Our second article on racism is on Asian Americans. Our first article was about possible racism you may encounter if you go abroad, but this time we want to let you know that even when you are born and raised in Western cultures, it still happens. This is important knowledge for improving your English skills.


Asian people have been immigrating to the US since the 1800s. Although Asian Americans only make up 5% of the population in the US, that’s still a total of 12 million people. Throughout our long history in the US, we’ve built their railroads, bestowed upon them the gift of orange chicken, and also had to put up with a bunch of racist bullshit.


Despite the wide number of ethnicities within Asian American, people tend to think that we all look the same and have assigned a host of stereotypes to our collective group. Whether your skin is brown or “yellow”, if you look Asian, you might experience the following microagressions while in the US:

    • People assuming you’re good at math.


    • People thinking you can’t drive.
    • People assuming you know a martial art.

martial arts

    • People assuming that you can play the piano or violin.
    • People thinking that you eat cats or dogs.


    • People thinking you can’t speak English.
    • People complementing you about your English even if it is your mother tongue.
    • People asking where you’re from regardless of how American your accent is.


  • People still asking you where you’re from after you tell them you were born in New York.
  • People feeling awkward and switching to asking where your parents are from in hopes of hearing an Asian country.


The list goes on and on. There are even more specific ones based on your assumed ethnicity. If you’re Vietnamese, you must work at a nail salon. If you’re Filipino, you must be good at singing. If you’re Indian, you’re probably part of an arranged marriage. If you’re Chinese, your parents are either doctors and rich or they work at a Chinese restaurant.


Asian American people and our food are inseparable in the minds of many Americans. There is this feeling that through consuming the food of another ethnic group, you become more cultured and sophisticated. Buying into this mentality places you in the system where Asian food and Asian people are both exoticized and objectified. This can result in white hipsters columbusing the authentic Korean BBQ restaurant downtown as if actual Korean Americans didn’t know about it already.


If you’re Japanese and someone comes up and tells you that they love sushi, you might think this is nice of them, but for some Asian Americans this can be offensive. It’s great that they at least got your ethnicity right instead of naming something from a completely different Asian culture though. Telling someone that you love bibimbap or curry, does not mean that you’re on your way to becoming besties. It would be like meeting an Irish American and telling them that you love potatoes and Lucky Charms.


Unlike in Japan, “ethnic food” in the US is usually very cheap. To clarify the true meaning of “ethnic” for Americans, it basically means anything that’s third world or not white. A meal at an Asian restaurant could take just as much effort to prepare as a French meal, but it can cost you next to nothing. The cheapening of our food and culture can lead other Americans to look down on our people as a whole. Thousands of years of culinary art from China doesn’t really get the respect it deserves when it’s served in a combo plate for $7.95.


Many people struggle with being Asian American. Part of you wants to embrace your Asian heritage, but then you start to notice that things aren’t all that great for Asians in America. We are seen as less refined. Our traditions are seen as backwards. Our stories don’t end up in the textbooks. The only way to succeed in the US is to become “more American”, and therefore “more white”.


Gone are the days where restaurants had signs saying “NO DOGS AND CHINESE ALLOWED”, but racism still permeates the US. It manifests itself in more subtle ways. It exists in ignorant questions, bullying at school, and invisible barriers that prevent people from getting hired or promoted at work. This is the first article in a series we are doing on issues people of color face. It is only through building awareness across communities that we will be able to combat racism within the US.

~ Thomas