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Microaggressions at the School

Rhea Park, Section Editor

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Microaggressions are often heard in passing as “jokes” or “unserious” comments. However, these seemingly harmless statements can affect people’s experience and perception of you.

Interestingly, when interviewing people around the School, many people of different racial groups noted that they had not noted many microaggressions about them at the School. Most notably though, many students identifying as Asian-Americans expressed frustrations with people’s comments pertaining to their race.

 

Shortly after I was hired, another teacher, sort of offhandedly said, ‘We hired you for diversity reasons!’ and I think they weren’t trying to be mean, they just meant to say, ‘Oh we’re thinking a lot about diversity!’. But the other side of it was: Were they only hiring me because I was Asian and there weren’t any Asians in my department? Was I a token? Was I just there to look like our school cared a lot about diversity? Was there another person who was just as qualified who they didn’t hire because of their race? If I was only hired for my race- that doesn’t make me feel good.”

 

“I had done well on a test and some people were talking to me about how I studied. And then they would ask whether I had a tiger mom. I said no. I think my parents are pretty nice to me. But then they asked me if my parents hit me with bamboo sticks, as if they were imagining some martial arts movie in which my parents trained me by beating me. I just felt that my parents weren’t that kind of person and to have them assumed to be was upsetting.”

 

“So I’m half-Indian, half-Taiwanese, and people tell me: “You must be a super Asian! Because you’re two Asians combined!”

 

“My friends told me: ‘Why are you in regular math. You’re Asian, you should be in honors!’”

 

“People ask me whether I’m super into science and math. I mean I am, but it is not because I am Asian.”

 

“First day of U.S History, we were supposed to talk about what we had in common in table groups. This one guy pulled on his eyes and said that he had things in common with me now.”

 

“I’m half-Asian, and we were at this group with other people. This one guy pointed to someone and said: ‘Hey you’re Asian so you’re two times as smart as me.’ Then he pointed to me and said: ‘You’re half-Asian, so you’re 1.5 times as smart as me.

Just because I’m a certain race doesn’t mean I’m smarter than someone else, and it also doesn’t mean that someone else is smarter than me.”

 

“Because I’m half-Asian, a lot of people assume I am an overachiever and assume I am doing so much more than everyone else, and I just don’t fit that stereotype. It is something I wish people wouldn’t generalize about Asians.

It made me feel as if people are categorizing me as something I’m not. I would say that overachieving comes to your personality, not your race. It makes me feel as if I am being represented wrongly.”

 

“There was one teacher that tried to reassure me that I would do well in her class, but she ended up saying: ‘I’m sure you’ll do well, because all the Asians in my class do well.’

I understand that she was trying to make me feel better, but it actually stressed me out more, as I felt that she had higher expectations for me than everyone else.”

 

“I’m Chinese and I always bring my lunch to school. When I was a freshman, there were certain people who asked me to stop bringing my food to school because it smelled different to them. I felt kinda sad that I couldn’t eat the food I wanted, or the way I wanted, because they wanted me to use forks instead of chopsticks. I just wanted to do things the way I usually did and feel proud of my habits and not have to hide it.”

 

Since much of the media surrounding race centers around the experiences of African-Americans in white America, the prevalence of Asian-Americans in this transcript may surprise many. However, as an Asian-American myself, it is not so surprising. Although the little comments seem funny and unimportant at the time, they add up. One by one, the comments about one’s race and how one is supposed to act because of their race becomes internalized, consciously or not. This is why it is important to shed light onto the experiences of other minorities in the United States. Their struggles might not be as prominently featured on newspaper headlines, but they are just as important.

 

*Disclaimer: The incidents above do not reflect the everyday experiences of a student at Head-Royce. Instead, they are a snapshot of a particular incident that has occurred within their time here. Hopefully this shows that your words and actions can truly have a lasting impact, negative or positive, on someone.

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The student news site of Head-Royce School
Microaggressions at the School