Everyone is guilty of stereotyping, although we know it’s aggravating and sometimes hurtful to the people we do it to, we still do it. Some do it to make others laugh, some do it to feel superior, and others are just plain ignorant. I’ve stereotyped a few times in the past. Who hasn‘t? I can honestly say that I’ve been stereotyped more than I’ve stereotyped. Growing up in Jersey, City, an urban community with much racial tension, as a Filipino kid who played basketball, I was a sitting duck for stereotypes.
Whenever I’d play basketball in the local park, the players refer to me as Yao Ming, a Chinese N.B.A. player who plays center for the Houston Rockets. I don’t even play like him, I play guard. We’re not even the same race, plus I look nothing like him. I’m speaking for all the Asians who play basketball, because I can guarantee that they’ve been called Yao Ming by others at least once while playing basketball.
Yao Ming isn’t the only name I’ve been called. I can state names off the top of my head: Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Mr. Miyagi, and the list keeps on going.
I got so sick of it to the point where I don’t want consider myself Asian, so today whenever people ask, “What ethnicity are you?” I simply say, “Pacific Islander.”
People who I haven’t met tend to make premeditated assumptions. They assume I’m rich since they figured my mom is probably a nurse, and my dad a computer engineer. The thing is, I’m not rich, more like lower-middle class, plus my mom doesn’t even work, and my dad is an employee for Wachovia. They see me as this math prodigy with a black belt around my waist. Math is actually my worse subject. I hate it with a burning passion. I wanted to when I was young, but I’ve never taken karate classes.
Despite the countless times I’ve been stereotyped, I am not bitter at all. Instead, I choose to be enlightened. I can thank those who’ve stereotyped me. They’ve helped me achieve a mellow and open minded philosophy on life, “Stereotypes exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” This, I believe in.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.