Friday, November 2, 2012

"What kind of Asian are you?"

"What kind of Asian are you?"

One of my students asked me this as she bowed her head down in shame covering her eyes.

She was ashamed.  She knew it wasn't right.  Her hands covered her eyes, attempting to hide her discomfort at the dreaded question.  Her curiosity had gotten the better of her and she had to ask.

The white people at the table held a collective groan.

Her teacher tried to alleviate the situation.

"No, ask where your family is from."

"America."  I responded that we are from America.

The perpetual foreigner stereotype lives on as strong as ever today.  What is it about me that says I'm not from the United States?  Is it my slanted eyes?  Is it the brownness of my skin?  Why is it assumed that I'm not from here?

Yes, I was born in the Philippines, a country many people know absolutely nothing about despite having had American influence injected in it since the early 1900's and despite us being the second largest Asian immigrant group in the United States.  I've lived in this country for 19 of my 21 years and I'm still not accepted as being part of the United States population.

The perception of Asian Americans is that we are all still outsiders to this country.  We are all viewed as not belonging here.  There's something about being an Asian that makes people assume that you are not from the United States despite our presence in the United States since the 1500's.

"Are you permanent?"

My co-worker is on a student visa in the United States from South Korea.  In response I was asked if I was permanent.  Am I permanent?  I obtained my US citizenship when I was in 6th grade.  I have lived here for 19 years.  I'm here to stay.  I am an American.

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