there are a lot of asians in southern california. especially a few miles south of pasadena, in the alhambra/monterey park/san gabriel area. a friend told us that monterey is 60% chinese. that’s chinese, not just asian; including all asian subgroups, the figure rises to probably about 80%.
this probably isn’t news to anyone. i really didn’t feel the magnitude of it, though, until i was standing at the entrance of an asian supermarket in monterey park, staring at a sea of black hair, seeing little asian women offering samples of seaweed and mango juice, hearing nothing but cantonese and mandarin, with a giant poster of michelle kwan to my right.
it made me extremely uncomfortable.
it took me a while to figure out why i felt this way, because i am well past my asian-hating phase. i grew up disliking asians and being asian, but all of that changed in high school, which is also another entry for another day.
i also realized that i only get this feeling when i’m in america. huge crowds of asians don’t give me the heebies in taiwan, b/c it’s asia, and what do you expect? besides, i’m american, and they can tell that by looking at me and the second i open my mouth, so i’m still in the minority. but being in a place in america where everyone is asian makes me really uncomfortable. i see caucasians lost in these crowds and i feel a kinship with them. a sense of “hey, i don’t belong here either.”
i realize: i like being a minority. ben said that being part of the majority makes him feel completely un-special. i agree, and i think it runs deeper than that. when i’m suddenly thrown into a large group of asian people, i worry that outsiders will dismiss me as simply one of the rest; that they will not take the time to get to know me; that i will be written off and misunderstood. this was why i distanced myself from asian americans as much as possible when i was growing up, before i liked being asian, and it’s why i still get uncomfortable when i’m surrounded by them now.
i wondered briefly if caucasian people feel like this all the time, but i’m pretty sure that they don’t. because first of all, they’re the majority most of the time, and i refuse to believe that they walk around for 90% of their lives feeling completely un-special. and second, they’re the majority, and thus people will not dismiss them as one of the rest. if a white person is a jerkface, no one will look at them and be like, “wow, white people suck,” because there’s plenty of counterexamples to refute that. but if a minority is a jerkface, you can bet that a fair number of people around them will attribute that to their race, b/c the counterexamples are far fewer.
i could wax on about race all the livelong day, but suffice to say: being part of the majority makes me uncomfortable.