Growing up in the United States as an Asian American, I was never really fully aware of the differences between my classmates and I until I entered middle school and high school. Being the only person in my family to be a citizen at birth, my family always stressed that I could be anything I wanted to be, including the President. I did not take it seriously and never wanted to become the President, but I grew up with the mentality that I was like every other American. It never occurred to me that Americans should all have the same physical features. My friends, while growing up, were mostly white with a few minorities here and there. I became friends with whomever I liked. Even though I didn’t start off speaking English fluently, the language barrier did not prevent me from becoming best friends with a Caucasian. The very first incident that ever made me wonder about my identity was in kindergarten. One of my peers and I were waiting in line for the bathroom and she turned around and asked me why my nose is so flat.
All I could say in return was why her nose was so pointy. When I got home that afternoon, I asked my mother the same question – why is my nose so flat? I never thought so until she had pointed it out. My mother explained that not everyone’s features were the same. Some people have flat noses, others have pointy, big, small, or round. Then I asked her why she had a flat nose too. She responded that many Asians have flat noses, with which I responded, “But I’m not Asian.” My mother then proceeded to explain that I am both Asian and American. After that day, right before I went to bed, I would pinch my nose in hopes of making my not so flat and being more American. Looking back at that event, I do not think I ever really understood what had happened. I still do not think it was a big deal. Children are often curious and more straightforward. I do not believe it was a racist remark, just an innocent one; but it had affected me without me realizing it. We Can Write Custom Research Proposals on Asian Americans for You!
As I grew older and entered into high school, I became prouder of being who I was, an Asian American. I began to have more and more Asian friends, although I still did have Caucasian friends as well. I also became involved with YOCA – Young Organization of Chinese Americans. I noticed that my school was very cliquey. If you were not part of the crowd, do not even think about going over and sitting at their tables. Many of the Asians sat together at lunch and that they separated themselves from the rest of the school. I became drawn into this social group and became more “Asianized” in the process. It was at this time that I became fully aware of my social group membership and that that affected the way one was treated in society. I remember one day at lunchtime, a freshman Caucasian student approached a senior Asian student and asked him to go to another table. The Asian student refused to move and the Caucasian student spewed out a whole bunch of racial slurs and the Asian student then punched the Caucasian student.
A fight broke out and was eventually stopped by the lunch ladies and both were sent up to the Principal’s office. Many people saw and heard what had happened between the two and knew that the Caucasian student had instigated the fight. By the end of the day, the entire Asian social group had heard what had happened. The Principal cleaned up the Caucasian student and sent him back to class while the Asian student had to stay and was punished for his actions. He was suspended from school for a few weeks. When we heard this, we were outraged that someone who said racial comments could get away with it. Granted the Asian student did not have to punch the Caucasian student, so in that sense, yes he should have been punished; however, the Caucasian student should also have been punished as well. Because he did not get punished, it came off that it was okay to say racial slurs because it is not something you could get in trouble for.
Many of us were angry at the Principal’s decision and felt that he was also being racist for letting the Caucasian student get away with what he did. The Asian student community got together and wrote a petition to the Principal about the incident. Although it did not do anything to make the Principal change his actions, it got the community together and made me very aware of my standing as an Asian American. I have always been taught to stand up for yourself and be proud of who you are. Yet when you stand up for yourself and try to protect your identity, you can get punished for it. It felt like because he was not white, he did not get the same rights as the other student; because he was not a model minority and did not just accept the racial comments, he was in the wrong. Many people had heard what the Caucasian student said and told the Principal, but the Principal seemed to let that behavior slide, as if it were okay or it was a Caucasians right to say such things.