Today, I read an article titled “A Letter to Asian Girls.” Typically, I’m not the type to fall for clickbait, but I begrudgingly clicked with expectations to read something that fetishizes my ethnicity. Instead, I was floored by how much I clung to each and every word and realized how I’m not alone in my struggles.
Growing up in a primarily Caucasian community, I became isolated, being the “token” Asian friend. As a child, I hated myself for my skin tone, my language, and my culture because it made me different and subjected to bullying. I grew tired of the constant questions of “do you eat dog?” “can you read this?” “is it true that you have a tight pussy?” The insensitivity of others made me assimilate into American culture faster. I purposefully didn’t practice Tagalog because it made me different. I purposefully changed my personality and fashion to tailor to those around me.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I found a community that shares the same culture and struggles. People who spoke the same language, who understood the same quirky cultural references, who ate the same food that we all found delicious, and who call the same place home. The author said, “I found comfort in others that experienced the same perpetual feeling of “inbetweeness,” of being a hyphenated identity that would never belong anywhere, forever displaced.” And fuck, that hit close to home.
To my 7 year old self — the bright eyed and bushy tailed girl that came to the US hoping for a better future — I’m so sorry that I was ashamed of who you were. I’m so sorry that I robbed you out of celebrating the beauty of your skin, culture, and identity. Now, at the age of twenty-two, I have more or less come to terms with being Filipino-American. I no longer harbor hatred for an appearance and a culture I never asked for, but I do regret all the nasty words I said to myself in front of a mirror, the years I missed speaking Tagalog, the lumpia, the halo-halo, and pancit I never ate. “I know that I will never be able to leave behind that small shy Asian girl who has been scarred from this white country, but who, in so many ways, has been made strong by what she has endured.”