How Asian Stereotypes Stifle Individuality

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Courtesy of Are Women Human?

Growing up, I was not aware of how those in my home country are stereotyped. Since all of us were the same ethnicity-wise, I was not exposed to racial segregation or discrimination. Moving to the United States, however, has completely altered my view of the word “stereotype.”

“Hey, why aren’t you wearing any clothes!” Anytime I wear a yellow shirt, yellow dress, yellow anything, this comment follows me around all day. “You look so Asian.” “Stop being so Asian.” “You are such a FOB!” The acronym stands for fresh off the boat, which is supposed to be an offensive term. Directed towards Asians who were not born in the U.S., it is used to call someone odd and out of place. These comments that were just listed—I have heard them over a hundred times by now. It seems that it doesn’t matter what brand of clothing I wear, what activities I do, or what I eat; anything I do, own, or say is just so Asian. As each of these comments is thrown at me, I feel degraded even though I shouldn’t. I am indeed Asian and there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it.

The definition of Asian is of or relating to Asia or its people, customs, or languages. But the real definition holds much more meaning than the one found in the dictionary. This word has come to connote deserving shame, being abnormal, and having flaws. I am positive that almost all Asian Americans go through a phase at one point in their lifetime, mostly during their teenage years, where they despise their own race. Since our identity is portrayed as being below par, people cannot help but feel reluctant to embrace their true self. I am repentant when I say that I have struggled to overcome this phase for quite a long time.

Funny as it is, at other times I am told that I’m not Asian enough. I am too tan for an Asian. My eyes are too big for an Asian. My butt is too big for an Asian. I am not good at math; thus, I am stupid for an Asian. The most infuriating part is that no matter what, I will always be eccentric in the eyes of society.

Sure enough, the problem does not only apply to racial remarks. The problem of not being able to embrace one’s own identity applies to gender remarks, different beliefs, favor in a certain style, and much more. Although the world knows holding stereotype isn’t virtuous, it is awfully difficult to deviate from the norm. As such, I want to contribute to redefy by changing society’s perspective and allowing individuals to be accepted as WHO they are, not WHAT they are.

-Seohyun Kim