“I like you. You’re not like other Asians.”
“Why do Asians do that? Thank god you’re not like that. You’re different.”
“For an Asian guy, he’s pretty cute.”
“I’m not racist. I’m friends with Pattie, and she’s Asian.”
According to my good friend Wikipedia, my home town, “Richmond Hill is one of the eight large Canadian cities with no majority racial group.”
Despite growing up in a diverse city, some “friends” labeled me as the “Other Asian.” To them it was a compliment. It was their way of solidifying our friendship, and their way of expressing their love. It probably did not even cross their mind that their statements were in fact pretty racist. But to be completely honest with you, I loved hearing from other people that, “I was just like them.”
Until very recently, I went through a phase, where I identified as a Canadian, and a Canadian only. I rejected my Korean heritage, and insisted on being called a Canadian, and not a Korean-Canadian. In grade 12, my high school received a lot of international students, including students from Korea. As an immigrant myself (I moved to Canada when I was 3), I could have easily helped them transition into their new home. After all I was fluent in Korean, and was well acquainted with the Korean culture.
Instead, when people made fun of grammatical errors made by newcomers, I laughed along with them. I put up an invisible wall between them and me, because I didn’t want to be labelled as the International Korean student. What I did was deplorable, and I really can’t think of a plausible excuse. I would like to say I rejected my Korean heritage, because I wanted to fit in. And, maybe if I was not from Richmond Hill, and instead from some small town in Canada, this might be a plausible excuse. But I can’t really use this excuse, because in high school, I was surrounded by people who looked like me, and shared my culture.
In 2014 I moved to London to attend Western University, and a combination of growing older and being pushed outside of my high school forced me to mature and question my internal racism. I no longer found it funny when my peers made subtle racist jokes. I became offended when jokes were made based on someone’s ethnicity and culture, because I felt as if they were insulting my own family. And in a way they were. After all, my own parents struggled with adapting to the Canadian culture, and learning a new language.
It forced me to realize that my parents were probably once (and probably still are) the very victims of the racist “jokes” I allowed my peers to make. I no longer feel a sense of pride when being labelled as a “different Asian.”
It is impossible to mock an entire race, and attempt to single me out.
When you insult Asians, you also insult me.