Dear Asian Youth,
I’ve moved around all my life. From England to California; to Philadelphia; to Connecticut; to Texas. With that being said, I’ve attended a lot of schools. Sophomore year, my parents wanted me to move to Texas for one year to “try out the schools.” I knew immediately once I stepped into the school that, as an Asian, I would feel like an outcast. Everywhere I looked, the hallways were filled with stereotypical, rich, white students often skipping school for concerts or not taking school seriously. Before coming here, I’d attended a private school in the North, and I’d felt more supported as a person of color. My previous school praised hard work and was known for breeding Ivy League students, and it became abundantly clear that my work ethic was foreign to these new kids. I think a lot of them viewed me as a stuck up, private school girl from the North. I can understand why they thought my attitude was off, especially since there is a certain anxiety that comes with switching schools in the middle of your high school career, having to start all over again. There wasn’t much diversity in the student body, so I didn’t feel comfortable as myself; I had the feeling that people viewed me as being intelligent and hard working, but they didn’t care to see me outside of class.
I felt ostracized because I didn’t fit into the mold of a typical, fun loving, highschool student. I wasn’t going out every weekend or attending music festivals like everyone else; rather, I stayed inside completing the latest assignments on time. I was also one of two Asian students in my classes, which meant that there was no support system or coalition for Asian students. Perhaps that’s what led to my passion for solving AAPI issues. My current school is still a predominately white prep school, but most of my friend group is Asian. For me, moving back to Connecticut saved my mental health. That’s why I wanted to co-head AASA (Asian-American Student Association) and create a safe space for Asian students. For any Asian student who feels like an outsider to their student body, I get it. I’m lucky that I got to leave a place that made me feel uncomfortable since there are other kids that don’t get this luxury. Just having the experience of exiting my privileged prep school was eye opening in the sense that I could grasp how difficult it was to be a person of color in white dominated spaces. Just because we are living in a modern time doesn’t mean that there is a lack of discrimination. I am sure no student tried to overtly make me feel unwelcome to the school, but the atmosphere wasn’t conducive to anyone different.
I am really proud of my Chinese heritage and I would never wish to change my race for anything because the beautiful culture surrounding me makes me feel at home. Sometimes, people wonder why Asian Americans tend to stick together. The answer is simple: we feel connected by the single thread of heritage. I’m sure that many other Asians can understand what it felt like to grow up among a majority of white kids, having snide comments thrown at them because of their identity. I want people to understand that feeling of having someone look at you differently because of your skin color. For us, simply acknowledging that discomfort is the best support. I can’t change my experiences in the past but I can try to change my future. So to everyone perceiving Asians as a model minority and having no struggles in high school, here’s my story.
Cover Photo Source: NPR