Dear America, stop erasing me

March 1, 2021
kathryn hong
It didn’t take long for me to learn that what made me different was not always seen as beautiful by the world that existed outside the four walls that I was raised in.

My story is from a third generation Chinese American lens, who was raised in the Midwest and attended school in the south — please know this writing doesn’t encompass or represent all Asian American stories.

Here is a snapshot of what I have experienced: They said that I’m ‘exotic’ and a ‘china doll’. They exclaimed ‘where have you been keeping her?!’ to a family member. I say I’m not an object. I say stop dehumanizing me.

They said I speak ‘really good English’. I say ‘since when is English the standard?’

They said ‘where are you from?’, I say Michigan. They said ‘no, where are you really from?’, I say Southeast Michigan.

They said, ‘no that’s not what I meant.’ I say, I know you’re saying that I don’t belong. That I will always be perceived as a perpetual foreigner.

They said that I’m a ‘banana’. I say I am a bridge between two worlds.

They said ‘all Asians are the same’. I say my race is not a monolith. That there’s beauty in difference.

They said ‘Asians are quiet’. I say I build trust by listening and knowing my environment.

They said my race is the model minority. I say I am not a pawn. I say I have struggles too.

They said ‘Asians are passive’. I say Tye Leung Schulze, Helen Zia, Yuri Kochiyama, to name a few. I say saving face, shame and honor, are parts of my culture.

They said I don’t ask for help. I say I am serving others by not sharing the burden.

They said that I ‘probably really like science and math.’ I say I’m better at writing a paper than taking a test.

They said they’re surprised I’m not an international student. I say race doesn’t indicate citizenship.

They said it’s weird that I take my shoes off at home. I say it’s a sign of respect and tradition.

They say ‘why are you speaking now?’ I say my voice and experience matter."

They said Asians aren’t a part of our history. I say because they see what they want to see. And that erasure is real. I say some examples not taught in schools are: The Asian diaspora, Transcontinental railroad, Asian Americans who fought in the Civil War, Anti-Asian conventions, colonization of the Philippines, experiences of Hmong populations.

They said Panda Express is Chinese food. I say a system of forced assimilation.

They said I’m always late to things. I say I value people and connection more than time.

They said it’s weird that I call those who are older than me Uncle or Auntie. I say I respect my elders.

They said I’m taking away from Black Lives Matter. I say stop gaslighting my people and my experiences. I say my experiences grow my empathy. I say my experiences are different from Black experiences but are a product of the same system. I say Blacks Lives Matter and that Black History is American History, that should be celebrated not only in February. I say I acknowledge my privilege within the system and I commit to using it to amplify others. I say there is a history of cross-racial solidarity between Asians and Blacks that is not talked about. I say true justice doesn’t see it as a competition. I say competition is a result of the system.

They said you’re the only Asian American I know. I say please don’t tokenize me. The Asian American experience has many stories, languages, cultures, and generations.

They said that I don’t experience racism. I say Vincent Chin. I say the history of ethnic enclaves like Japantown or Chinatown. I say read this post and hear my experience. I say my experience is one of many. I say this writing is one way I am using my voice.

They said they aren’t the enemy. I say that the system we operate in is.

They say ‘why are you speaking now?’ I say my voice and experience matter.

I say, Dear America, stop erasing me.

This article first appeared in Medium.