Growing up hapa in the Deep South, I was often confronted by Asian stereotypes. Because of this, I felt this overwhelming sense of pressure to conform to be the person that they expected me to be. And then, when I found that I didn’t have those particular qualities, I was sometimes let down, as if there was something wrong with me. I feel as if society places so much emphasis on stereotypes. Instead of getting to know you for you, society puts unrealistic expectations on you. They expect you to do certain things, or not do certain things, purely based on how you are perceived. So, in this blog post, I want to either affirm or refute some of the Asian stereotypes that I have been bombarded with nearly my entire life.
You are a math wiz
I’m afraid that the first one is definitely false. I don’t like math, and most of the time, I barely understand it. I might have managed to pass math with B’s in high school, but that was due to a lot of hard work and extra one-on-one tutoring sessions. In fact, I once nearly failed math class in college, and probably would have done if my professor hadn’t taken pity on me and encouraged me to come see her after class for some assistance. And that was a math class for liberal arts majors, and definitely not calculus or trigonometry.
You are short
This one could be a matter of perspective. I am short, but I am not the shortest. I am not super short. I stand at just under 5 feet 3 inches tall. The average height for a woman in America is 5 feet 4 inches tall. I am slightly shorter than the average.
You are submissive
I am pretty passive. Also, I am not a fighter and I avoid confrontation at all cost. But, there is a difference between being passive and being submissive. I may be passive but I don’t give in easily. I don’t let people take advantage of me. But that is what people assume that Asian Americans let people do to them. They assume that Asian Americans just roll with the punches, try to blend in, and accept the status quo. They assume that Asian Americans won’t fight back because that is what the media taught them to believe.
You must like anime
Despite knowing quite a few people who love anime and manga, I don’t like it. I never understood the appeal of the cartoon characters with the huge round eyes and exaggerated facial features. Also, when I first started noticing my friends getting into anime, it was at an age when I started turning away from cartoons, deeming them too childish and immature.
You are wealthy
I don’t like talking about money on this blog since it can be such a taboo topic. But I am definitely not wealthy and I didn’t grow up wealthy. And yet, it is a stereotype that people of Asian descent are just rolling in dough. They are either well paid with high tech jobs, or self-sufficient from various investments.
You just like to study all the time
If I had a dollar for the number of times that people have assumed this about me, then I would be pretty wealthy. I don’t like to study all the time. Back when I was in school, I was a good A/B honor roll student, but not because I studied all the time. Truth be told, I spent a lot of time writing, reading, and daydreaming, in that order. I always preferred reading fiction over boring tomes of history or science books. Just the thought of those books makes me tired with sleepiness.
You grew up playing the piano
I never learned how to play the piano. Of course, my Korean mother would have loved for me to play, but I never got to take lessons. I’m not sure if I would have been a good pianist. I did used to play the viola when I was a kid for a year, and I think I did alright, despite not being very musically inclined, as mentioned in my previous blog post.
Your favorite food is rice
Again, this one is false. I don’t mind rice and I do eat it. But it’s definitely not my favorite because it doesn’t have a lot of flavor. It’s like water. It only tastes good when you can eat it with something else.
You have a black belt
When I was younger, kids would whisper behind their backs, warning each other that I would probably use kung-fu against them. I would just stare uncomfortably because I have never taken any martial arts classes. As mentioned above, I don’t like to fight. I don’t even know how to. The fact that they would use those stereotypes in an attempt to describe me is again another example of the strong influence that the media has on how people are perceived in society.
Throughout my childhood, I was often bombarded by these nine stereotypes. Some of them were used as verbal weapons by peers, and some of them were obstacles that I was never able to overcome. They were obstacles that hung over me, almost like a noose suffocating me, even restricting me into being the person that society expected. My purpose for writing this article is to help demolish stereotypes, because at the end of the day, they are just stereotypes. They do not define the person. By letting stereotypes define who someone is we are depriving people from getting to know others. And by continually letting stereotypes define us, racism will always be there, subtly perhaps, but always lurking in an invisible corner. Perhaps one day when we finally cease to be defined by stereotypes, we might just see people as just people.
What is one stereotype that you have been told? Is it true or false?
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