infectious, one after another, a friend left my side. Even my closest childhood friend muttered, “It was a joke, dumbass,” whilst shoving me to the floor. As my tailbone thudded against the cold, bare ground, my heart was stripped of its components. It was empty. It was cold. I did not care about the physical pain imposed upon my tailbone; what did matter was that I had lost the privilege of hanging out with the “cool kids”. Why did I suffer humiliation for speaking out against immorality? Did the world work like this? If so, why? My mind was full of questions asking why, why, WHY. I became a “hero” on my own terms, but I kept on asking myself the same question: Was adhering to my moral ethics worth losing my social reputation? My social life? All of my friendships? Again, I was lost. I had no idea. I wished that I could relive yesterday. Because in that world, I was not yet exposed to the world’s wickedness; in that world, everything was pure and perfect. My emotions, as well as my moral compass, were now imprisoned. I snapped myself out of the ugly past and returned back to the, somehow, even uglier present.

Finding myself back in the school’s bathroom stall feeling as though I had just woken up from a surreal nightmare, the sound of the bell, signifying that a new period would begin in five minutes, served as a wake-up call. As I slipped my broken phone back into my pocket, a shard of glass cut through my index finger. But I couldn’t feel the pain anyways. My body was numb. I had just suffered not one, but two nightmares. I had no other choice but to return to my classroom where I had stupidly left my bag. As I trekked through the hallway, students who had clearly viewed the videos viral on Instagram pointed and mocked at me. In the midst of the appalling echoes of laughter, I closed my eyes, with my hands still shaking uncontrollably. When I finally got to my classroom, I managed to turn the doorknob using both hands, and while I had escaped the attention of the students in the hallway, my classmates were unavoidable. It was room after room, stage after stage, level after level. First, the hallway, now the classroom, and in the future, social media.

My classmates feasted their eyes upon me, not with an ounce of concern or empathy, but rather with disgust. Although nobody uttered anything, it was obvious that all my classmates were snickering, ‘What a sissy.’ If “sissy” meant that I was scared, then yes, I was a sissy, for I was beyond scared. It was as though I was gambling with the risk of becoming socially isolated, yet again. With my teacher and classmates staring at me with the expectation of any form of response, my body instantly stiffened. This time, I had to assess the social repercussions of speaking out against a joke that not only offended me but the entire Asian community. All I had ever wished for was a “normal” childhood, to enjoy my youth with joy and laughter. Laughter with others, not laughter directed at me. Why did such an adolescent, like I was, have to face pressure to conform to the social standard? What really was the “social standard”? Everything that the “cool” kids did?

I knew that I had to use my voice to speak out, but I hesitated as the fear of social ostracism crept upon me. Jolts of electricity fried my brain, with my heart beating rapidly as a cheetah would run away from its demise. At this point, I could merely resign to my seat or break my silence, putting my social life at “risk” in exchange for acting morally. The former, obviously, seemed simple and tempting. I could just go on with life, and others would probably forget about this. But, deep down, I already recognized the “wrong” choice: my social reputation being prioritized over adhering to my moral standards. I mean, what would the world become if no one recognized its flaws? If everyone chose to stay silent, if no one had a voice? The world would become nothing more than a dystopia; the viral phrase “We all have a voice” that originated from the BlackLivesMatter movement became a source of motivation. Not only at this moment, but throughout my middle and high school life. It enlightened me that silence would only deprive me of my own voice. A human with no voice might as well be a corpse. Losing my voice, I believed, induced a graver consequence than the supposed “mistake” of voicing my opinion at the party.

Now, it was as if my emotions climaxed and screamed, “Carpe diem!”–– such wise words repeated by my mother on my testing days. Seize the present moment, rather than dread the future! I was determined to reform my classmates’ prejudiced minds. I was no longer afraid. I was the solution to this nightmare. I proclaimed, “Wait! I have something to say.” Breaking the room’s silence as my now resolute self proceeded to speak out against Brian’s racist joke and the class’s unacceptable reaction to it, once I finished, the room re-entered a state of silence. My classmates, along with my teacher, were in a state of shock. Maybe they had expected that I would just shut up? Probably. Unfortunately, that state of shock did not last long; my speech failed to convey its message. Brian and his jocks were indifferent, resuming their screams of “SISSY,” as I steadfastly walked through the classroom aisle and back to my seat. But I was proud. I didn’t know what the future held, but I was proud. I was proud.

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This article has 1 comment.

A108 BRONZE said...
on Mar. 31 2022 at 1:21 am
A108 BRONZE, Three Rivers, California
4 articles 1 photo 4 comments
Wow, I'm so sorry that happened to you! That was really beautiful writing and you totally drew me into the story. But good for you for finally standing up, I wish you the best of luck in dealing with bullies in the future. Know that you have support from the rest of us!