“You’re basically ‘white’.”
Those words have been said to me by my friends, my family, and have even escaped my own mouth a couple of times. But looking back now it makes me wonder, what does it mean to be ‘white’? Or anything for that matter?
I guess I do break the typical Asian stereotype: I care about things other than just my grades and I actually have a social life but how does that make me white? I am given so many labels as soon as I’m born and sometimes I even like those labels, that secret satisfaction of fitting in. I’m only fourteen but apparently, fourteen years was enough for society to etch in my brain these social guidelines and even boundaries that we are compelled to follow. Soon enough, we start to rely on these rules, safety nets, protecting us from the unknown. And I did.
I remember the first time I felt like an outsider. I was a middle school student taking a high school math class. But the ironic thing is, that it wasn’t the upperclassmen who ignored me, my peers did. I remember those thirty minutes of our extended homeroom after math class were equivalent to middle school hell. I mean these kids were the kids who I had a mutual understanding that we would ignore each other. That was the first time I tried to step outside of those carefully set bounds. And the cliché that should follow is: It’s funny how once you take that first step, the steps that follow come naturally until you’re practically running away from where you once were. Yeah, that was not the case. Every time I made an effort to start a conversation, people would literally just walk away, like I was messing with them or something, or better yet, like they were messing with me. It wasn’t until we got our first test back that people started having real, full-blown conversations with me.
“You did better than me?” came from the mouth of one of the smartest kids I know, directed towards me! Though, it was a little harsh, you work with what you get. And in the end, I got to know (almost) every single one of those kids and they are some of the most genuine people I have ever met.
So, even though my friends make fun of me for being nerdy and my new friends make fun of me for being a ditz, I have learned to step away from those labels, because after all, they’re just words. This I believe.
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