More Than Just a Pigment

SueLee

By Sue Lee | Asian Students in America

Throughout the course of my childhood I have always been subject to racism, I guess the term Asian American was foreign to Alaskans. During kindergarten, my teacher gave me detention every single day for petty reasons that all children would do. Every time I would draw myself, my peers would hand me yellow crayons and say, “you’re yellow, you need this crayon.” I would always brush it off, though. During that time I believed that I was just a bad child, but around Thanksgiving my class was prompted to draw ourselves next to a turkey. I used a beige crayon to color my skin as I have always had, and a peer, once again, gave me a yellow crayon “you’re yellow.” I was so frustrated that I went to the person who supposed to help me when I needed it: my teacher. “Mrs. OJ!” (My kindergarten teacher.) “They keep saying I’m yellow!” and the three words she would say next was supposed to change all the detentions, my self-perception that I was bad, and my peer’s opinions.

“You ARE yellow.”

I learned at that moment my detentions were a matter of something I could not control, that my peer’s ignorance would not be corrected anytime soon, and that the society that I lived in would not be as accepting of me as my child-like mind always thought it would. Ironically, I can’t even speak Korean, and my family is fairly Americanized. The culture and race that my appearance represented did not even resonate with me, yet I was judged for something I could not control or (at that time) understand.

I now know that what I experienced as a child was due to ignorance and racism. While I am not bitter about what I experienced, had I not learned more about my Asian American identity, things could have ended very differently. Had I not moved to San Francisco when I was ten, I would have remained no different from those who made racist comments of me; ignorant (I just wouldn’t look as bad because I happened to be the target of their criticism). It was during my time in San Francisco that I was educated about topics like being different, the LGBTQ community, and (in my case) diversity and racism. San Francisco to me was a haven of acceptance, tolerance, education, and self-exploration.

While I have been able to look past those who have wronged me, there are many who have never experienced being in diverse environments, and there are countless who have not been educated about diversity. It should be within us all to go out and educate ourselves and others. Not everyone is blessed with understanding, but we should all work towards accepting, forgiving, and educating one another so that adversity won’t affect the future as much as it does now. After all, it brought a “yellow” child to understanding.

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