What's It Like Being Half Asian in America

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This is going to be one of my more personal posts, but after the shooting that killed eight people in Georgia, which included six Asian women, I feel it's important to share my experience growing up in America as a half Asian. 

I was born in the United States of America. My dad is a white American, my mom was born in Taiwan and is Chinese. She married my dad and became an American citizen. That makes me half Chinese half Caucasian. 

Though my mom is bilingual, my sister and I were not raised bilingual. We only learned English. We also only celebrated American holidays.

The only Chinese holiday I ever heard of before I went to college was Chinese New Year, which rarely, my parents would take us to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate, but it was not something we celebrated every year and I was not aware of many of the traditions. 

Since my mother chose not to include us in her culture and raise us purely in American culture, I always felt a part of me was missing, mostly because America did not make me feel like I belonged. It did not help that I looked more like my mom than my dad. I had dark hair and dark eyes, slightly on the smaller, narrower side. Anyone who looked at me could tell I was of Asian descent.

As a kid, I was bullied, but I never really knew why. An older girl who was on my younger sister's swim team would call me by my sister's name and laugh. I never found out why as I did not personally know her and I have no idea why she found it funny. It may not have been a race thing at all, but the possibility is still there. There were other girls and boys who would make comments around me and then giggle, leaving me confused and hurt. Again I don't know their motivation, their reasons, so I can only assume that it was probably because I looked different.  

The only really offensive teasing I can remember as a child was kids putting their fingers on the corner of their eyes, trying to make them narrow. Later, in high school, I remember coming across a list of English phrases and words meant to sound "Chinese." I believe it was posted online and shared across Facebook, which was pretty insulting (and racist). However, most of what I faced were typical stereotypes, like me being short or the classic "oh you must be so smart and good at science and math." (Which may have contributed to my hate towards both subjects, but I also think the teachers I had weren't the best in that field.) 

Later in college, I soon discovered how sexualized Asian women were. One example that comes to mind is back when I started dating my husband, I would visit his place which he shared with three other roommates, and I do not remember how his roommates landed on this conversation, but at one point, one mentioned black men having big penises and Asian women have small or tight vaginas (This is a common pairing in porn, playing off and perpetuating the racist stereotypes, which unfortunately is the first way most teens learn about sex). I have the feeling they were not being serious like it was lewd humor to them, but it stuck out to me as I was in that room with them, and I highly doubt they didn't know I was of Asian descent. It made me feel very uncomfortable. 

I find myself incredibly lucky to have never been told, at least to my face, to "go back to where you came from." Yet, I see it all the time on the internet. 

One of the downsides to social media was that it opened me up to so much hate that I had been shielded from growing up. Maybe I lived in a more accepting area or maybe these were the things people thought when they looked at me and laughed but never had the audacity to say them to my face.

However, I am from America. I was born here. It's all I know. I have only been to Taiwan a few times in my life, but even there I did not feel as if I belonged. For one, I was not fluent in the language. Two, even the people there commented on how I looked "mixed," and three, there was still so much I did not know about the culture and history. 

I took three years of Chinese in college in desperation to feel more Chinese. My major was even Asian Languages and Literature. This was my attempt to know more about the heritage and culture that was maybe not kept hidden from me but was never shared with me. In the end, I left college with a little more knowledge about Asian culture and history, but still, I felt I didn't belong. 

I think one of the biggest struggles with being multiracial or biracial, is that you never feel you truly belong. America doesn't want me. China doesn't want me. Where can you go when both sides view you as too different to be one of them? 

At least China and Taiwan have strict gun laws, so I probably would not be killed there for being too white, but that is not the case in America where guns are easy to access (the guy in Georgia bought his gun the same day he shot 8 people). All I have to do is look Asian and that is enough for the white man with a gun. 

It was not really until Covid 19 that I realized just how much hate there was in America towards Asians. The hate that was hidden there all along, that somehow never reached or impacted me, finally came to light. Trump made it easy for the racists. He called it the "China" or "Chinese" virus. He made people feel it was okay for them to be more open with their hate as there were never any repercussions for his actions, for his racism and misogyny. 

Suddenly, I start seeing on the news that Asian Americans were being attacked and killed simply because they are Asian. 

  • An 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, died after being violently shoved to the ground during his morning walk. (Source)
  • An 89-year-old Chinese woman was slapped and set on fire by two people in Brooklyn, New York. (Source)
  • 6 Asian women were killed in Atlanta, Georgia. (Source)
  • There were nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate crimes, mostly against women, since March 19, 2020. (Source)

Leaving the house started feeling less safe for me. Not just because of Covid 19, but because of racism, because of hate. I could be killed just because I looked Asian. The half of me that's white would not matter to the murderer. He wouldn't see that half. He would just see my dark hair and dark eyes, and that would be enough for him. 

I have started becoming more paranoid while shopping. No one has directly said anything to me, but I have heard and read the stories online. The nasty comments "you're a disease," "go back to your country," etc. How many people are thinking that as I walk by them? 

Everyone's wearing a mask now, so I can't even see their facial expressions, but maybe that's for the best. It would only make me more anxious.

But the one thing, the one terrible feeling that sticks out to me after all of this is how relieved I felt because my daughter does not look like me. My daughter is only a quarter Chinese and almost the spitting image of her father. She most likely will never have to worry about being mocked, ridiculed, put down, attacked, or killed just because she looks Asian, though she may struggle with those for other reasons.

And at the same time, it saddens me. I want her to be able to embrace her Asian heritage. I want her to be proud of her race, not scared of it. I don't want her to feel she has to hide that part of her because others will hate her for it. 

So please, please, raise your children to be anti-racist. And when you see racism in action, don't be a silent bystander, act! If we ever truly want to end racism, then we must do more than performative actions like posting a photo on Instagram or a tweet. I may never feel like I belong, but I hope my child, and others, get the chance to live in an America that makes them feel welcomed.