I Will Not Be Silent Anymore

Yiming Fang,
Hopkinton, MA

I remember once in fifth grade, a friend and I were talking, and she was trying to figure out how many hours she slept for some reason. My dad had taught me a trick about that, so I was able to tell her really quickly. She asked me how I knew so fast, and I was so excited to tell her about the trick. But before I could respond, a girl nearby (who was caucasian) did it for me. “Oh well because she’s Asian” she said with a laugh, seemingly thinking herself very funny or clever. It’s a small comment, but I felt shriveled inside, as the excitement quickly turned into confusion and shock. I replied that there was actually a trick my dad taught me, but by then the conversation had turned. My words were lost in the wind.

This was the first moment I can remember where something I did that was “smart” caused me to be reduced to a mere stereotype. There were many instances to follow, where typically caucasian classmates would make a big show if they got a higher score than me on a test, or make backhanded comments if I did well in subjects like math or science. I never knew how to respond, so I just ignored them. It was easier that way.

The last experience I’ll mention here is with a my Sophomore Spanish teacher. I arranged a meeting after school with her once because even though I had a 90 in her class, I felt like I was making a lot of silly grammatical errors. The next day my mom asked me if I had met with my Spanish teacher about something. Apparently, she had sent my parents an entire email about how I’m really “doing fine in her class” and “there’s no need to worry” repeated multiple times but simply phrased differently. I want to believe she would’ve done that for any student, but in reality, I think she thought my Asian “tiger parents” had pushed me to meet with her so she had to “protect me” by sending them that email. I wanted to confront her about it, but I didn’t know how to without sounding sensitive or crazy. Instead, I never went to her for extra help again.

In the past, I’ve hardly talked about these experiences or called someone out for their harmful actions. The instances always seemed too small to make a fuss. However, I now realize that only by speaking out can there be change. Silent shame is a jail, and I will no longer be a prisoner.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris