Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Stereotypes and Race: How I Fit into America

Most teachers will agree that one of the best moments in education is when former students return and fill you in on their life.  I get updates on some more frequently which is the case with Maiyer Xiong - an awesome student I had in 7th grade several years ago.  Back then she was intelligent, conscientious, and social and that much hasn't changed.  What's different now are the topics of conversations we can have - all very engaging and spontaneous, especially the ones that have to do with identity and fitting into "systems".  I'm proud to feature Maiyer as she describes what it was like to be an immigrant and the realities she faces as she battles the internal conflict with race and stereotypes.  I love her expressive writing and how she shares her story as an Asian girl trying to fit into America . . .

Going to school in America isn't always as great as it seems.  I am very privileged to be here and to be educated.  I would never change a thing and I appreciate all that I have.  But when someone thinks that I am unworthy of an achievement I have made my own, I will be offended and I will be defensive.  Rumor has it that "white" has become the minority.  It's okay for an African American, Asian, or Hispanic person to be a minority but as soon as a white person is a minority then it becomes an issue.  Sometimes I do wonder if there is a more worthy white person who could have had my spot at the UW.  I have to repeatedly remind myself that yes, I am worthy and yea, half the time it's timing and half the time it's luck, so I guess I am just lucky.  Why should I even have to ponder this though, is the real question.  The world out here is just so competitive and I really do believe that in order for one person to succeed one must fail.  Not everyone can be pleased. 

Immigrating to America at such a young age helped me assimilate to its culture.  One downfall to this ability was that along with becoming more and more American, my knowledge of my culture and my language became hindered.  I started to realize that even my friends sometimes forgot I was Asian.  This may have been because I perfected my English so that I wouldn't have an accent or that I intentionally drifted myself away from the Hmong community out of not wanting to be associated with Asian stereotypes.  I am happy as the person I am today, and I have made wonderful friends from all types of backgrounds, but if I could have grown up without knowing what Asian stereotypes were, I believe I would have more Asian friends.  The desire to disassociate with such stereotypes did help me to become a culturally diverse person but at the same time it's not fair to the people who raised me.

The only stereotype I allowed myself to become a part of is the one about Asians being smart.  Unfortunately, I've always felt like I had to live up to that, not only because other people expected nothing less of me but also because I felt that that was the only way to get by in this world.  If you lack intelligence, common sense, or talent, anything that makes you stand out from the rest, then you will be left behind.  I've always grown up to be sure that I impress those who expect me to do well because of my father; however when the results don't prove true, twice the amount of pressure results in the feeling of failure being twice as much.  There is no doubt that I influenced those around me to desire the same knowledge but that did not ever lighten the load of pressure.  It should be understood that culture and people are dialectic just as much as people and people are dialectics.  Our culture shapes us, we shape our culture, and then we shape each other.

This country is composed of diverse backgrounds, yet we cannot seem to accept the differences that make us up individually.  Walking in public with my ex-boyfriend who is a white male, always sparked the glares of at least one Asian person, or white person - and for what reason must they stare?  Society is branching into so many different groups nowadays and it should be embraced.  Of course now that it is 2013, interracial couples, gay marriage, transgender, etc. is accepted more and more, which is wonderful.  Happiness is a way of life and if it must be pursued in a way that someone is not used to, then so be it.  America emphasizes individuality but those who deem themselves different are gossiped about, exiled, or made fun of.  People expect change without wanting to change themselves or be part of it.  You can't just sit and watch life happen, you have to live it.

Maiyer Xiong is an Hmong immigrant from Thailand with English being her second language.  She is a second-year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her current major is biology with the hopes of obtaining a Global Health Certificate as well.  During her free time she enjoys playing volleyball, working out, and painting.  She's spent at least a hundred hours with Misa and John-Pio as their babysitter and playmate extraordinaire! 

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to say I was a big fan of this. And I'm going to do my best to be active about changing the way people think and the way they act about others. I agree with almost everything Maiyer said. And although I have never met her, I know that she is more than deserving of being at one of the top universities in the world based on her merit and her achievements alone. She seems very well versed and I wish her the best