Editor’s Note: Carol Wild is a Taiwanese/New Zealander Blogger. The views expressed in this piece are solely her own.
To be honest with you, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to post this.
There is already a lot of negativity and discrimination against many Southeast Asians on the Internet relating to accusations of them wanting to be White*. I’m even hesitant about using the term ‘White worshipper’, but I don’t know how else to describe it (if you know, please tell me). Nonetheless, I wanted to share this experience with you.
*In my opinion, a lot of these accusations are often from people who do not understand the culture or its people (excluding Internet trolls). To be fair, many things in life can be traced back to a lack of understanding and fear, of what is different.
Disclaimer: This is just my experience with one person and please keep in mind the saying:
“You judge yourself by your intentions.
You judge others by their actions.”
I am fully aware that I am judging this person by his actions. This is because I don’t know what his intentions or thought process was. I do my best to judge the intention, but in the absence of knowing the intent, I can only go off their actions. Flawed, but I am only human.
Quick background note
My parents met in Taiwan, my Dad lived there for years and is my place of birth (I’m Eurasian). During that time my Dad learned Mandarin in both speaking and writing. He was very fluent, worked full time in an office, eventually becoming manager. So yes, his Mandarin was excellent.
Deep breath… Here is my story:
I was in my second year of university and attended a couple Taiwanese Society events. I met some people, added them on Facebook, and we would occasionally chat.
One of these people was someone called R (not his real name). We spoke a few times, mostly online as we did different courses at uni.
Then one day, while we were casually chatting online, R brought up the topic of capitalism and society as he was very interested in the topic. It came out of nowhere but I thought “cool, I’m down for talking about this stuff.”
After a couple minutes, he suddenly started talking about my ethnicity.
He said he admired that I was mixed race, the fact that I have “the right to mobilise”…and that “since he is Taiwanese, he has to work harder than me” – saying that I have “the natural right to choose” unlike him, who has “nothing.” He continued – “talking to a mixed [person] is better than a pure Taiwanese.”
I was speechless, but reminded him that I am both my ethnic sides — not one or the other.
I was getting very uncomfortable with his comments, so I did not engage further; instead, I just chose to brush them off.
What he said next, was uncharted territory for me.
“I’m a little brainwashed by the West,
I must confess…”
He compared Taiwan to the U.K. and U.S., where he described it being much better than anything Taiwan could achieve. I didn’t quite understand the meaning behind his words, but I don’t believe that one country is better than another — just different.
He said “West is best.” I pointed out some things about Taiwanese culture that I liked, but he just dismissed it saying that I was wrong because I don’t know any better.
A quirk I noticed was that he would say something very questionable or serious but would follow it up with “But we are just chatting,” As a way to almost write off his comments.
Now, I don’t mind you preferring one culture over another, everyone has a preference. And as I mentioned, one is not better than than the other. Just different.
He continued speaking about Taiwan, but the next comments that came out his mouth were words that I could not tolerate.
Words that angered me to my very core
“Your relatives must be very good at English,” he said.
“No,” I replied. “We speak Mandarin; their Mandarin is much better.”
“Oh,” he responded, “they are rude.”
It was here where I could feel a cascade of rage rising in me, but I maintained control(ish). I may have reacted disproportionately, but many people are very protective over their family, and I am no different. I questioned him, “why are they rude?”
“They are rude because they didn’t learn English for you and your dad.”
I explained that we were in Taiwan, my Dad gained fluency and I was brought up bilingual; communicating in Mandarin was fine, I asked again, “why are they rude?”
“Because you two don’t understand Mandarin.”
I reiterated, “yes we do.”
“Your relatives should have accommodated your dad. He is from the West.”
I felt something in me go snap in my brain. I was enraged and wanted to keep arguing, but I could also see that it would be pointless.
To his credit, he recognised that I was furious and apologised. After this interaction, I distanced myself from him.
If you’ve ever played The Sims, this is where the negative signs would have popped up over our heads.
I ran into him a couple times after that, but kept the conversations brief and trivial.
Looking back with older eyes, I think all he really wanted was to be accepted — truly accepted for himself — which he didn’t think he could achieve in his own skin.
My experienced opinion: Now, when you are a foreign, non-White person living in a western country, you can be treated as a second-class citizen, especially if you have a foreign accent. Not everyone will treat you this way and, in fact, there are many people who are kind and do not care where you’re from. Still, I’ve witnessed this many times growing up and I’ve seen it more times than I can recall. This also goes the other way too — if you are not Asian in Asia, you will be treated differently. It is very much the mentality of us vs. them.
It’s possible that R experienced this and felt that he wasn’t on par with the locals in the U.K. and felt …different. But this is only speculation. I do not know him well enough. But alas, I have a curious mind, so I do like to wonder.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I am very privileged to be brought up by parents who are proud of who they are and where they come from. Thankfully, these are traits that they have passed down to me. I was never pressured into picking one side; I was raised to acknowledge and appreciate both cultures.
But I also think that his thought process is very sad, and it makes me postulate if — and how many — people out there share his mentality.
About the Author: Carol Wild is the blogger behind Born Into The Wild Life. She is a Taiwanese/New Zealander who was born in Taiwan and grew up in New Zealand. She is now living in the U.K. and shares her life, stories, and experiences growing up through her writing. This piece was initially posted on Born Into The Wild Life and republished with permission.