I have always found it strange to be one of the only Asian Americans in my school for 13 years. Jesse (Half Chinese) left in eighth grade. Sandra (a Korean-American performing arts teacher) also left when I was in eighth grade. There have been others, as well, who have left. Not me though. Even ‘til this day, there are only a few in the school I attend. But only now am I starting to piece together my Asian-American identity. And what I’ve figured out is that I believe that identity is what I make it to be. And where and how the “Asian” fits in depends on where I am and whom I am with.
I have traveled to Japan three times and to Viet Nam twice. I’ve seen culture unlike what I’ve seen here. One difference concerns gender. There is a different version of what it means to be masculine in the two Asian countries I’ve visited. In Viet Nam two males can walk down the street with such close body contact that it’d be awkward and someone would yell out “Gay!” in the U.S. In Japan some straight men even wear makeup. It is only after visiting these places many times that I start to understand more about my Asian-American culture, but also culture in general. In the U.S. these experiences have helped me care less about doing things that other teenagers find awkward. In class, one of my peers noticed I sit with my legs crossed—something a grandpa might do (or a teenaged girl in a skirt) but not a 17-year-old teenaged male. Being conscious of Asian identity forces me to look at other forms of identity. Because of this, I’m comfortable with who I am as a person.
From what I see, in the U.S. there seems to be a lot of judgment placed on Asians by Asians. There are so many groups of Asians from all different subcultures in the U.S. There are the “ricers,” the “jocks,” the average “girly girls,” and the ones who don’t quite fit in, in any of these groups. There are the Asian kids who act “too white” and are called “bananas” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). But the thing is, I don’t see much of a difference among other cultures. The only thing that makes this “Asian” is the terms and Asian stereotypes. I believe that people shouldn’t place judgment so hastily on people in their own ethnic groups and outside their ethnic groups. Going to Viet Nam and Japan, I saw similar “sub groups” but that there’s not one right way to be Asian.
This is why I believe that identity is what I make it to be. In trying to find my own Asian-identity, I found out what my identity is as a whole. Identity doesn’t come solely from my race, but it comes from what I believe in. What I believe in comes from the world around me.
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