On rich Asian exchange students

Asians are not expected to prosper

I lived in the Midwest for years. Like many other Asian international students, I was unable to fit in culturally, due to my upbringing, my burden as a first-generation immigrant, the cultural barrier, and my looks. Some of the Asian students in my college were from humble working-class families and worked hard to get where they are, while other kids grew up in middle-class or relatively affluent upper-middle-class families. The Asian students dressed differently than the caucasian students as people from different countries do.

And I felt the shaming rolling in again, but this time in college. You hear people discuss their disgust with the wealth that Asian international students bring in, the purses Asian girls carry, and the cars that Asian students drive. Yes. Asian girls are more frequently spotted with an LV bag that they took months to save, yet that is a personal choice they make. They might be starving for months to save up for this bag. Because China was in a supposedly classless communist chaos for so many decades, it is an unfortunate reality that people are terrified of being seen as broke and trashy; they would go great lengths to prove that poverty is not in their genetic makeup. I’ve seen people who ate nothing but carbs for months to save up for a luxury bag. Even though I don’t recommend doing that, I understand people’s passion for luxury goods, and I try not to judge the value of people based on their financial decisions.

Instagram – mikoto.raw

Why are the Chinese judged as a group instead of individuals?

White girls could freely wear J.Crew, Patagonia, Lululemon, Adidas; they can study abroad and rush for sororities that cost thousands of dollars per academic year, without having society consider all white girls materialistic spoiled brats. Yet even though Asian girls still worked at dining courts and student halls, and very few of us owned high-end cars, we were somehow seen as more nonsensicalmore spoiled, more selfish, showier.

Every stereotype has some truth to it, and I can’t deny the existence of the Crazy Rich Asians, but they should not speak for all of us. It is problematic to see international students as a GROUP of selfish, greedy, and serving people. 

Photo by Nattawara . from Pexels

When we were poor, we were the savages and laborers and prostitutes of the East, who would, on how do they call it? Sucky sucky 2 dollars. But when we are wealthy despite coming out of nothing, we are corrupt, new-rich and uncivilized, ungrateful, greedy, and gold-digging. Our efforts to grow our economy and participate in global commerce were overlooked; our labor in sweatshops, making minimum wage, and endure cruel labor conditions, to produce American goods for American consumers, were associated with a greedy race to the bottom. It was as if it is a natural right for whites to prosper, and when Asians do it, it’s shameful and self-serving. 

Let’s Remember Immigrants, like Citizens, Came a Long Way

How do we move on from here? First, we need not let others rewrite our history. I know that both of my grandparents were orphans in China; the communist party murdered their parents. My father grew up only eating half a bowl of meat on New Years but still was able to complete undergrad med school and become a forensic examiner, and later won international awards for his academic research. Even though I know the communist party could be corrupt, I also know my family has never participated in government transactions. That is my family history, and I own it. Nobody needs to believe it, but I need to be proud of it. Even though I don’t have a great relationship with my parents, I respect their professional work to grow their home country.

Don’t Forget You Have the Right to Be Here

IG – mikoto.raw

I sincerely appreciate most of the caucasian students around me. They recycle, they live a minimalist life, they spend years working for Teach for America or Peace Corp. A lot of them want to continue to work in the public sector after graduation, and the rest that is going into the private sector are self-sufficient and want to pay off their student loans as soon as possible. I admire them and their goals.

But I also try to remember to respect myself and remember that like my caucasian friends and family, I also worked hard, and I am also trying to make the world a better place by going into the public sector.

I admit, I am priviledged. My parents never purchased a car for me, but I lived with my parents every single summer in undergrad and never had to pay them rent. I worked during these summers to cover my expenses like transportation, recreation, clothes, travel, etc, but I knew that if I got sick, they would pay for my medical bills. They also paid for my college tuition. Since I did not need to work to pay for rent, I was able to spend a lot of time studying for grad school exams, and get good marks to obtain a huge grad school scholarship. For this, I will forever be grateful, and I know their support allows me to live freely, it allows me to do what I’ve always wanted, to work in a field that can bring about positive changes, instead of for a company I don’t care for to pay off my loans.

I spoke bits and pieces of broken English when I first landed in America, and now my accent is mostly gone, and for the most part, I feel like I can be a great person that can live a productive life in America, a country I deeply love. America is not my parents’ home, but it is my home. I love it since I can write an article like this without it being deleted or censored. I also love it for its honesty when it comes to racial debates.

We see colors here, and we don’t always agree, but it is still better to disagree than to ignore reality. Thank you for visiting and hanging out with me 🙂

Sincerely,

Justine

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