|Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-08 03:23Z by Steven|
Cracking the foundations of white beauty.
When I was younger, my Asian American friends and I would play house. We’d be older, popular and wise to the world. We’d have cars and phones and play dates at the mall. We had freedom there. I could be anyone.
I could even be white.
“Jordan,” my most-loved pretend character, had brunette-not-black, wavy-not-straight hair. She didn’t wear glasses. She played some white-dominated sport like volleyball and went to the mall whenever she wanted. All the boys wanted to date her – even the white boys. She was “American,” as my parents would say. She looked like she belonged.
I didn’t. I can tell stories about being paired automatically with the only other Asian boy in my classes, about “chink!” being screamed through an open car window as my sister and I walked home from school, about avoiding one of the only other Asian girls in my sixth grade class because the bullies were after her, for being too Asian, too quiet.
Instead, I’ll tell what I learned. People treat me differently because of how I look. White beauty norms are narrowly defined: My eyes are too small, and my hair too black, for white people to count as theirs. This means that I am “Asian” – I am labeled, and everything else they know about me will be in the context of that one racial signifier. It means people will meet me and think “Asian,” quiet, boring, studious – or even just “Asian,” chink. It means I am either only beautiful enough for Asian boys, or only beautiful because I am Asian…
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