I recently found my sophomore year college journal which covered everything from my infatuations at the time, hopes and dreams for the future and an entry about all my insecurities the number one listed as ‘Being Asian.”
How I cry for my 19 year old self!
As a child, I was extremely vivacious, talkative and very confident in my world that consisted of my attentive grandparents, doting father and mother, and younger sister who looked up to me. I was in kindergarten when I first realized I was different from everyone around me.
I was five years old and one out of two non-white students in my class at St. Timothy’s, a private Catholic school in Chantilly, Va. My teacher, Mrs. Collins had left the room (this was back in the early 90’s when it was cool to do things like this) for a few moments to grab some paperwork from the office. Almost immediately, a brown haired girl named Sarah walked over to me (in my memory it was more like loomed toward me) to ask me the following questions: “Why are your eyes so slanted? Why are you so short? Why is your nose so flat?” Then she reached over and honked on my nose like I was a Muppet. I was humiliated and the worse part was I had no answer for these questions.
To make matters worse, my teacher Mrs. Collins had pulled me aside to tell me that my name was not Kimberly, it was Kim because in AMERICA people use nicknames.
Pretty much ever since then I’ve been really worried about being accepted in American society with small glimpses of hope in my future from role models such as Claudia Kishi from the Baby Sitters Club and pro ice skater Kristy Yamagutchi. But honestly, all I wanted to be was Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell.
You would think that as I got older, I would have gotten more comfortable with myself but not really. My so called “best friend” in college would constantly make fun of me for smelling like rice/eating dog/ and whatever stupid joke he could throw at me at the time. My boyfriend in college would constantly joke we could never be together because Asian food gave him gas.
I can only say that now as an almost thirty year old adult that I am finally comfortable in my own skin and it is all thanks to my wonderful family and husband. I am proud of my family for working hard to turn nothing into something and never giving up. We are alarmingly close but we always know that we can turn to each other when we are in need. My husband is also Asian and completely comfortable in his own skin. His everyday of confidence in his own life gives me confidence in mine.
I recent read a list compiling all of the racist comments about the new Miss America who is of Indian descent. It brought up a lot of old memories but instead of embarrassment of being a minority, I felt embarassed for the posters for their ignorance.
I am so proud to see how the DMV area has grown so much in the past decade. My little brothers have grown up in a completely blended community and have not been taught the difference to see the difference between black and white…or red..or yellow..or nice caramel brown either. Hopefully the rest of America will catch up soon.