race rant

Why must we stay “different” to each other?

My friend Shay aka Black Girl in Maine just wrote a blog post about killing a child’s spirit by letting him or her know that he or she is “different”. Reading the post and about how her adult son observed this sad moment at her daughter’s school made me hurt inside: how is it that we as a society continue to segregate, to draw these silos up and make our peers feel “different”?

Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn't the case.
Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn’t the case.

Reading Shay’s post made me reflect back on my own childhood and remember how my classmates made sure I knew I was different: the taunts on the school bus of “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!” and kids pulling their eyes back and laughing at me; my younger brother, Adam, being made fun of by his classmates after school and he was so angry he cried (and I tried to defend him but the kids were relentless); the subsequent visit to the principal’s office to get those guys reprimanded but they were let off the hook (yes, why would people believe the Chinese kids anyway?); and so on and so forth. I could go on and on about all the times we were reminded that we were “different” in our school.

Even to this day (and I know I’ve written about this topic earlier this year) I still feel my “other”-ness reflected upon me in Denver (yes, a major city!). It angers me that, over the course of my life, things haven’t changed for kids. Things are not better in many parts of the country; in fact, they may be worse!

Why must we continue to do this to one another? How can we change the conversation to being more about how we’re more similar than different? Yet we continue to only see our skin colors and make judgments, even on children.

UPDATE: Just read this passage in Eddie Huang’s memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat”,¬†and it really resonates with this post and Shay’s post:

To this day, I wake up at times, look in the mirror, and just stare, obsessed with the idea that the person I am in my head is something entirely different than what everyone else sees. That the way I look will prevent me from doing the things I want; that there really are sneetches with stars and I’m not one of them. I touch my face, I feel my skin, I check my color every day, and I swear it all feels right. But then someone says something and that sense of security and identity is gone before I know it.


race Slice of Life Thought of the Moment

Scars in Humanity.

Kitty looking out the window.

This weekend has been tough to get through, all because of two incidents that occurred yesterday:

  • A young man outside of an eatery came up to me and asked me, “Will you please buy me a drink? If you do, ‘me love you long time.'”. I was right by campus and just strolling to Starbucks when this happened. The comment brought up childhood trauma over when other kids would make fun of me for being Asian. I cannot believe that people still say stuff like this in the present day. I was shaken up by the comment and felt that, no matter how hard I try, that injustice will still follow me throughout my life. How can you judge me by the way I look? I thought we’d all worked past this already. I am American. I can only be what I can be.
  • Last night, I was making soap in my kitchen when I received a knock from the apartment advisor. He showed me a note that somebody in the building had left him, saying that my cat was a bother. So he asked me to “Please get rid of it by next week”. I closed the door and the tears of anger came forth: what has Kitty Softpaws done to deserve this? What have I done to deserve this? Kitty is solely an indoor cat and is a mere 4-5lbs. She doesn’t make THAT much noise. And…well, really, who could have done this to me? I know nobody in the apartment building aside from a few first-floor residents. Is this a malicious act against me?

These thoughts continue to swirl through my mind today as I wonder what wrong I have done to have this happen to me. It all wouldn’t bother me, but it’s a week before finals and I’m already stressed out from schoolwork/company planning. Why now?

I question humanity when things like this happen. I know there will always be evil in the world, there will always be low points in life; yet, why this? Why now? The racist comment was enough to set me off yesterday, but then the notice that I’d have to “rid” of Kitty.

Do people believe that pets are easy to just “get rid of”? Throw them away, like they’re a worn-out clothing item? Do people believe that denying happiness to an individual is acceptable? I tell you, I have Kitty Softpaws to keep me company and keep me sane. Last quarter was rough for me to stay all alone in the apartment: a lot of emotional roller coasters and overanalyzed thoughts. Don’t I deserve this spot of happiness in my life?

I know we can never see things from “the other side”, as hard as we may. But I feel that we can all benefit if we just take a step back from the situations we face and see things more objectively. Insulting someone on their ethnicity is not right: would you want someone to call you a racist name in return? Why do you think it’s ok to hurt another individual because they appear “different” from you?

Too much on my mind. I know this too shall pass, but right now it’s hard to move forward without a trace of anger.

Hot Dog Days My San Francisco Chronicles race rant Work Diaries

Ni hao, Hot Dog Vendor!

I find it rather offensive when non-Chinese people try to speak “Chinese” to me. Once, I had a customer walk up with his young son (!) and say to me “Ni Hao”. I looked at them with a glare, feeling offended first by his horrible accent, and second, by the fact that he even had the nerve to say such a thing to me. What if I weren’t Chinese? And why exactly was it necessary to “speak Chinese” to a girl working at a hot dog stand? I would be a little less offended and would understand if I were a server at a Chinese restaurant; but come on, a hot dog stand. From my accent, I’m sure the guy could tell I spoke perfectly fine English and that I didn’t need him to “impress” me with his “Chinese”.

Another time, I was giving another customer his drink and his change, and he said to me afterwards “Dou jie/Shi Shi Ni”, which means “Thank you” in Cantonese/Mandarin. I thought the guy was okay up until that point, but immediately I felt offended once again.

You know, I would feel “impressed” if I were in China and they were doing this to me. But I am in AMERICA. I know that many San Franciscans are actually Chinese, and a lot of them are immigrants from China, so they speak little English/more Cantonese/Mandarin. I can understand that–that’s why Chinatown seems so foreign of a place to outsiders since the majority of the businesses are run only in Cantonese.

But hello–it’s just really dumb and ignorant when guys like those (mentioned above) try to “speak Chinese” to someone who is obviously not an immigrant AND can speak English. I’m not dissing on my people in Chinatown, but really, what the hell. Next time someone tries to speak Chinese to me that way, they’re going to be in for a bad surprise.

Asian-American My San Francisco Chronicles observation race


I don’t know why it still shocks/surprises me when I encounter another Asian-American like myself; for the longest time, I was one of very few Asian-Americans living in my hometown. Even though I met a considerable amount of Asian-Americans in college, I always ended up just hanging out with the caucasian kids anyway. Plus, in my classes, it seemed that there were more non-native Asians than Asian-Americans most of the time.

San Francisco and probably California in general has a huge population of Asian-Americans. Actually, today marks the beginning of the 11th Annual United States of Asian America Festival, which is a month-long celebration of Asian-American artists through visual art, multimedia, theater, and dance. My friend and I went to the opening reception today, where we got to see artist Flo Oy Wong’s work on display, and some Noodle dances.

Anyway, at the event, there were many Asian-Americans, which my friend said reminded her of Hawaii. For me, I felt at home with other Asian-Americans, since we all could relate in many ways; I am sure most of the people there had been mistaken before as “non-native” or whatnot. Possibly most of them grew up in dual cultures as well; maybe even some of them can only speak English now, and not their mother tongue.

This brings me to another story from earlier today; I was on the bus on the way to get bubble tea and do some window-shopping. A woman came onto the bus and sat a few seats away from me and was gabbing away to a friend on her cell phone. It seemed that she was having issues at work, since she was speaking rather loudly and I could hear everything she was saying. I hadn’t noticed the woman when she first got on the bus, so I didn’t know how she looked like. I just automatically assumed, from the way she was speaking, that she was caucasian (it’s a horrible assumption, I apologise). When I was about to leave the bus, I turned and glanced at the woman and realized she was Asian-American–just like me.

I guess the point I am trying to make, is that even though I now live in a city where there’s so much diversity, so much more chance to meet others with similar backgrounds as me, I still find it strange to run into another Asian-American. Most of my friends here are Asian-American, but I never really noticed our similarities before. Is it strange to think like this?

Asian-American My San Francisco Chronicles public library quotation race

Jennifer 8. Lee Reading at SFPL

(This post is coming…rather late. Backdating the entry)

Jennifer 8. Lee had a book reading event at the SFPL on March 26, 2008. The room was mostly packed with Asian-Americans; a little surprising and amusing to me. Lee’s slideshow was fun to watch and was basically a short summary of what was all in her book. I had managed to read all except 20 pages left in the book; really good read in general.

One quotation from the book that really struck me was this:

“Look at me, and you may see someone Chinese. Close your eyes, and you will hear someone American.”

This quotation strikes me because of how accurately it describes most of what Asian-Americans experience in this country…probably everywhere else in the world besides their homelands. I find myself always getting confused for a “foreigner”, wherever I go in the US. People don’t seem to believe me when I say I am American; they give me this look as if I’m crazy for thinking that Americans can be Asians, too.

Even in San Francisco, I get mistaken as being “one of them” in Chinatown. Although I guess it makes them less discriminating towards me, at the same time, it gives me an uncomfortable position when I actually have to speak and they realize that my Taishanese is really limited.

I don’t know why it’s such a hard concept–after all, isn’t the US known for its diversity? Yet, I guess Asian-Americans seem like a “new breed” to many people. Who knows.