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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Peel the label: We’re not Oreos, we’re not bananas, we’re individuals

    A “yellow” on the outside, “white” on the inside identity has always been something I used to define myself. Basically, I was a self-proclaimed banana.

    Living in America, it’s what felt most safe and accepting, and it’s what would separate me from those really loud Asian people that UA Confessions complains about — those who only speak their language during lecture and need to go back to their own country.

    This month, the UA is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. For some, like Will Tao, a law student at the University of Ottawa, it is hard to understand what there is to celebrate. Tao spoke of his internal struggles with his Asian culture in China Daily, saying that his “early University days, more specifically [his] decision to study the liberal arts, join a Fraternity and move out for a year were influenced by [his] attempts to reject [his] cultural upbringing.”

    In 2007, Harvard student Jenny Tsai conducted the study “‘Too Many Asians at this School’: Racialized Perceptions and Identity Formation,” for the social studies department as her senior thesis project.

    Tsai wrote in her paper: “Among blacks, ‘acting white’ is socially stigmatized, but Asian students who ‘act white’ usually occupy the more socially prestigious positions. Because ‘acting Asian’ is equated with acting foreign or like a nerd, ‘acting white’ among Asian people becomes a source of pride, and is valued as the ability to assimilate into American society.”

    Many people are embarrassed of their culture because of the projected stereotypes. Sure, it’s safe to say that stereotypes are generated from a semblance of truth, but when the stereotypes become overwhelmingly abundant and negative, it leads to a complete rejection of the culture.

    Tsai expressed that “one of the most alarming features of my research was how Asian students who went to Harvard were very aware of and often shied away from having too many Asian friends. They saw having only white friends as sort of a badge of honor.”

    I know what it is like to want and succeed in wearing this so-called “badge of honor,” but I have realized that my behavior was a propagation of racism against my own race. My shallow embarrassment of my own culture instigated me to slap a label upon myself.

    About 7 percent of the UA undergraduate student body consists of international students from around 100 different countries. Not only can you be a banana, but terms like “Oreo” and “coconut” also exist as apparent evidence that cultures can’t blend — you must only identify with one or the other.

    It is not possible to eliminate stereotypes. However, it is possible to transcend them, and disregard them when we make our judgments and choose who we want to be. Abandoning one’s culture as a means of escape from its associated stereotypes is supporting the social stigma revolving around stereotypes.

    There shouldn’t be a color on the outside and some other color on the inside. No one is any kind of fruit or cookie. People are a marriage of cultures, opening a gateway into a new generation that doesn’t need to label itself.

    —Kimberlie Wang is a physiology freshman. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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