Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yellow Fever


I read a book called Connected last year that came to the conclusion that you are the average of your 5 closest friends. In hindsight it sounds obvious; if you hang out with people who drink a lot you will probably be into drinking, or if you hang out with people who don't take care of themselves, you most likely won't take care of yourself and so on. How does this tie in?

I've been "different" my whole life.

Move Along

Raised in middle America, when you think of someone American you don't picture someone of Asian descent. You just don't. When you hear the word All-American, what do you think of? 

White. 

I don't have an issue with it, America was colonized by the British who came from Germanic ancestry and according to the 2010 US Census, "White" makes up 72% of the general population while Asians make up a measly 4.8%. Growing up in elementary school I was never really aware of how "different" I was and it didn't seem like an issue with the other kids as well. My best friend in elementary school was a kid named Greg Elliott who is Jewish and half Panamanian.

Diversity

Through middle school I had friends of all shapes, colors, and sizes...you just hung out with who you hung out with. However, middle school was the first time I became cognizant that I was different. Off-hand remarks, racial slurs on the playground like the well known "chink," "gook," "ching chong chang," and slanted eye gestures came every so often. It hurt, but it wasn't something you truly understood at the time, and it was something you could chalk up to youthful ignorance.

Throughout high school I began to hang out with more Asians. I think this was done subconsciously, most likely due to solidarity from shared experiences of discrimination. Since I participated in athletics I still had a pretty diverse group of friends though, as two of my best friends at the time were George Ioannou (Greek) and Jesse Baron (Baron...you don't need to guess.) Befriending Asians wasn't something I did purposefully, it just kind of happened in high school.

That all changed in college.

It's a sea of black hair.

Somehow I went off the deep end and dove headfirst into everything Asian. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing; everyone should explore and fully understand their identity and the best time to do that is during college. I chartered an Asian fraternity, have a few tattoos celebrating my Asian identity, was on the board for several Asian student organizations, all while also being a counselor at TAF. All my close friends and girlfriends were Asian and I didn't think anything of it. Though we were all Asian, we were all different types of Asian...so I was still meeting a diverse group of people.

However, this continued after I graduated college. I was a big brother for an Asian American kid, ran TAP-DC, represented TaiwaneseAmerican.org, and continued my service to TAF. Even here in Australia, pretty much all of my friends are Asian. I've been mulling over my friendships a lot the past several days and I've come to realize that I am a bit of a hypocrite. But don't get me wrong, my friends are awesome.

Stir it up


America is all about diversity, calling itself a melting pot and preaching acceptance, tolerance, assimilation and being anti-prejudice. How can I claim that I practice(ed) these values when I surrounded myself with Asians? How can I possibly claim discrimination (not that I do) or say people that aren't Asian don't understand (again, not that I do) when I'm guilty of not giving them a chance to. Who wants to approach a huge group of Asians to befriend? It's probably just as intimidating approaching a huge group of white or black people if you haven't spent much time interacting with them in the past. I just ingrained myself completely in this Asian/Taiwanese identity the past decade and I'm just realizing this now.

It gets to a point where you can have too much of a good thing...it turns into diminishing returns. Everyone is different and an individual, yes...but if you surround yourself with 5 people that have pretty much the same background as you, how much are you really developing as a person? How much can you really learn about yourself, others and the world? You don't want to live in a bubble...you'll be just as guilty as the people you feel who may or may not have oppressed you for whatever reason, and then become bitter or jaded for no good reason.

 
I need to make more non-Asian friends...

1 Comments:

At June 21, 2011 at 3:18 AM , Blogger Vien Nguyen said...

I liked this post, what I got from this is, the world is a huge place and sometimes we lock ourselves out of it my limiting our interactions with our friends, which is where comfort is, but again, limiting. Nice.

 

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