By the students, for the students. We want to be relatable, and we want to accurately represent the students of HISD. Anyone can submit – see the sidebar to learn how. Powered by the HISD Student Congress.
Liana Wang, Bellaire, 2016
In the intersection between the competitive atmosphere of high school and the discovery of self, being Asian American has handed me more labels than I’d like to wear.
In second grade we defined people by their character in baby adjectives: nice, creative, smart, stylish, popular. By fourth grade, those had melted away and left us with colors. In high school, we’ve re-categorized each of those colors to come with their own set of labels. No doubt that students of all backgrounds suffer from these labels. But this piece is on the set of labels that I know best.
I struggled with my identity as an Asian-American for many years. Every success of mine became, in my eyes, a failure, yet another product on the assembly line of my culture. Even now, when I hear the words “that’s so Asian” yelled out at me in playful retort, I still sometimes catch myself blustering away an explanation, uncomfortable that I fit inside the stereotype. I hate that the things I work hard for are dismissed as stuffers for college applications. Where do you belong? Which best describes you? Bubble it in. Mark it here. Standardized tests, the years of pencil lead and black-inked checks have corralled me into the fishbowl other, the boxed up Asian, the Amy Chua book club Chinese. Individualism and the freedom to embrace differences should be the most quintessentially American of all values, but somewhere along the line, individualism stained yellow, as if American-red oxidized like iodine, became negative.
Countless more problems exist even within the most diverse city in the US, and in possibly the most diverse high school in the district. We see, and we categorize- white kids are ‘preppy’, black kids are ‘ghetto’. Everyone becomes a variation on a theme of [insert race here]. This is not to say that Asians suffer most from a social system ingrained with inequalities; indeed, the impacts of stereotypes pinned upon others are often far worse, or violent. Yet the point is: even if those larger aggressions are worse, smaller stigmatizing is not justified.
An editor asked if I would like to speak of the labels we hand other races: those labels shouldn’t exist, but I haven’t personally experienced them. Even this account is centered on my experience and those of many friends, and even I am not guiltless when it comes to stereotypes. The point is not to become a saint or rue not being one, it is to realize those transgressions as problematic and avoid them in the future. I’d invite anyone reading this to reflect on your own time in the social sphere, and perhaps submit your own account.
I hope students think twice next time before even a harmless offensive comment. I hope teachers are less quick to judge their students’ success. I hope perhaps one day, schools across the district can be unafraid to speak frankly about race, to talk about social discrimination, and to discourage the kind of environment in which this stereotyping, judgment, and these micro-aggressions become acceptable.