Recognizing My Internal "Racism" As An Asian Woman Is The Only Way for Me to Fix It

When I wrote my story for xoJane, I did so to spark dialogue and because I know that honestly and brutally looking at my issues is the only way to go about changing myself and spurring debate.

Sep 4, 2012 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Jenny An believes in a world where people can date Asians, whites, any other races, and even bears, if they so please.

"I'm an Asian Woman and I Refuse to Ever Date an Asian Man" was an indictment of myself -- and an indictment of the racism exhibited every time minorities say, "I don't date my own race because..."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that "Western features are just more attractive." When we accept that, we're willingly accepting White Supremacy -- the idea that being white is the cultural normal -- into our lives without questioning it.

Lots of minorities engage in this. And it's easy to hide behind "It's just personal preference" or we didn't like the culture we grew up in. I wanted to show that personal preference has much deeper implications.

Because let me blow your mind here: I've dated an Asian guy before. I know! Shocker! Writers create characters. Call it first-person character, a writerly persona, performance art, whatever. Stir in some strong statements to make it more bloggable, call it a troll if you will. Or call it saying: I'd never, ever, ever do this, but it's just, yeah, I don't do it all that often.

The character embodies thoughts of self-race annihilation I've considered, especially when I was younger, because it would take a lot stronger of a person than I am to never wonder, "Would my life have been easier if I were white?"

Because being a minority is a constant reminder that you're different, an outsider, whether it's when people catcall you in the street "ni hao" or when people's question on a job interview is, "What is your heritage?"

I wrote this story because I've also been that person who says, "Oh, I'd never date an Asian guy! It's just not my thing!" -- and I'm owning my shit. And that's just what it is. Not bragging rights. Not something to be proud of. But a reality. My own personal dumb shit that I've also heard from my Asian female (and male) friends before. I've heard a lot of Asian male friends complain about it.

Lots of people don't realize that it's a manifestation of self-racism. I wanted to show that. To admit that when I say that, I was racist, too.

That is how racism works. It creates self-racism.

***

The Asian-American experience is different, and I wouldn't change my real-life upbringing. But I think that people shouldn't always have to love it all the time and should be allowed to say it without supposedly setting back the community.

I think people should be allowed to be disappointed at feeling different. It's a testament to the damaging power of racism.

And I think knowing what you're feeling when you say you prefer people who look differently than you -- is feeling that what you look like is less than.

The article is written not as a proclamation that being Asian is bad. It is written to know otherness and that often, that manifests in self-loathing.

I wish someone would have told me earlier that these feelings of otherness are normal, that you just have to recognize them and be truthful. That those feelings are internalized racism so you can resolve them to expunge yourself of it.

Until I could say out loud that I was racist toward Asians, I couldn't accept my Asian-American self.

***

The movies, magazines and culture at large proclaim that white is the norm, and that's dangerous. But it's even more dangerous to not acknowledge that it plays in our brains.

It's important to see how the world around us pushed minorities on their way toward "assimilation," that ridiculous "to celebrate" thing. To acknowledge that it is white norms telling us what is normal is the first step to breaking out of that internal racism. You have to know thy enemy.

Even when the enemy is thyself.

Of course it's destructive to think that white culture is all there is to culture. That's the fucking point of the story. I assumed we were at a place in race real-talk where it could be assumed that it's unhealthy. Apparently, not.

Nobody wants to be a racist. And by proclaiming my character as one, I thought I was stating that the position I was presenting was in the wrong. I didn't think I needed to unpack that one.

***

And on the note of Asian men specifically, clearly, they should be who they are. If there has ever been a case of, "It's not you, it's me" -- this is it. They should just not date girls with fucked up race issues. Yeah, don't do that.