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THH: No, Not Because of My Race
Unfortunately, I present a case for the little Asian girl stereotype. I exceed all standards; I perfectly assume the guise of a quiet, smart, musical genius imported straight from Beijing. And I know it.
Well, why? I could write a whole other Holy Hitchhike on what makes this kid so dang quiet, but that’s not the point. The point is, people feel the obligation to drift as soon as I mention why. Why, we don’t need a why or much less an X or a Z, since we already know why.
Boom. Problem solved.
It’s tempting to say this opinion has been forced upon me from outside sources. But that’s not entirely true, at least not where I live. In fact, I’ve found it’s mostly my Asian-American acquaintances that can’t go two sentences without burgeoning race onto the discussion. I’ve heard the excuses echo in my own head. There’s practically a whole literary genre dedicated to the racial crisis; I used to loath hearing about those dumb ethnic writers always parading around with medals, that is until I became a dumb ethnic writer myself and my ego smacked itself in the forehead.
But when you think twice, it’s almost funny how unreasonable this approach is. I mean, how much can coloring change a person who grew up in America, the ultimate mixing pot? And what do we really mean by the word “Asian”?
I volunteer myself for examination. Disclaimers aside: I am not very smart. You could instead describe me as intelligent, or bright. I would pat you on the shoulder and we would be friends. My parents mixed polar genes when I was born, wherein right-brained creativity and left-brained logic flew at each other with spears. Apparently, the right-brain won (otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this article). And ever since, testing into Honors has been irrepressibly embarrassing: I stray only a few points behind every time. I am actually quite good at math, but I don’t systematically think in a way that buoys mathematics. Luckily for the U.S., every other Asian-American seems to.
And what about those people? Are we to attribute all their disciplinary genius to pure genetics? Although there’s no shortage to owe, it takes more than lucky chemistry for those towering GPA’s. These people are at work.
Though surely my being quiet has something to do with this. Hands-down: I’m a quiet person. (Crazy, right? Considering my fabulous literary personality...) What’s more, I’m a renowned bystander amidst Asian-American friends, the very people who continue my ethnic homogeneity—it’s either that or downright crazy.
So what’s the kick? It’s nothing new that Asians are perceived as the “quiet” stereotype. And I might just bust the budget.
But let me share a little secret: I can’t name a single person who truly fulfills the typecasted “quiet” Asian. I can’t even think of one; myself included. That crude silhouette does not seem to belong anywhere at all among human beings, regardless of race. And only recently I’ve began to wonder if this stereotype has been enforced with Asians as a minority. But even that’s starting to deteriorate, as the cultural diffuse of a global world blurs the lines further…
Only here’s the best part. Surely my musical abilities have some correlation with my race.
Before the booming history of music hits you over the head and knocks you out, I tell you monolids do not help you.
Sure, the argument holds ground. Left and right dazzling prodigies have arisen in the classical music community, seemingly to all share at least one commonality: they’re Asian.
It also doesn’t take a genius to realize skills aren’t just handed to you. You earn them; and music is no different. I play violin myself, but ever since I started hearing the word “Asian” and “violin” become suspiciously associated, I began to back out of the scene. I started to be slightly embarrassed to mention I was in orchestra in an environment that someone could identify my race. After all, the only reason I was good at violin was because I was Asian. I’d gotten lucky. The thought was mortifying to behold.
But after keeping my voice and ears voice open, I’ve evolved. And I’ll now tell you upfront it has cost me blood, sweat, tears, and ridiculous amounts of resin to attempt la musique—though mostly guts. I’m sure any musician out there can agree. And it directly insults me each time someone assumes my musical abilities are owed to the fact I am Asian.
Mmmm. That word.
Now, why do we use “Asian” in casual speech, versus “Asian-American” when we actually mean it? Other than the fact the latter is a mouthful, it says a lot about the common misconception about Asian-Americans, specifically the first generation after their immigrant parents. The resulting illusion in society is that an apartment in western Shanghai can be recreated in an 75th street NYC setting. Even I can tell you that will not work; although some get pretty darn close trying.
Because though a lot of the façade is set—facial features, the fluent second language, the competition, the smarts—it only reaches so far. This new “mob of yellow people” might magnetize toward some diffused traditions at home, but many did not grow up in Japan. Thailand. Taiwan. Laos. South Korea. China. Vietnam. Many—if not most—weren’t even born there. Instead, many watch the same TV shows as our good ole American idiot growing up, the same movies, the same brands, and buy the same shiny junk on Christmas Eve. Their skills and quirks are theirs: they don’t belong to the genetics their ancestors passed down to them, and neither to the stereotypes that try to run them down.
And above all, they--we--do consider ourselves Americans. Asian-Americans.