By: Deborah Yi
When asked, “Where are you from?” I usually respond, “Here, Los Angeles.” Then I get asked the follow-up question, “No, but like, what ethnicity…” and the conversation trails off into awkwardness.
As an Asian-American in a predominantly white neighborhood, I am often confronted with questions or remarks, usually from non-Asian people, regarding my background. A lot of the times, the comments border on racism. Most people seem not to intend any harm or offense. Many blurt out whatever passes through their minds without thinking.
When I was in eighth grade, my group of friends, mostly Asians, was approached by a member of the La Cañada School Board during lunchtime. The second sentence she ever spoke to us was, “Who here knows English? Can you raise your hand?” Although shocked, we obediently raised our hands. The fact that a highly educated adult naively assumed that we would not know how to speak or understand English exemplifies the presumptions a lot of people have regarding Asians.
The other day, I met a white girl around my age who asked me on the first day I met her, “Is it harder for you to see?” Taken aback by this racially insensitive question, I gave her a lengthy explanation that one, my smaller lids do not cover my pupils, the part that the eye sees through, and two, that unfortunately I have not seen through the eyes of a wider-eyed person so I obviously could not answer her comparative question.
Although racial insensitivity is rampant in our society, people are becoming more aware and informed. As a result, many have become cautious of what they say and to whom they speak, which has reduced the malice in a lot of racial comments. Ironically, people’s audacity to make ignorant remarks has actually increased because many see no harm in these comments, since they intend no harm.
In conclusion, if I am ever asked where I’m from again, which is likely, I am going to respond, “Here, America.” This is not because I’m a sentimental patriot or ashamed of my Asian descent. It’s because it is the truth.
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