May is Asian American Pacific Islander month and this will be the 2nd year I am observing it. But why only the 2nd year? I mean, I am about to turn 17, and I was raised in a Thai-American household, so why is this year only the second year?
Growing up in a mixed race household, you learn from a young age that the color of your skin does matter. My mother was born in Thailand. My father was born in the U.S. Culturally, I was raised Thai and American, but ethnically I'm such a melting pot that strangers I meet usually say “OMG you can’t be that! You don’t look at it at all! You HAVE to be this!”. Sorry stranger, I’m sorry that I look like I could be Filipino, Japanese, or any ethnicity that comes to mind, but in reality I am Thai, German, Jewish, African American, and Indian.
In April of 2019, I had the opportunity to go to Sacramento for the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project. The program’s goal was to empower Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth to make a difference in their community. (Asian American has typically been the umbrella term used for South Asian, East Asian, and Southeastern Asians, but AAPI is a more common term and is inclusive of Pacific Islanders). At the seminar there about 50 other AAPI youth from across California, and out of those 50, were two young mixed girls: my friend Nikki and I.
Ultimately, being a mixed Asian and white is why I never celebrated May. I simply just saw May as May because I saw Arielle as not Asian. “White washed Asian”. “Exotic” “Not Asian enough”. The more times you hear it, the more you believe it, and in the end the racist comments in my youth made me revoke my culture. So when I had the chance to attend APYLP, it was to reconnect with my heritage and it was there that I was given some of the best advice: “You are who you are, and nobody can tell you what you are or aren’t”.
In the fall, I’m supposed to attend Chapman University and about a month ago I was put in a group chat for all the “Asians” at my university. (Chapman for reference is mainly caucasian, but pride themselves on their diversity and inclusivity campaigns). Being in this group chat, especially during quarantine, I was reminded just how connected we all are. Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Hawaiian, Filipino: we all bonded over how diverse yet similar we were. We talked about the ABG fetishes on Tik Tok, how people wondered if we were Asian or our respective ethnicity, and also the rising hate crimes due to coronavirus.
With the coronavirus pandemic growing bigger everyday, the hate crimes against Asian Americans has risen. Corona virus has been called “chinese virus” and anyone who looked Asian was deemed “the reason for all this happening”. To the normal eye, Asian discrimation may not have existed before this, but it did and does exist. It simply has just been normalized. The eye pulling, the name calling, the accent imitation, and the comments on how our food smells: these are the little things people have normalized.
So as we move into May, some of us may make the decision to come out of quarantine. We may go among our day doing and seeing the usual, but some of us may not. We may hear someone say “Chinese virus”.. We may see a hate crime or may hear a “you brought this virus here”. So when the unusual happens, please speak up. While discrimination against Asians has become normalized, that does not mean you have to contribute to it. And please don’t call us exotic. We are not unique and we are not a fetish. The next time you want to make a comment, please don’t make it based on race, make it based on who we are as people.