1. You Invalidate My Lived Experiences
2. You’re Most Likely Erasing Anyone Not of East Asian Descent
3. You Don’t See Me As American
We’ve seen that Latinx Americans are racially profiled, especially near the Mexican border. We’ve seen that Muslim Americans are inundated with suspicion about their Americanness especially post-9/11.
Yet, the truth is that being American ought to be based in complexity, not in our proximity to whiteness.
When you say I’m being a “bad Asian” or “not being Asian” enough, you’re saying I must relinquish all other cultural and ethnic identities to be American – and, even then, I can’t shed my yellow skin.
And while you can easily dismiss my American identity and deny me full access to opportunity through systematically advantaging white people, I can’t discard the way I grew up or accept being treated like I’m a stranger in a country where I grew up.
4. You’re Quite Possibly Sex–Shaming or Fetishizing
Okay, this point doesn’t seem directly related to white supremacy and a colonial mindset upfront, but Western imperialism is inseparable from the patriarchal roots of their misogynistic rationale.
Gender normative attitudes have been passed down alongside attitudes about racial superiority.
East Asian women and folks misgendered as women are often fetishized as obedient, domestic, and virginal (whatever that means).
East Asian men are often emasculated. East Asian men are also often portrayed in media as being less sexually attractive because society enforces the idea that male sexuality has to do with conformity to masculinity.
If you call me a “bad Asian” because I’m sex-positive and you don’t like it, you’re sex-shaming.
If you call me a “bad Asian” because I’m sex-positive and you do like it, you’re fetishizing me based on my disconformity to the stereotype. Both are gross.
Worse, both leave me with no room for my own sexual expression by rendering me an object of your desire, only existing as a sexual being on this typecasting dichotomy.
5. You Most Likely Have Stereotypical Expectations of Other Ethnicities
If you call me a bad Asian, I’m going to think that you probably give weight to stereotypes about other races as well and that you expect them to behave in certain ways because of their race, especially if you “can tell” what race they are via their appearance.
This ownership of certain characteristics also applies in reverse – there are behaviors considered “white” that are also often correlated with proper assimilation in America that can’t be applied as one of my traits unless I’m “acting white.”
6. You’re Perpetuating the Model Minority Stereotype, Pitting Us Against Other People of Color
I grew up in a neighborhood where I could afford to believe that the US was honestly a country of equal opportunity for East Asians. When we called each other “bad Asians,” we meant we got low test scores.
But many also don’t get to believe that for so long. Asian American describes a diverse group of people with connections to 48 different countries.
Although some statistics may show academic and financial achievement, they often bundle all of these different groups together, instead of disaggregating the statistics for a more nuanced representation.
This model minority stereotype invalidates the struggles of Asian Americans who don’t embody this stereotype.
Yet, white people will use us as an example of how people of color can succeed in the US, equating the experience of upper middle-class Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese people of color with that of all Asians and of all other people of color.
This suggests all of our struggles are rooted in the same historical contexts of oppression – they’re not.
The fact that many Asian folks buy into this “model minority” stereotype and believe in the American myth of meritocracy ultimately accounts for our small presence and lack of allyship with other people of color in social justice movements.
For this, I truly carry resentment.
Our “achievement” is often used as a basis for respectability politics, but no matter how “successful” we become, we’ll never be seen as white, and we’ll never transcend a government founded on the genocide of indigenous people and the chattel slavery of Black people.
We’ll continue being complicit in letting our country avoid confronting how deeply embedded imperialism is in its very roots until we stop taking pride in being associated with the model minority myth.
White supremacy has pitted us against other minorities – as if any of us belonged on a two-dimensional axis of who is closer to being acceptable in society when the truth is none of us will ever belong.
I love Yellowstone National Park. And Montreal. And the city of Ganzhou in Jiangxi Province.
And New York pizza. And dim sum. And ghormeh sabzi.
And NSync will always have a place in my heart over Backstreet Boys.
I grew up in a family with a culture rich in its own five-thousand year history and ideologies.
I wasn’t raised with the same cultural norms as those raised by white, middle-class guardians who could trace their bloodline’s time in the US over many generations. I’ll never find my ancestors’ names at Ellis Island.
Calling me a bad Asian or not Asian enough reminds me of the differences and tells me these differences are not okay because “white is right.”
Calling me Asian at all reminds me that my differences are actually a big deal and then makes them a big deal by playing out my differences through policy design because we live under white supremacy.
No matter how many times you tell me I’m causing the divide because I’m pointing out these constructed differences, I’m not the one who built legitimate institutions around them.
I’m Asian enough.
I’m American enough.
I’m so much more.
Jessica Xiao a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and book hoarder who is guilty of tsundoku. Often inaccurately described as Canadian, she thinks of herself more as a Montrealer with US citizenship living in Washington, DC, after having obtained her BA & Sc. in Psychology and the dark art of Economics at McGill University. She is a grant writer for the Montreal-based international women’s economic development nonprofit Artistri Sud and the former assistant editor and writer at The Humanist. She believes in empathic action and bringing our whole selves to every aspect of our lives for transformational social change. She frequently quotes Dorothy Parker and writes bad poetry at stillsolvingforx.tumblr.com. You can also find her on Twitter @jexxicuh or follow her on Facebook.