As I sat in the back row during the International Women’s Day event I saw myself on the screen and felt inner conflict. Born in Anhui, a province in China, I had no choice about my outward appearance. I look Asian and have sometimes been seen differently because of it. In November, I wrote an article for The Record detailing the difficulties of not seeing essentially, ‘normal asians’ in the media as I grew up. Now, as I watch my face appear within a slideshow of girls who “were actually raised in the countries they came from” I squirm a little inside. It’s natural human tendency to want to belong and to categorize. I know I belong but I don’t feel part of a category. I look asian but I feel white – which is freaky weird, at times concerning and at other times sad.
I often wonder about how other kids who feel this way deal with their inner conflict. Do they try to learn a ton about their culture and “get really into it” but let it slowly fade away because it feels kind of forced? Cause I’ve done that. Do they, try to just embrace the skin they’re in and find all the amazing perks about being in that middle category? I mean, at least the stereotypes about Asians aren’t so bad right. What’s wrong with people assuming you’re a child prodigy and a math whiz? And hey, white people want to be tan all the time but I’m tan all year around so there. Or maybe, these other people get frustrated because they aren’t quite enough of this or that to qualify for either racial group. I’m too Asian to be white and too white to be Asian. I can use chopsticks but I can’t speak the language. I can look and be amazing but it’s the white blondes who end up getting the spotlight.
I know that international women’s day wasn’t set out to make me squirm. If nothing it should have made me excited to be Asian and proud to be a colored person. And it did do those things. But it also opened my eyes again to seeing the middle ground in which I stand. A middle ground that is overlooked in this political climate and a middle ground that is sometimes hard to explain to those who are outside of it. And I know I am not alone in these feelings. Immigrants and refugees born in the U.S. with the features of their country will most likely face a similar inner conflict. Anyone who ever walks around and wonders if they are _________ enough will also probably understand what it is like to be in that middle ground.
We have all been in and out of the middle ground. But it is about how we acknowledge each other when we are there. It’s how we acknowledge ourselves and our worth when we are there.
It is about seeing the others who are there with us and finding positive things about being forced to see from this perspective.
At the end of the International Women’s Day I was reminded of the middle ground in which I have been placed. It made me squirm at first, but I realized I don’t need to squirm because I have already been here for most of my life and most likely for the rest of it. I might as well get comfortable.