This weekend I got to hang out with one of my sisters and two of my cousins from my dad’s side that I haven’t seen in several years. My parents also arrived back home after an extended visit to Malaysia to attend the wedding of another of my cousins on my mom’s side. All this extra family stuff got me thinking about how I sometimes forget I’m actually Asian.
I know that sounds weird to probably most people. You usually don’t forget your ethnicity. And it’s not that I’m ashamed or not proud to be Asian. It’s just my entire life, I have hung out with my friends who tend to not normally be Asian American so I don’t see myself really in that way. Growing up, I stood out a lot physically because there weren’t a lot of Asians in my high school. I got teased a lot for it. Luckily it didn’t scar me horribly but let’s just say kids can be very mean College was very different in that sense as I was surrounded by lots of other Asian Americans and Asians and I no longer felt like a minority. Nowadays, I joke about being the token Asian all the time with my friends, in a good way. It’s funny how back in school, I never could have done that. And now, while I don’t make racist jokes, I’m often the first one to bring it up so everyone feels comfortable.
And no, I don’t know how to speak any other language besides English. And no, I still don’t know how to really use chopsticks. And no, I’m not a doctor or an engineer and I didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. And no, I don’t know how to play the piano or the violin. To dissuade you from all those Asian stereotypes.
In case you’re wondering (and because I get this question a lot), the type of Asian I am is Burmese-Chinese. My dad is from Burma and my mom is from Malaysia but is ethnically Chinese. Although technically my dad isn’t actually Burmese. We’re really ethnically Chin so I’m really CHIN-ese (heh) but just like no one knows where Portsmouth is and I just tell people I’m from Virginia Beach, it’s easier to say Burmese. Oh and I’m 100% American born and raised. And I’m from the south, y’all.
Being Asian American has both its ups and downs. It can be a challenge sometimes and I will always physically stand out unless I decide to live in an Asian community. But you know, it’s also cool to be different. And if folks can’t accept that different, it’s their choice and not my fault. Now excuse me while I go eat some rice.