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Being Asian at Mills

As an American-born, female Chinese student at Mills College, there is no doubt that I have experienced misconceptions regarding my race and ethnicity. 

First things first, the representation of my ethnicity sucks. Because I am Asian, I get weird looks for sometimes struggling in a subject, especially since there are model minority stereotypes that come up. For example, one time in my Intro to Economics class I did horribly on one of the exams, and someone who noticed the look on my face said, “I thought you were good at math.” Microeconomics was not my favorite subject; it had nothing to do with how good I am with math, and it was a concept I did not quite understand. Also, not all Asians are good at math.  

In addition, classmates have attacked the type of food I eat on a daily basis and my personality. There have been people who have come to me saying, “Ugh, why is all Chinese food greasy like Panda Express?” Chinese food, representative of the large country of China (geographically and population-wise), has a lot of different types of food and each province has their own specialty. To say that all Chinese food is “like this,” is an extreme generalization. What’s worse is when people give me strange looks when I stand up for myself or if I am vocal about certain things because Chinese people are stereotypically portrayed as passive and quiet. I hate being mocked if I don’t know a certain thing about my own culture or am not part of a certain stereotype portrayed by the media.  

The worst is when people of the same ethnicity judge me and say that I’m whitewashed because of the type of music I listen to and that I was born in the United States. Of course I am going to pick up some American habits; it’s inevitable. Also, since we’re the same ethnicity, can’t we at least have each other’s backs? We’re fighting almost the same battle here! But as some people say, “internalized racism is the worst type of racism.”   

All I want is for there to be a better understanding of my culture at Mills. I would like to stop having to defend my own ethnicity, since I was born with it and I can’t change that. My mom used to tell me this when I was little: “You’re a Chinese woman in America, you’re not always going to get what you want. It’s a white man’s world, remember that.” It would be in everyone’s best interest to educate more people about the Asian cultures and further promote racial awareness for all.