Words are powerful.
“You’re not white, you’re Chinese.”
“You’re not Chinese, you’re white.”
Segregation, though try as we might as a society to uphold ourselves to a higher standard, it’s a tendency we fall back on often. Before I even knew what that word meant it became a part of my life. Not in the way most would think. After all, how can you be segregated when both sides of who you are don’t truly believe you are anything like them?
As someone who has always been proud of who she is and where both sides of her family comes from, I admit to feeling the pressure of having to pick between one race or the other. Although no one ever flat out said you must choose it was often implied if I “wanted to fit in.”
I grew up in a small farm town. Where hunting and fishing are past times. Driving a truck makes you cool, wearing camouflage is always a trend, and tractors frequently share the road with you. I love where I grew up, I pridefully attribute a part of it to making me who I am today. Growing up in a town where you are described as the “cute little asian girl” followed by an immediate “oh yeah, I know her” only reassures the sacristy of others like you.
More than my race
When they look at me all they see is an asian girl. They don’t see that I’m like them not only in friendships and interests but in race as well. I may not have blonde hair or blue eyes but my mother is Caucasian so therefore so am I.
My life changed when I moved to San Francisco. Surrounded by several of the same I was now engulfed in a place of diversity. I happily soaked in all that was new around me. I noticed that it was the first time in my life where I was suddenly not the only “cute little asian girl.” It was also the first time I really experienced the other side of not being seen as one of “them.”
When they look at me all they see is a white girl with asian features. I may not speak Chinese or have grown up in a traditional Chinese household but my father is Chinese so therefore so am I.
To appease is to decry a side of myself
I use to think I would forever have to fight to try and prove just how “white” I am or how “Chinese” I am. Continuously battling the implied pressure of relating to one side more than the other and whether that was seen as a positive or negative thing. It was as if I was constantly trying to be apart of both worlds. And yet I felt as though I was never truly going to be apart of either.
That is an insecurity within me I’ve grown up with, faced over and over, and learned to accept. Because the truth is I will never be “white” enough or “Chinese” enough to appease those that think I am less. And why should I try too?
This story- my story, isn’t that different from every other racially mixed individual. It’s not a story of a victim that never fits in but rather one of finding confidence in the middle. Learning to own what makes you different. Seeing it as a positive quality. Joyfully, pridefully, and eternally straddling that line. Knowing that you are who you are and you like what you like. Whether that is seen as more white or Chinese, black or brown, green or purple makes no difference to you.