One day we were having a conversation with one of our white friends and we discussed the struggles of life. Parents getting in our way, the pressures of school – most things that teenagers like to rant about.
But then this conversation took a left turn when she started to talk about how hard it was to learn about different cultures and that she was restricted from so many things because she was white. Why was her family not rich? Why was she not able to travel a lot?
“Because I’m white,” was the reason.
We wish we were joking.
She continued to say that Asians are “naturally smart” and that they get good jobs easily and get highly paid. And yet most people forget that Google is just now in 2015 making a change for diversity, or about the millions of homeless Asians in the USA.
The ignorance of most people is rather astonishing, but, unfortunately, not everyone can understand everything. For example, take a look at the words of wisdom of this curry-hating white chick from Brampton:
If you are going to be uneducated, do not contaminate the web with your ignorance.
Thus, we have decided that we have to break down our situation so we can educate our slow learners.
As Asian teenagers, we struggle with the image of being in all honors classes, having never-ending knowledge, and pursuing lucrative careers at the edge of our fingertips. Now how could that possibly be a bad thing?
We understand why Asians are seemingly the smartest: most of the time they get into good colleges, get high grades, etc., but what people fail to realize is that we are humans, too. We were not born with anything; we had to work our way up just like everyone else, so it is not our fault for trying harder. Even so, it is also dumb to think every Asian will be smart, just like the idea that every blonde is stupid.
However, the second someone sees a “dumb” Asian kid, he or she is not worth anything anymore; he or she is just one of those useless Asians.
“Asians are the most misunderstood people, especially the ones from India, Pakistan, and all those countries. We have lives, we don’t just sit and study all day like what, cause I’m brown I do not have a life anymore?” says freshman Hargun Kholi.
The reason why you think you always hear about Asians getting into good colleges and having high test scores is not because we are naturally born that way. Our immigrant parents started with nearly nothing when they set foot in the Western world, and because they worked hard, we have learned from them that you must remain steadfast and rise to the top with your own determination and skill. We do not inherit this perceived “intelligence” genetically, but rather learn the perseverance that our parents and grandparents have displayed by watching them struggle to find their ways in a new country.
And just because we work hard, it definitely does not mean we do not do anything else.
Freshman Srinidhi Kovi said, “Sure, I study hard and respect my parents because those are my values, but I don’t go straight home and study and study and have no friends and no fun. Indians can get more turnt than all of you, ight?”
We wish we could tell you all those stories we heard about the daughter who was forced into medical school or the son who wanted to be an artist, but got thrown into a technology institute, or the insecurities they face when they decide to pick a different career other than the ones that come oh so easily to us.
Or all those times people just assumed we were in the highest math class or that we understood what was going on in class, and the stares we got for not meeting their expectations.
Yet no one seems to know about the job rejections, the questioning, the endless immigration process; these are all just the wonderful customs that comes with being a minority.
“From the second you are born and throughout your entire life, all you see is Asians being a minority, Asians being smart and fueling the big corporate machines, etc. And the problem is, is that is what has become of us. If we are anything different we are the odd ball or the one who is bound to fail and it is really upsetting cause you get thrown down for it,” says freshman Juhi Vyas.
Now there are different struggles for different people. Disclaimer: ASIA IS NOT ONLY CHINA, and while that may seem quite obvious, there have been several times where we have seen people seem almost enlightened when they find out India is also considered part of Asia.
Stereotypes are so destructive, but they are so incredibly widespread that it physically pains us. Some of the stereotypes we encounter on a day-to-day basis are simply horrific. Here are some of the frustrating, yet unfortunately real questions and comments that have been thrown at us throughout our lives:
“So do henna tattoos signify that you’re a virgin?”
It’s called mehndi. And bridal mehndi is symbolic of a new beginning and the nurturing of love. Please stop making such cheap assumptions of our culture.
“I think I figured out what makes you guys so smart! Your “curry spices” probably give your brains an extra boost!”
No . . . just no.
“Why don’t you wear that dotty thingy to school? Is it only when you go to India?”
It’s called a bindi. And we usually only wear one when we wear Indian clothes.
“I saw that picture of you covered in colors! Did you do the color run?”
The color run is a cheap imitation of the Hindu celebration Holi. We have been playing Holi for thousands of years. Please educate yourself about basic world festivals.
“How many times a day do you eat curry?”
How many times a day do you say something smart?
“How do you drink water in those countries? I heard the water comes from the sewer.”
How do you breathe when you live under a rock?
“Do you speak Hindu?”
Hindu is not a language, it is a religion. So no, I do not speak “Hindu.”
“Are you going to have an arranged marriage?”
Whatever I do will be my choice, so there is no need for you to be so concerned. Marriage is at least 10 years away from now.
“You don’t look Indian.”
Well, it is hard to see your 1/16 Scottish, 7/69 Native American, 5/12 British, 2/9 Welsh ancestry as well.
“You live in America; why don’t you act more American?”
Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just that I love my heritage as much as you love your Italian grandmother’s homemade pasta.
“You only want to be a doctor because your parents told you to.”
My parents also told me to be a kind, non-judgmental person, so I’m not going to say what is really going on in my head right now.
Oftentimes people do not understand that South Asia consists of many different countries and not just India. Each of these countries has a unique culture that may draw inspiration from the others around it, but is still separate. It is important that we give all South Asian countries the recognition that they deserve and avoid grouping them together just because they are all on the same subcontinent.
Kovi said, “It’s so annoying when people think that we are all one culture and one religion and that we all speak Hindi. Like, please educate yourself. There are hundreds of diverse cultures and languages with their own traditions, so why is one of them highlighted and seen as a representation of every other culture? Not cool.”
The media is a big contributor to this stereotypical image of Indians, and the stereotypes of all groups. On shows like “Jessie” and “The Big Bang Theory,” the Indian characters have terrible accents and are portrayed as huge nerds, further influencing the false images people retain concerning all South Asians.
“Many of us use stereotyping because it was implanted into our brains from feeding off of what we are given,” said freshman Erika Borrero. “We don’t realize that you never really know a person until you become acquainted and actually know them.”
Have your misconceptions about Asians changed? What stereotypes have you faced in your life?