I have deep rooted insecurities about my race that I don’t share often. I think our culture is finally to a point where it’s willing to listen to an Asian woman on her experiences and to learn from that. I’ve waited 22 years for this. The point of my story isn’t to shame people. I feel like the recent rise in conversations on racial equality has left Asians out to a degree. White privilege, black lives matter, Latino lives, immigrant lives. But Asians have been a silent, invisible, quiet voice. The point of my story isn’t to shame people. I feel like the recent rise in conversations on racial equality has left Asians out to a degree. White privilege, black lives matter, Latino lives, immigrant lives. But Asians have been a silent, invisible, quiet voice. My hope is to educate people through my personal experience on what it’s like to be an Asian American and how we can change subtle views or assumptions to bring racial reconciliation and equality. I was born in China, adopted to white Americans and raised culturally white in a very predominantly white area. Inside, I was white. Outside I was Chinese. And I’ve always wished my outsides reflected my insides so that I could be understood. I learned to hate being Chinese. As a young kid I remember being confused about whether or not I should be proud of my heritage. I wanted to, but it felt wrong. I remember being asked by other kids why my eyes were squinty. I remember the neighborhood kids chanting “me Chinese, me no dumb, me stick thumb up cow’s bum” while pulling their eyes back. I decided it was wrong to be proud of my Chinese heritage. I remember in middle school when the movie 21 was released hearing that it was based on a real life story about MIT students who were all Asian, but that the main cast was all white. I wondered why Asians weren’t cool enough, not a good enough story, not accepted or appealing. In high school, people made Asian jokes about me. So I started making Asian jokes so that I could make them before someone else did. It became an identity and something to hide behind. But I also desperately wanted people to understand that inside I wasn’t Chinese. I remember other students assuming I was Buddhist (I’m not) simply because I was Asian. Or that I was good at math (I was okay). Because I looked a certain race, I was assumed to identify with all of its stereotypes and I wanted out. I wanted to look white. I did everything I could to disown Asian culture and any association with it. Hate anime, hate K-Pop, hate sushi (because people assumed every Asian culture was the same). I wore fake glasses to give off the impression immediately that I was culturally white. I felt like guys were never interested in me because Asian was a specific “type” or “fetish” (phrases like Yellow Fever) that not many guys had. I could never compare to the tall blonde girls our culture idolizes. In more recent years, I’m constantly being confused with other Asian women I know, none of whom actually look like me. It makes me feel as though I’m not seen as a person, an individual, but as a race. As specific physical features, not as a human. Very recently, I’ve learned to be more comfortable in my own skin. I love my dark, coarse hair and my olive skin and my almond eyes. I am sad that I know little about Chinese culture and that I can’t speak the language. I am okay with not looking white.
All this to say, I know that being Asian in America is NOT the same experience as other races (violence against Black lives, hatred toward Latinos). We haven’t been through extreme hatred. But I DO feel like we have been silent and left out of the conversation. Our culture continues to put Asians below whites in social privileges, but our economic status doesn’t make us a threat to white privilege or gentrification. So we are robbed of our voice, as a non-threat, but not given a place of equality or a chance to be heard. We are neither white, nor colored. We are an invisible “other” category. But we ARE here, we ARE human, our voices DO matter. The Asian jokes, assuming we are all good at math and art, assuming we all look alike, it eats away at our humanity. It must stop. Cast us as main characters in your movies. Encourage your kids to be friends with our kids. Get to know us. Listen to our stories, our fears, our dreams. We are open and ready.
Kylee Logan is a Portland-based barista, musician, and hand lettering artist who is passionate about racial equality. @kyleelogan
See her artwork via Logan Lettering Co. here: @loganletterco