我叫Canwen 我会弹钢琴 拉小提琴
My name is Canwen, and I play both the piano and the violin.
I aspire to some day be a doctor,
and my favorite subject is calculus.
My mom and dad are tiger parents,
who won’t let me go to sleepovers,
but they make up for it by serving
my favorite meal every single day.
And I’m a really bad driver.
So my question for you now is,
How long did it take you to figure it out if I was joking?
As you’ve probably guessed,
today I am going to talk about race.
and I’ll start off by sharing with you my story
of growing up Asian-American.
I moved to the United States
when I was two years old,
so almost my entire life has been a blend of two cultures.
I eat pasta with chopsticks.
I’m addicted to orange chicken.
and my childhood hero was Yao Ming.
But having grown up in North Dakota,
South Dakota, and Idaho,
all states with incredible little racial diversity,
it was difficult to reconcilemy so-called exotic Chinese heritage
with my mainstream American self.
Used to being the only Asian in the room,
I was self-conscious that the first thingpeople noticed about me was
that I wasn’t white.
And as a child I quickly began to realize
that I had two options in front of me.
Conformed to the stereotypethat was expected of me,
or conformed to the whitenessthat surrounded me.
There was no in between.
For me, this meant that I always felt self-conscious
about being good at maths,
because people would just sayit was because I was Asian,
not because I actually worked hard.
It meant that whenever a boy asked me out,
it was because he had the yellow fever,
and not because he actually liked me.
It meant that for the longest time
my identity had formed around the fact that I was different.
And I thought that being Asian was the only special thing about me.
These effects were emphasized by the places where I lived.
Don’t get me wrong.
Only a small percentageof people were actually racist, or,
even borderline racist,
but the vast majority were just a little bit clueless. Now,
I know you are probably thinking,”What’s the difference?” Well,
here is an example.
Not racist can sound like,”I’m white and you’re not.”
Racist can sound like,
“我是白人 而你不是 所以我比你优秀。”
“I’m white, you’re not,and that makes me better than you.”
But clueless sounds like,
“我是白人 你不是 我也不知道怎么去对待这种差异。”
“I’m white, you’re not,and I don’t know how to deal with that.”
Now, I don’t doubt for a second
that these clueless people are still nice individuals
with great intentions.
But they do ask some questions that become pretty annoying after a while.
Here are a few examples.
“你是中国人 天哪 我有一个中国朋友 你认识他吗？”
“You’re Chinese, oh my goodness,I have a Chinese friend, do you know him?”
I don’t know him.
Because contrary to your unrealistic expectations,
I do not know every single one
of the 1.35 billion Chinese people
who live on planet earth.
People also tend to ask,
“Where does your name come from?”
and I really don’t know how to answer that,
so I usually stick with the truth.
“My parents gave it to me.”
“Where does your name come from?”
Don’t even get me started
on how many times people have confused me with a different Asian person.
One time someone came up to me and said,
“Angie, love your art work!”
And I was super confused, so I just thanked them and walked away.
But, out of all the questions,
my favorite one is still the classic,
“Where are you from?”
because I’ve lived in quite a few places,
so this is how the conversation usually goes.
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, I am from Boise, Idaho.”
“I see, but where are you really from?”
“I mean, I livedin South Dakota for a while.”
“Okay,What about before that?”
“I mean, I lived in North Dakota.”
“Okay,I’m just going to cut straight to the chase here,
I guess what I’m saying is,
have you ever lived anywhere far away from here,
where people talk a little differently?”
“哦 我知道你说的哪里了 是的”
“ Oh, I know where you talking about, yes I have,
I used to live in Texas.”
By then, they usually have
just given up and wonder to themselves
why I’m not one of the cool Asians
like Jeremy Lin or Jackie Chan,
or they skip the needless banterand go straight for the,
“Where is your family from?”
So just an FYI for all of you out there,
that is the safest strategy.
But as amusing as these interactions were,
oftentimes they made mewant to reject my own culture,
because I thought it helped me conform.
I distanced myself from the Asian stereotype
as much as possible, by degrading my own race,
and pretending I hated math.
And the worse part was, it worked.
The more I rejected my Chinese identity, the more popular I became.
My peers liked me more, because I was more similar to them.
I became more confident, because I knew I was more similar to them.
But as I became more Americanized,
I also began to lose bits and pieces of myself,
parts of me that I can never get back,
and no matter how much I tried to pretend
that I was the same as my American classmates,
Because for people who have lived
in the places where I lived,
white is the norm, and for me,
white became the norm too.
For my fourteenth birthday,
I received the video game The Sims 3,
which lets you create your own charactersand control their lives.
My fourteen-year-old self created the perfect little mainstream family,
complete with a huge mansionand an enormous swimming pool.
I binge-played the game for about three months,
then put it away and never really thought about it again,
until a few weeks ago, when I came to a sudden realization.
The family, that I had custom-designed was white.
The character that I had designedfor myself was white.
Everyone I had designed was white.
And the worst part was,
this was by no means a conscious decision that I had made.
Never once did I think to myself
that I could actually make the characters look like me.
Without even thinking,
white had become my norm too.
The truth is, Asian Americans play a strange role
in the American melting pot.
We are the model minority.
Society uses our success to pit us
against other people of color
as justification that racism doesn’t exist.
But was does that mean for us, Asian Americans?
It means that we are not
quite similar enough to be accepted,
but we aren’t different enough to be loathed.
We are in a perpetually grey zone,
and society isn’t quite sure what to do with us.
So they group us by the color of our skin.
They tell us that we must reject our own heritages,
so we can fit in with the crowd.
They tell us that our foreignness is the only identifying characteristic of us.
They strip away our identities one by one,
until we are foreign, but not quite foreign,
American but not quite American,
but only when there are no other people from our native country around.
I wish that I had always had the courage
to speak out about these issues.
But coming from one culture that avoids confrontation,
and another that is divided over race,
how do I overcome the pressureto keep the peace,
while also staying true to who I am?
And as much as I hate to admit it,
often times I don’t speak out, because,
if I do,
it’s at the the risk of being told
that I am too sensitive,
or that I get offended too easily,
or that it’s just not worth it.
But I would point, are people willing to admit that?
Yes, race issues are controversial.
But that’s precisely the reason why we need to talk about them.
I just turned eighteen,
and there are still so many things that I don’t know about the world.
But what I do know is that it’s hard to admit
that you might be part of the problem, that,
all of us might be part of the problem.
So, instead of giving you a step-by-step guide
on how to not be racist towards Asians,
I will let you decide what to take from this talk.
All I can do, is share my story.
My name is Canwen, my favorite color is purple.
And I play the piano, but not so much the violin.
I have two incredibly supportive,hardworking parents,
and one very awesome ten-year-old brother.
I love calculus more than anything, despise eating rice,
and I’m a horrendous driver.
But most of all, I am proud of who I am.
A little bit American, a little bit Chinese,
and a whole lot of both.
我叫Canwen 我会弹钢琴 拉小提琴