by misfit6, 10th (non-fiction)
based on experiences of my family and interviews
We were constantly questioned and asked to do something. They asked us what type of Asian we were. Japanese? We shook our heads. Vietnamese? Again, we shook our heads. Korean? We continuously shook our heads until they said Chinese, which was when we nodded. They then tell us to say something in Chinese. We say something, and their faces showed confusion or interest. When we spoke, they either ask us to continue saying more things or tell us that is not how typical Chinese sound like. They assume that all Chinese speak Mandarin. We don’t, but we are Chinese. We speak Cantonese, which is a dialect of Mandarin. We have to explain to them that it’s what people in our homeland in China speak. The conversation goes on with them asking us about Chinese-related things or Chinese culture until they get distracted by something more important.
Moving from China to America exposed to us many new things. There were new types of food, drinks, and snacks. Even though there was an abundance of everything, we were still conservative. We were used to being poor, so even when we become privileged we never take an advantage of anything. We can now afford tons of rice, but we still finished each grain of rice in our bowls. We never let anything go to waste. Even though we saw new food, we never really changed our diets. We ate mostly the same thing as we did before we came. In the beginning, we were got all types of judgement for our food. Most reactions are something like ew what is that smell. Are those worms? Their faces become scrunched up like they smelled throw up and then proceed to exaggerate and act like they will throw up. Even though we were judged, we overlooked it. It tasted good to us, so we stuck with it. The food was our culture and history. We all have a moment where we remember our mothers cooking it and us helping make it. We all remember our eagerness to wait for dinner. We all remember the joy that came with our food. It’s their loss for not being able to enjoy this food we love.
First, it was the judgement of our food, and then it was our accents. For the food, we were okay with the reactions that came with it, but the accents were hard to overlook. Back home, we were free to speak our language with no judgement. It was easy for us to speak. Speaking English was no easy task. Even the perfectionists were never able to get it completely right. It was our main insecurity, because we know we can’t do anything about it. For the rest of our lives, we know we will be asked to repeat things and questioned. We know how many times we will be mistaken. We know how many times things will get miscommunicated. We know how many times we will be misunderstood. We know how many times we would not get our way. We know. That is why we are never going to be able get over it. Speaking English will never be an easy task. Our mouths are trapped like it is in a prison, forced to speak English. Everything that comes out of our mouths will be questioned by someone. We will be given glances when we speak Chinese, and we will be given confused or laughing faces when we speak in English.
The only thing we had to change was the way we raised our kids. America did not allow us to discipline the way our children the way we did back home. When the children get mad, we weren’t able to do anything, because we wouldn’t know what to do. The children get mad at us for giving them names others can’t pronounce. We couldn’t possible change it, it was their identity. The children get mad at us for pushing them to do more work. We just want what’s best for them. The children get mad at us for not being American enough. We want to explain to them why, but they’ll never understand. They will never view our history the way we do, because they never experienced it. All they focus on is comparing themselves to other students and assimilating to the American norm to fit in. They will only move farther and farther from their real selves everyday.
Oakland | East Bay, CA