The Round Table

The “Super Asian” conquers super stereotypes

Photo by Marley Pratt

Photo by Marley Pratt

By Jade Ruggieri, Round Table editor

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It’s eighth grade. Moving from Severna Park, Maryland to Middletown was a big change. It was still a new concept going to a new school with new people. I was greeted with friendly smiles saying, “Welcome to Middletown.” I thought to myself, “Maybe change won’t be so bad after all.”

I gradually started to transition into this new place with new friends and new classes. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

That was until one day, a kid on my bus called me “sushi roll.”

What most don’t know about me at first glance is that I was adopted. Born in Jiaozuo (city), Henan (province), China, I was adopted at one year old, which is older than most in orphanages.

I was adopted right around the time of the terrorist attack that changed the world, 9/11. All of the flights going in and out of the country were cancelled and my adoption papers were about to expire.

The senator of Maryland at the time, Barbara Mikulski, granted my parents special permission to fly to China so that the already long process wouldn’t drag on even more. My parents’ love for me was evident as they fought the battle to be able to adopt me before they had even met me.

In some cases, China prefers that if you adopt a second child, they should be handicapped or impaired in some way. Supposedly I was mentally handicapped since I could not sit up on my own at the age of one, and at the age of two I had not spoken a word. All I would do is cry and cry and my parents were concerned that I was not developing properly.

After undergoing speech therapy and lots of dedication from my parents, I finally spoke and have never stopped since.

To overcome all of the obstacles I faced that I didn’t even remember going through reflects my personality to this day. I overcome and persevere through difficult situations, refusing to succumb to the challenges thrown in my path.

That is why I do not understand why someone would find that nickname amusing. At my old school, adoptions were more common and there was plenty of diversity. Everyone treated me like I was their equal and I never thought of myself as anything less.

Words said by peers at this new school will always be unforgettable. Sometimes they would make fun of my squinty eyes, other times it would be nicknames like “egg roll” or “wonton.”

I stood up for myself; however, words have an everlasting impact on a person’s life, no matter how strong they may be. I did not realize how making fun of my “differences” was so funny because no two people are exactly the same. Then I asked myself, is being Asian such an abnormality? The entire world is filled with different cultures and different people with different stories.

This is one story out of many, but they usually are not reported because as a teenager it would not be considered “cool” to tell. Luckily for me, these comments have been reduced as I am now a sophomore in high school, but nevertheless, it was not welcoming.

Bullying lessons are drilled into students brains, but that does not stop people from doing it anyway. Peers turn on peers and the one being targeted just has to laugh and play it off like nothing happened. Even if it is meant as a “joke,” it does not excuse what they said and may even show the student’s true thoughts and feelings because they feel the need to target someone else to feel better about themselves.

It is hard to find the right solution to the widespread bullying dilemma. Nowadays, with social media playing such a large factor in daily life, it is harder and harder to monitor who needs help. Even then, it is difficult to prevent bullying because an adult cannot be with you constantly.

Any bully can pretend to be nice for an hour and a half in class. It’s when someone is eating lunch or after school when the real “fun” begins. Students tend to think that if they never get caught then what they are doing is acceptable.

That’s not the case. There has to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Being a part of the minority does not feel like a weight around my neck. Instead, I take it as a way to strengthen myself so I can speak out, so that I can be the voice for those who choose not to.

No matter how much a school may promote equality, it is hard for that to be truly represented when you’re the only person who isn’t white in a class of 30 students.

According to Frederick County Public School’s information about MHS, based on the 2016-2017 enrollment report, Asians make up 2.8 percent and caucasians/whites make up 87.9 percent. That is an 85.1 percent difference.

Because there is no apparent need to understand that all Asians are not the same, all of us automatically get grouped together as one “Super Asian,” as I put it. When I got called sushi roll, my initial thoughts, some which are not the best to voice, were, “I am not even Japanese. I’m Chinese. That doesn’t make sense.”

You do not see me walking around making fun of people for being white when they may be Italian or Irish, so why do people do that to me? What makes it even worse is that since I am adopted, I always get asked, “Are your parents white?” I don’t see why that would matter because a family isn’t made up of the blood that flows through your veins. A family is made up of people who put others before themselves and love you with no doubt in their heart.

One thing I absolutely hate is the stereotype that comes with being Asian. I have had people tell me that I shouldn’t be offended because the stereotypes are “good” compared to others. Either way, stereotypes are still stereotypes and all are just as bad.

For example, I am not that good at math. By “I’m not good at math,” I mean I still get the A, but I struggle every step of the way. Consistently I have peers say, “You’re Asian. You’re supposed to be good at math.”

Why would my ethnicity play any role into how well I do at learning a subject? I wasn’t raised in Asia that long, and even if I was born in the United States, I fail to see how race plays into my intelligence. I am not talking to you from China, I am talking to you from the same exact classroom.

Standing at a solid five-feet tall, I am not a very intimidating person. This height is the average height of a Chinese woman, but here I am constantly called out for my height. It is not like I can control how tall I am. Therefore, what is the point of making a statement about it?

The average American female’s height is about five-feet and five inches while an average male height is five-feet and 10 inches. If we were the same race and then you wanted to comment about my height, I would have no problem with that. Most of the time that is not the case. Instead, (mainly males) make fun of my lack of height but do not understand that I am average.

I am proud to be Chinese and I am proud to call the people who adopted me my parents. People have asked me, “What is it like to be adopted?” My response is, “Is there a difference?”

When I look at my parents, I don’t see them as strangers. I look at them like any other teenager would look at their parents, with love and admiration.

Opportunities have always been knocking at my door because I was given the opportunity to live the American life. That life that has enabled me in almost everything I do, given me more rights than I would have ever had in China and let me experience life at its fullest with no severe complications.

If I was never adopted, I would have grown up in an orphanage that would not have been able to fully support me. I would never have experienced the true meaning of what a family really means. I would never have been able to live a life I can enjoy and learn from.

Realizing that I have been given the chance to live a whole new life out of the millions that my parents have given me, I would not want it any other way.

Of course, I still have my struggles but life itself is always full of ups and downs. The way that you handle life is what truly shows who you are as a person and I am proud to say that I’m Asian and wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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