When you ask “Are you adopted from Korea?” I hear the underlying tide of your English is so good! When you follow up my measured response of “No, I’m not” with “Are you adopted at all?” I hear the barely concealed because there are many Asian refugee children! And when you continue with “Are both of your parents Asian?” the blatant suggestion of colonialism oozes to the point I have to physically cringe.
I tell you I’m Filipino-American because I fully embrace and love that title. It does NOT mean that you can talk to me about “Asian stuff.” What does that even mean? I don’t watch anime, I’ve only seen one Korean Drama in my entire life, and my entire existence is not the plot of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians.
The very phrase “Asian stuff” completely dilutes every ethnicity and culture that lives within the continent into one mono-ethnicity. My experiences and ‘stuff’ as a Filipino-American varies wildly from the experience of a Korean-American or a Japanese-American. If you want to talk Filipino culture with me, let’s talk, but I’m surely not the person to share your obsession with Kim’s Convenience. And before you get ahead of yourself, no my culture does not only consist of “Lumpia and Chicken Adobo.”
When you say “I love Asian people!” I recoil in reaction. With a history of fetishization, the comment is more predatory and offensive than a way to get into my good graces. At this point, you’re past three strikes, but I continue to speak to you because it’s only polite.
And that’s another stereotype, isn’t it? The Asian girl who will laugh and nod and accept what is being said because I’m submissive. In honesty, it’s the complete shock that someone has the audacity to pry so deeply into my personal life and then put me into the label that you deem all Asians to be. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life for this to be the first experience of something so blatantly racist, and I’m hyper-aware now, knowing that this will definitely not be the last.
To the person who tokenized me, I leave you with this: challenge yourself and your problematic speech when it comes to Asian-Americans. Realize that we are our own individual people with individual interest and beautiful, rich, different cultures. Don’t expect us to hold your hand and explain every problematic thing to you. Do you own research! I’ll throw you a bone and give you this Ted Talk by Canwen Wu. Neither I nor any other Asian you come across are your Asian Stereotype.
Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American fourth year SCSU student who double majoring Gender and Women’s Studies and English. Mariam has loved writing from a young age and is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding identity and pop culture today. Mariam is a writing tutor at The Write Place and in her free time runs a personal blog at micarlixx.wordpress.com and is Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games. Social Media Consultant.