stereotypically asian: A poem

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Jessica Doojphibulpol/Staff

when i was 14, i

consoled a crying friend

over her math grade.

she laughed

self-deprecatingly.

“am i even asian, then?”

 

when i was 15, i

helped a friend in math everyday.

she wasn’t doing well,

no matter how much effort she put in. one day,

frustrated, she announced her hatred for the school,

for the area and its culture,

for silicon valley.

 

when i was 16, i

learned that a friend was depressed,

maybe even borderline suicidal.

 

when i was 17, i

was talking to my friend when

she let spill that she wanted to pursue the humanities

and ranted that she was the only goddamn asian

in this school, in the bay area even,

who didn’t want to pursue stem.

 

people call asians the “model minority.”

we’re associated

with being smart

and generally overachieving, videos of amazing performers

waved off with a, “well, he’s asian,” comment that apparently

explains everything.

we’re all upper-middle class who make

lots of money in big corporations.

we all score incredibly on tests,

go to top-100 colleges and successful careers.

we’re heterosexual, complacent and apolitical.

we have small eyes, faces that white men

sometimes find attractive.

we’re east asian,

chinese, japanese, korean.

we’re the “model minority.”

 

and so asians are lumped into one huge category,

and stereotyped.

but many of us are dirt poor.

but asians are ethnically more diverse than

chinese, japanese, korean

(even if some are now classified as

pacific islanders, because they’re different

from the image people associate “asian” with).

but hand in hand with this stereotype is

a culture of ever-increasing stress, pressure, overwork,

and an intense fear of failure —

a culture people are failing to address.

but we aren’t represented in government.

but when you’re asian and applying for

colleges, jobs, positions,

you’re forced to find ways to “stand out”

and prove yourself to be different

from the stereotype, because apparently,

no one wants that.

 

in many cases, i’m probably a stellar example

of the “model minority.”

i’m at a top college. i did well in school.

i’m even pursuing computer science, and so supposedly,

i will land a six-figure job right out of college.

but that barely tells you anything about me,

about my experiences,

about my interests,

and if i am going to be judged and

have my voice dismissed because i fit the “asian” stereotype,

i will tear apart these notions of me.

Contact Candace Chiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @candace_chiang.

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  • Nunya Beeswax

    So does removing all capital letters and inserting random line breaks turn prose into poetry?