Not Asian, nor American, but Asian-American.

Margaret Lin,
Houston, TX.

Although ethnically Asian, I stick out like a sore thumb in Asia. When I visited China last summer, my mother told me that everyone there could tell I wasn’t raised in China. Perhaps it was the way I dressed, or my heavy accent when I attempted speaking Chinese, or how my mannerisms simply were not the same as theirs. I wasn’t fully aware of how different I was from everyone else until my grandmother commented (in Mandarin), “A Chinese person [zhong guo ren] who can’t speak Chinese; that’s just not right.” And my reaction surprised me – I felt somewhat repulsed and thought to myself: But I’m not a “zhong guo ren” (person from China). I’m a “mei guo ren” (person from America).

But at the same time, I knew even that wasn’t completely true. Although I was born in the US, I’m still seen as a foreigner here; after all, I have yellow skin, black hair, and “narrow” eyes. I live in an area relatively well-populated by Asians and go to a university with a sizeable number of Asians as well, but when I step outside of my bubble, I still run into people who are shocked that I speak perfect English. They ask me where I’m “really” from, and then repeat themselves when I answer that I’m from Texas.

So where does that put me? I can’t assume a “double consciousness”; I’ve been rejected by both of the cultures that I theoretically should identify with, and truth be told, I don’t see myself ever fitting into either anyway. My American upbringing makes me reject many aspects of Asian culture, such as the complete and utter deference to superiors that is such a crucial part of Confucianism; and yet, I can’t bring myself to reject my heritage and assimilate into full-on “whiteness” either. That makes me the mule; the mutt; the one oddball in the family whose faults each parent blames on the other.

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not at all resentful of my unique identity. Am I confused by it? Yes. Do I feel lonely because of it? Sometimes. Am I disappointed in society’s inability to accommodate for it? Considerably. But am I bitter about it? No. There is nothing I would rather be than an Asian-American. Not Asian, nor American, but Asian-American.

 

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