Karen Gephart Altschul, Vernon Hills, IL. I was five, the first time I can remember somebody asking me that question. “What are you? Chinese or something?” Huh? Um, what are you talking about? I’ve been asked this question, “what are you”, on the first day at a job. A girl from China asked me if […]
Wen Wen Yang Dallas, TX I tell people I’m Chinese-American. My parents are Chinese, born and raised in China, while I was born and raised in the United States, so I think the term Asian-American is accurate. I am straddling the divide, but leaning towards American – I’ve never been to China and do not […]
Stefanie Bernosky, Houston, TX. I was raised as an All-American girl to an All-American family in an All-American town. I even looked “All-American”, proudly featuring my braces and American Flag sweater in this dated family photo (circa 1994). We can trace my family (both sides) to the United States prior to the United States Revolution. […]
Aubrie B., Moscow, ID. I am an 18 year old adopted Chinese girl. For years, I’ve endured the disgusted looks of onlookers whenever I go out in public with my adoptive father in the most harmless places; the grocery store or a restaurant. Even when my adoptive mother is there, many still glare at me. […]
Maureen Boyd, Oakland, CA. It is very hard when non-Asian people of color who are supposed to be your allies in racial justice do not honor your experience as an Asian person as an experience of a person of color. While the model minority stereotype, global employment markets and certain cultural values may have resulted […]
Malcolm Gin, Berkeley, CA. My Dad is Chinese and 86 years old. He was stationed in the Pacific Theater during World War II, fighting on the United States’ side. Nearly got his butt shot off several times for looking and being Asian, by our own side. Lately he was talking about his experiences in the […]
Jason Eng, Hong Kong. As a kid I looked more Chinese, and I identified as Chinese, because all my relatives looked Chinese and I was proud to associate myself with the subculture of Asian America. As I got older my appearance changed. Now I think that one should be able to identify as one chooses. […]
Clay Terry, Cincinnati, OH. I just want to put it out there that I have a multitude of African American friends, not all black people are ignorant. However, most of them are. I did not grow up racist nor are my parents racist. I developed my way of thinking from observing the black community around […]
Nic Rossouw, Seattle, WA. My son and I are both immigrants. I left apartheid South Africa in 1983. My family are white Africans who have lived in South Africa since the 16th century, only a few of my cousins and I have left. I sometimes half jokingly call myself African-American, but it is not really […]
Kaller, Portland, OR. Native American grandfather, Quaker grandmother, their child was my mother. Black stepfather, biracial brother, adopted Latina child, all Chinese grade school, segregation, race riots, the battle for Civil Rights…who are “my people?”
Jennifer Wong Cernak, Chester, MD. I have been listening to your race-card stories for a long time and heard the topic of mixed race come up again and again. In the past identity has been a struggle for me, but now I feel comfortable with who I am. There were many days, growing up, I […]
Lynn Li, Hilo, HI. I feel a little sheltered living in Hawaii. I’m 100% Chinese and my significant other, Angel, is Afro- Latino. No one looks twice at us on the islands. Mixed race couples and children are everywhere. Plus, we pass as locals because of our looks. But we met in San Francisco and […]
Michael Chan, Maplewood, MN. I am half Chinese and half Caucasian, but my German and Hebrew language skills are much stronger than my Cantonese skills (my family’s language). So when I get the question, “Where do you come from?,” I laugh internally and typically spend a few seconds trying to figure out what exactly I’m […]
Madison Le Lam Carter Canada Chinese/Vietnamese and Irish/Scottish
Natalie Rossi Canton, MA I am 50% Irish, 50% Italian, and 100% Chinese. I am adopted, I live with a white American family. I am Asian and when we went to Flushing NY and I looked at the building beside me and saw all the Asians, I could not find myself. there was a sea […]
Kay West Jordan, UT I get called Chinese all the time, and I have a lot of Chinese friends, but I am Japanese. Just because I am Asian, does not mean I am Chinese. Just like being Hispanic does not make them all Mexican. Being Caucasian doesn’t mean they are all from England. Every culture […]
Zoë McLaughlin, USA. Waiting in line for the Chinatown bus in New York City, a man approached me and began speaking Spanish. I squinted at him and briefly pondered my response. This was not the first time someone has expected me to speak Spanish. As soon as I began making forays out of my predominantly […]
Tenzin Palmo, Fridley, MN. A question that get asks a lot to Asian people.
Amanda McClendon, Houston, TX. For starters, I’m Korean, so no, no Chinese for me beyond “ni hao” and “xie xie”, which I learned from TV travel shows. Secondly, I was adopted as a baby by parents I like to refer to as American Euro-mutts–English, Irish, German, French, and a touch of Choctaw, and that’s just […]
Christopher Lee-Rodriguez, Boston, MA. We don’t live in a post-racial society. We live in a post-race society. We live in a country where in a short amount of time, there will no longer be a majority race. And race is continuing to be reshaped and redefined. I am half Chinese and half Puerto Rican. I […]
Katherine Ellis, American Fork, UT. I stood alone by the playground, kicking pebbles. Someone approached me and I glanced up eagerly, hoping for a friend. “Are you Chinese?” the girl spat at me. “No,” I mumbled. “I’m half Hmong.” “Monk? What’s that?” She looked at me like I should be bald and humming in an […]
Brigitte Dees, Stillwater, OK. Growing up half Japanese, Native American, and white in Oklahoma was a challenge. I don’t look like anyone else and people have reminded me of that my whole life. As an Asian girl I was expected to be quiet, studious, and polite. The reality is I have ADHD and dyslexia, which […]
Lee, Queens, NY. I live in NYC. A melting pot no? I am one of the few people where I work who is white American. I have a lot of experience but there are people there that have more experience than me and are better then me. I make at a minimum $15 more per […]
Joseph Salvador, Toronto, Canada. I’m a Filipino guy. And here in my city, the category of Asian is essentially narrowed down to Chinese, Japanese or Korean. The claims of diversity here is very false.
Diana Lew Boston, MA Chinese people use two terms to identify a Chinese person born in a Chinese country (China, Hong Kong, etc.) and a Chinese person born outside of a Chinese country, like myself (NYC). Born in China = bamboo core (“real Chinese”). Born in the U.S.A. = bamboo husk (i.e., Chinese on the […]
Catherine Kehl, Cleveland Heights. OH. When we divide ourselves into “us” and “other” we don’t only lose the other, we lose ourselves. I was twenty-seven before I realized that my mother sometimes spoke to me in Spanish not because she’d picked some up in college before travelling in South America in her twenties, but because […]
Sabreena M., MA. My parents are from China. I was born here. The fact that I look like a Chinese person shouldn’t override the fact that I’m American. I always get this question (from strangers who just come up to me) whenever I tell them that I was born here.
Colette, Sacramento, CA. “I love Asian girls” “I love Japanese people” “Konnichiwa” “Ni hao” “Sayonara” “Kamsammida” ‘Your a bad Japanese. You don’t know Japanese.’ “Are you Chinese?” “I don’t think people in Osaka speak Kansaiben” “I know Chinese” “You look the most Japanese” “You could be an other Asian too” One Caucasian man approached my […]
John Wong, San Francisco, CA. I’m an American Born Chinese and am in my early 20’s, while riding the train, this was said to me by a Hispanic gentleman. He said it to me in broken English, which took me aback. I questioned his audacity for saying this to me & proceeded to go into […]
Lily Yan, Scottsdale, AZ. Last year, my Australian cousin told me that despite the fact that Sydney has a significant Asian population, she still encounters the ignorance of those who assume she is not truly an Aussie. I could relate, as I still encounter many who ask where I am from and are not satisfied […]
Georgianna Wong, Topeka, KS. When my son, George Wong was playing baseball, I had a woman tell me how handsome my son was and then asked, “How long have you had him?” It always hurt me when people would think I adopted him even though my last name was Wong. Then I had a good […]
Steve Cox, Jackson, OH. Prior to having kids, people usually thought my wife (Chinese ethnic, Thai national) and I (white) were separate. If we went through a line at the store and we were both caring something, they would assume we were separate. Same thing would happen at airports and people would send us to […]
Charlotte Wong Santa Cruz, CA I am half Chinese, and half sort-kind-of-European. I don’t know what kind of European. I never knew my father, who was white, and my mother never knew his true ethnic background, aside for him being white. My mother would always say “your father would say he is like Heinz Ketchup” […]
Alvin Vang, Fresno, CA. Well as you can see I am Asian but if you dont know what type of Asian I am you can’t just call me a Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Philipian, Thai, Laos, Cambodian, Malay, and etc. You can ask me likw what race of asian are you instead of taking a huge […]
Ryan C Los Angeles, CA Chinese, 20-something-year-old male, university student, and gay. Never going to be a doctor, lawyer, or businessman–contrary to familial and societal expectations. Still looking for peace of mind in my life choices.
Ami Bogin, England. I get “where are you from?” so often (or the polite “Your accent’s different…” of the British, or the more rude “You Chinese? Japanese?” sometimes from everywhere) in my life and thirty years in I still don’t know how to provide an answer, or at least an answer that will satisfy the […]
Rachel Drummond Highlands Ranch, CO Jasmine stands apart. She doesn’t want to. Like may people of color who also have albinism, she is often not accepted or believed to be Chinese. Very few people who meet her haven’t had some strong reaction — new age folks have told me she’s New Age magical, children tell […]
Julianna, Diamond Bar, CA.
Lora McManus, Altadena, CA. Being transracially adopted (by Caucasian parents) comes with a plethora of advantages and challenges. One of the most common misconceptions that I face on a daily basis is the assumption that I was raised in an Chinese family and speak Mandarin, when actually neither of those are true. Stereotypes are one […]
Gerard Achilles Obnial, McAllen, TX. When I first worked in the hospital, it had always been routine that my patients would ask not for my name or how my day went as was customary (even though I knew that people don’t really want to know) — they would always ask for my age and where […]
James Estanislao Herr, Los Angeles, CA. Dad’s side came over in 1717–Swiss-German and Irish with some Danish and Greek thrown in. Mom came over in 1954. Filipino, Spanish and Chinese with I guess some Portuguese somewhere along the way given my middle name. Grew up in an all white community outside Philadelphia. Not sure who […]
Katherine Porter, San Leandro, CA. I grew up disowned by my racial cultures…too different from White, too different from Chinese. Talked about by cousins, wondered about by strangers, eroticized by college boys, and discounted by the census. Always had to check “other” on the surveys. Felt like I had to be the best example of […]
Marlene Resnick Sarasota, FL My Uncle Eddie was my favorite uncle. He took me to every carnival, fair and circus in town. He was Irish, my only non-Jewish relative and he was my hero. Aside from the ethnic confusion he created, he was the kind of mentor, supporter and playful companion that I wish for […]
Heather Ann Lindstrom Buffalo, NY My beautiful son was born to two very different parents. Me, of Swedish and Irish heritage,and his father of Samoan and Chinese heritage. When I would take my son out as a baby, it felt like everyone I met assumed he was adopted and asked “How long have you had […]
Brandon Milardo, Somerville, MA. Me with my parents at graduation in 2012.
Lianna Thomas, Congers, NY. I am a Chinese adoptee. Ive lived in NY practically my entire life (since I was 7 months old). My family is entirely white and I was brought up in a western culture with western traditions. I celebrate my eastern culture as well through holidays like chinese new year, I study […]
Caitlin Wong, USA. I am a White American woman who relatively recently started seeing a Chinese man. He was born and raised in American, but he is not biracial. It’s a fairytale romance – I am in love and I couldn’t be happier. At first it surprised me that we got stares, especially in New […]
Austin McGlothlin, Berea, KY. I’m an Asian studies major with a concentragtion in Japanese language. I have spent the only year I’ve been in college identifying the cultural differences in Asia that has created stereotypes about all Asians being smart or gifted at musical instruments,etc. But I’ve mostly noticed the fact that no one, even […]
Tu Nguyen, Philadelphia, PA. I am a 9th grader at central high school in Philadelphia. I wrote these words because I know that I’m not the only one who has heard them before. I am Vietnamese, but people often assume that I am in some way, Chinese. I notice that often then not, people tend […]
Adrienne Karyadi, Los Angeles, CA. I think of this as a supermarket check-out line experience: I’m waiting with strangers in some kind of line, and they notice me with my son. My son tries to engage them and they respond. And then they start wondering: what ethnicity is he? because he doesn’t look like he […]
Brenda Ling, Casper, WY. I’ve lived in Wyoming four years now and no one has said this to me – knock on wood. Though someone tried to give me an order at a Chinese restaurant in Casper while I was waiting for my food. Some sales clerk in Wal-Mart in St. Cloud, Minnesota, said those […]
Chloe Kandel Wong, Douglaston, NY.
Je Jack Vang, St. Paul, MN. When people see Hmong people the only thing they think of us is either Chinese or Japanese. It’s like our race has been deleted out of the world.
Vivian Li San Jose, CA I deeply appreciate my heritage as a Chinese-American. It has taught me about a complex culture, thousands-of-years-old ideology, and a strong sense of identity. I am proud of the country my ancestors hail from and its incredibly rich and its understudied history. It has given me beautiful looks, and the […]
Ian Shi C Malaysia I’m Malaysian and some people classify me as other other races. It’s just silly. Just because I don’t look or act like a Malay or Chinese. There’s even a race column on my ID. It’s stated ‘Chinese’. Anybody had something like this? Plus I don’t get it why people are still […]
Sean Ji Ann Arbour, MI The reason I said these 6 words is because ever since I came to the U.S at the age of 2 years old, I never really grew up around other Asian people. My hometown is Ypsilanti, Mi, which is really close to Ann Arbor, but much derided by those in […]
Michele Ypsilanti, MI My darling boys are Chinese and Black but look more racially non-specific; even while I lived in northern CA, what people think of as some sort of center of tolerance, people constantly assumed that since I was Black I was their nanny. Even though they are older now, I still get surprised […]
Gaby Segalla Washington, DC Most people see me and assume I’m Chinese. As an adopted Asian girl most people think “Oh that girl is probably Chinese.” I don’t take offense to that mostly because I have become used to being asked I’m Chinese. I’ve gotten used to people asking me where I am from and […]
Nancy Yuan Philadelphia, PA In most people’s eyes, I’m Chinese, and therefore, naturally talented in academics. If I score well on a test, it’s normal because I’m Chinese. If my score is bad, they celebrate because they bested the “smart kid”. For once, I want someone to say, “Wow, Nancy, you must have put a […]
Bang Ang New York, NY People often make jokes about my name. They would ask “did your parents drop pots and pans or something?” or “Did your mom drop her spoon at the hospital to name you that way?” This made me very depressed and feel bad about being Chinese.
Alec Dughi Castro Valley, CA I am always asked if I am Asian. And the answer is yes, I am. I think the politically correct term would be Chinese American, but sure, I’m half Asian. But I’m also half white, and the two races are constantly fighting to rule my life. I don’t really fit […]
Zhonghui Zhou Nashville, TN It doesn’t work that way. And no, I don’t answer to “konichiwa”, “anyeong”, or bows.
Anonymous. Omaha, NE “Excuse me, what’s your nationality?” “I’m from the U.S.” “No,” he chuckled, “like, where are you originally from?” “I was born and raised in the U.S.” “You know what I mean!” “You’re talking about ethnicity…” I offered. “Yeah, whatever. Like, where are you really from?” “I’m Chinese.” “That’s what I thought!” I […]
Willie McBride Long Beach, CA I was born in Taiwan to a Chinese mother and African American father. I was orphaned an American serviceman and his wife adopted me; my adopted father just happens to be African American and my mother is Chinese. They also never mentioned that I was adopted and so I grew […]
Sarah Lee San Francisco, CA My family’s migration stories trace back only two generations, but as a second generation Chinese American, I am often unaware of the struggles and hardships my grandparents went through before living in North America. What I have found most interesting as I’ve uncovered some of these migration stories is that, […]
Lynn Lomibao Los Angeles, CA To clarify, my statement isn’t intended to create further divisions among “people of color” or to point the finger or to say that white folks aren’t racist. My point is to acknowledge that people of color can be racist, too. Case in point: I learned that people see me differently […]
Karina Irvine, CA I live in an area that has many distinct Asian groups who are first generation Americans: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. My grandmother was first generation Filipino and my Grandfather and father are both Caucasian. That makes me part-Asian. But to my Asian friends who are first generation, they see me as […]
Dena Boyd Lincoln, IL In high school my Chinese friend, Zeyi, asked me to help her sell some Chinese food at the Chinese festival in Peoria called DuanWu Party. I went with her expecting to see of course many Chinese people and a few from other different ethnic groups. When we arrived and I helped […]
Lindsey USA I wish that we were not so scared to talk about race. The worst thing you can call a person is “racist.” It is a terrible insult and a judgement against your character. Fear of being labeled racist is what holds back discussion. Also, why are non-white people identified by hyphenated race/ethnicity/nationality? Why […]
Thuc Luong Philadelphia, PA I am Asian and when I was a kid about 6 years old I moved to the US, this is when I finally feel like a minority. People treated me wrongly calling me Chinese. I am not even Chinese. They would mock the Chinese language by saying ching-chong macha hay to […]
Dana Mulligan Falls Church, VA I am totally, completely, one-hundred-and-ten percent of white decent. However, I identify as an Asian-American. Due to her father’s job, my mother grew up overseas in Taiwan and Hong Kong. She passed the culture she learned there on to me. We take our shoes off at the front door, have […]
Jacqueline Larriva Tucson, AZ I call myself Mexinese. My mother is Chinese and my father is Mexican. I am often asked questions about my racial background because people can’t figure out “what I am”. After finding out “what I am” and which parent is Chinese and which is Mexican, they often ask many personal questions […]
Robert Fang Plano, TX I am a Chinese. I came to US in 1977 when I was 27, full grown. My children were all born in US and raised in Texas. When my first son was 5 years old, I asked him casually, in Chinese, “Are you a little Chinese or a little American.? (你是小中國人還是小美國人?” […]
Steven Cui Foster City, CA Kids having their white dad’s family name and a Chinese mum get the best of both worlds, at least on paper when it comes to college application.
Alex Summit, NJ Technically on this planet I am a majority being of Chinese decent and male, but growing up in suburban white northern NJ I had no minority friends and sometimes would be painfully aware that my immigrant family was quite different from all my friends. All of whom didn’t even have a relative […]
Sam Rhee Crown Point, IL I’ve come across this “benign” stereotyping from children on an infrequent but still significant basis. I live in a town with very few Asian residents, and it usually, but not always, children who openly ask breathtakingly offensive questions based on media stereotypes. Along with my Six Words, I’ve also had […]
Bryan Ren Ann Arbor, MI Being an Asian American in the United States has created a dilemma. I find it hard to relate to being strictly American, but I also discover difficulties while trying to hold on to my Chinese roots. As a result of my race in this country, I feel a disconnection between […]
Tu Nguyen Philadelphia, PA I am a 9th grader at central high school in Philadelphia. I wrote these words because I know that I’m not the only one who has heard them before. I am Vietnamese, but people often assume that I am in some way, Chinese. I notice that often then not, people tend […]
Stephanie K. New York City, NY I’m a first generation daughter in the U.S. My parents are Chinese immigrants. They just don’t get it.
Mei Powers Silver Spring, MD Because that’s the only two Asian races that matter?
Jasmine An New York, NY A third-generation, monolingual English speaking, Chinese-American’s adventures in Chinatown.
Eileen Ho Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan Do we look at race or see with race, or both?
Jess Washington DC My mom is Chinese. My dad is white. I am half-Chinese, but my appearance is ambiguous. I feel like I have to “come out” as half-Chinese in certain contexts. For instance, being part of a group of people who acknowledge lack of diversity or a group of people SEEKING diversity. Race is […]
Karin Kross Levenstein Austin, TX Korean adoptee, adopted as an infant by white parents. “Are you Chinese? Japanese? What are you then?” Always weighing out exactly what is meant when someone asks “where are you from?”, and then that sinking feeling (after you say “I’m from Austin” or “I grew up in DC”) when they […]
Kristina K. Albuquerque, NM Perhaps it takes a directly personal experience to be willing to see white privilege. We are a mixed-race family. My husband and I are white and watching our adopted Chinese daughter understand what it means (to her; to the world around her) to be different–not white/euro/caucasian like her parents, like most […]
Lantien Chu Lander, WY I am Chinese and get profiled as Native American, followed in stores, refused for rentals. Kids have asked me if I wear a coolie hat or when I’m going home (to China). I’ve lived in my small Wyoming town for 30 years and my kids (Eurasian) were born here. I try […]
Margaret Angela Thomas Chatsworth, GA I’m the descendant of a runaway slave who passed as Latin and was beaten to death by a slavecatcher, other runaways who moved to Indian Territories to pass for Cherokee, and a trafficked Chinese woman. I look Scotch-Irish and have a huge red vascular birthmark. I live with color bigotry […]
Jenny San Luis Field Fridley, MN Why do people assume that I am Mexican, if not that then they ask that I am Chinese, then for there last resort they will say I’m Japanese. Why can’t I be just Filipino? Ask first before you assume what I am!
Anonymous College Park, MD University of Maryland JOUR175 – Media literacy class
Jenny Braintree, MA I used to work at my dad’s Chinese restaurant answering the phone and taking orders. One time a man came in to pick up his order and was shocked that I was Chinese. He out right told me I did not sound Chinese when I was on the phone with him taking […]