I have gotten this question many times by whites/members of the dominant culture during my years at UCSB. When someone asks Asians/Americans the question, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?,” it is because Asians/Americans are seen as perpetually foreign, exotic, and othered. Whites assume that because Asians/Americans don’t physically look like them (aryan race standards or some shyt similar to that) that it is impossible for them to be “truly American.” Thus this attitude, that is white supremacy, is a repercussion of the anti-sentiment Asians/Americans received during yellow peril, WWII, the Vietnam War, and even today in the model minority myth (Asians/Americans are supposedly ‘out-whiting’ whites). The mistreatment and misrepresentation of Asians/Americans is a manifestation of America’s racist, discriminatory policies which have been swept under the rug in the name of living in a “post-racial society.” However, I believe that my meme, especially in the expression of Marjan’s incredulous look of disgust and annoyance, reflects the dumbfounded reaction Asians/Americans give when asked this terrible question that attempts to prove our nationality. I, as an Asian American womxn, am sick and tired of these stereotypes that conflate our race and identity as inherently one in the same. This cyclical rhetoric that only perpetuates orientalism, where whites/dominant culture assumes what those of the orient prefer, look like, and are, must come to an end.
One solution, which occurred at the Student of Color Conference at UC Berkeley this past weekend, is to take a pledge of what I can do as an Asian American womxn. The workshop I attended, “Not Your Suzie Wong,” addressed the exotification, romanticism, and commodication of the Asian American female body. At the end of the workshop, I took a pledge to deconstruct these illogical stereotypes by choosing to be true to myself.
I am not going to be anyone’s fucking Dragon lady, your lotus blossom and/or your butterfly! I am a womxn of conviction, power, and individuality! I am Kary Tran!