Local Asian Americans recall racism from childhood and report how it’s gotten worse this past year

Annemarie Mansfield, Social Media Team

Growing up as an adopted Asian American, I’ve dealt with my share of racism. The earliest account I had to face was in second grade in my elementary school’s library of a kid pulling their eyes back while saying “Asian eyes, Asian eyes” repeatedly. 

Then in fourth grade, I remember standing in the office with my mom and an adult asking my mom, “How could you speak to your daughter when she was a baby? It must have been tough with the language barrier.” 

Given that I was adopted when I was 5 months old, I don’t think they understood that I couldn’t naturally speak Korean or any language at that time and that languages are a learned skill. While some of my stories seem far fetched, I know that I am not alone when it comes to these types of experiences.

An Asian American senior at Loy Norrix that chose to stay anonymous, and that will be known as anonymous person number 1, stated that “In kindergarten when they made jokes such as ‘how do Chinese people name their children’” as being their first remembrance of racism. 

Another anonymous Loy Norrix senior that is an Asian American, and will be known as anonymous person number 2, stated that their first time dealing with racism was also in kindergarten. Additionally, Asian American and senior Ava Loc stated her first memory of racist ideas came in elementary school where classmates would say that she ate cats and dogs.

When the outbreak of this pandemic began, the subtle hints of racism that we all dealt with when we were younger only grew worse. Things like “please don’t cough on me,” “get away from me” and “you’re the cause of this whole thing,” were becoming more frequently said to us. 

Anonymous person number 1 said, “One happened a couple days ago. I was walking my dog, and suddenly when I was in the condos near my house, an old lady stuck her head out of her house yelling at me to go away and never come back.” The old lady then proceeded on saying that this person was “disturbing the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.”

With the start of this pandemic, more and more of these hurtful comments were being said. Microaggressions are subtle words or mannerisms directed often to individuals in historically marginalized groups that can cause harm due to bias.

Most of the comments said to us when we were younger were said by kids that were trying to make jokes out of it or that they didn’t fully understand what they were saying was hurtful. Even now, a lot of the racism we hear is made to be “funny.” However, these comments should not be taken lightly and are the underlying factors that can be related back to the hate crimes that took a 150 percent rise from 2019 to 2020 according to a study done by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism

“I am sad that they are happening, and it just angers me, especially since elders are being targeted,” stated anonymous person number 2. “They are most likely the ones who immigrated to America for a better life and had to build a life for themselves, and now they have to fear for their lives all for where they come from.”

Anonymous person number 1 said, “It’s terrible and truly upsetting, but honestly these things aren’t new by any means. As an Asian American, and especially due to the model minority myth, there has always been tension between our communities.” 

The model minority myth is a stereotype about how Asian people are supposedly smarter and are more successful but what is really dangerous about this is that it creates a stress on people to outperform themselves. 

“Being Asian American has always been kind of weird because of the expectation put on me in education,” anonymous person number 1 stated. “I think the stereotypes of all Asians are good in school or in math, it puts unrealistic pressure on me from people around me in school which is slightly damaging to my self-esteem.”

This is where these subtle acts of racism develop into a problem, when people naturally think the Asian community is already okay with their situation because they’re smart or already successful when these hate crimes have still been going on. 

Loc said, “The hate crimes are terrible. My heart goes out to all of the victims and it should absolutely stop. However, I feel conflicted because I feel like we experience racism, but I feel it’s almost obsolete because our racism can’t be compared to the racism black people face.” 

The short amount of time it took for a hate crime bill to protect Asian Americans was less than a year from when the Stop Asian Hate movement began. The Black community has been fighting for way longer than that and, like Loc stated, we both feel “left in a weird limbo.”

We are an extremely lucky race, but that doesn’t mean that we still don’t have to put up with racism said by the world. What I beg of people is to go back to the golden rule and to “treat others the way you want to be treated.” People never know what others have to go through in their everyday lives.