Not long after I became aware of the social concept of race did I soon start to resent my half Asian heritage. I was probably about 12 years old when I started to dislike that half of my ethnicity. It wasn’t because I hated who I was. It wasn’t because of my upbringing or home life. It was the American Educational System that made me resent my half Asian heritage. I am sure that this wasn’t intentional on the part of the school. Most of it is due to ignorance and wrongful perceptions. At the time, the American Educational System was still very much catering toward a certain group of people. The teachers who were educated under that very same system also were influenced in their teaching and acted a certain way that may not have seemed offensive to them, but it was. It’s been fourteen years since I graduated from high school and I am still feeling the affects of what my school did to me to make me resent my half Asian heritage. This is my story of how I felt growing up under an American Educational System which unintentionally made me resent my half Asian heritage.
When I was in school, one thing that I noticed was that my school focused on European American history. There was hardly any reference to Asian American history. As a result, I often felt half validated by the extensive teachings on how and when European Americans came to this country, and then how they fared. Reading about them brought into perspective on how my European ancestors must have lived when they first immigrated to this country. But on the other side of the coin, I also felt half invisible.
I felt half invisible because my school didn’t validate the other half of my ancestry. At the time, it felt as if the American Educational System was saying that my European American side was somehow more important than my Asian American side. It felt as if my school was saying that Asian Americans were not worthy enough. And it also felt as if my school was saying that Europe was somehow better than Asia because it was more ‘civilized.’
When you go about your school days thinking that one half of you is more important than the other, then it really makes you wonder. It makes you wonder that if you hadn’t been born a certain way then maybe this supposedly great country, America, would like you better. It makes you wonder what your ancestors could have done to be so ostensibly omitted from the history books. I read about how European immigrants fared in this country, but I wasn’t taught how Asian immigrants fared. How were their sufferings the same, or different? What was it like to be a young Asian immigrant in America in the late 1800s? I also learned about some of the major European events, like the Bubonic Plague or the Italian Renaissance, but learned nothing about ancient China or the invasion of the Japanese in Korea. I would have loved to learn more the latter in school particularly since my own grandmother lived through the Japanese invasion. But I didn’t learn about them in school.
By not including these crucial aspects to American history, we are doing people a disservice. By not teaching children about Asian American history, we are laying the foundation for ignorance, which can later grow to hatred and racism. After all, people tend to dislike and even hate things that they know nothing about. That is one reason that I, as a hapa, started to resent my half Asian heritage. The fact that the school system completely ignored one crucial part that made up me is one of the many things that is America. It is also why racism still exists today. If people understood Asian Americans — and their history — better, then maybe there wouldn’t be any more racism in the world.