I recently stumbled on this video, in which the poet criticises Ms. Rowling, author of Harry Potter, of creating a racist and stereotypical Chinese character – Cho Chang. Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all of the points she made, I believe her view is one of the upmost importance, and one rarely acknowledged.
You see, when I was young, I had a huge passion for drama; I loved to act, and dance, I used to dream of becoming an actress. Until, I realised how low the number of Asian characters there are on my screen, there were so few, and of those present, they all fulfill either one stereotype or another; there were no genuine Asian characters. They were either in the Chinese mafia, knowing excellent Karate; or the top student of the prestigious school; or the heartbroken, weak, feeble character. I grew up, bullied into submission already, with no real, true, brown-skinned human to look up to, to believe in the future. I grew up, into a stereotype, that did not reflect any part of me at all, but it’s the way I was expected to act. People asked me how to do karate, even though I knew next to nothing. I was expected to be the top of the class, the top of the school and they were extraordinarily shocked when ‘oh wow, you’re resitting?’/'oh wow, I beat Annie!’.
I was expected to be someone out of a book, that forced brown-skinned people into submission to their white superiors, and when they realised I wasn’t, they used that to bully me. They read your books, your words; they saw your films, cartwheeled in their front garden; they were raised, not intentionally, on the ideas that we either spoke twelve languages fluently or only a broken ‘salt or vinegar?’. I am more than this. I am more than a stereotype. I am more than a broken stereotype, one based on your imagination, false accusations, and flat lies. Instead, I live in fear of you. I fear that one day, you will use the colour of my skin to judge me, rather than the qualities of my character or the cells in my brain; I fear everyday for my future, and the future of my children, born to a world expecting them to live a life of lies.
The thing is, you do try your best at racial diversity. I see far more black characters in the media than before; every child knows the revolutionary stories of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. However, you do not realise that by doing this, you are further shoving Asian people into that tiny corner that we do not speak about. Black people are celebrated, they are in the history books, they are taught to children who will rule the world one day, but what about us, what about me? The only thing I hear is the corruption of communism; the deadly greed forcing China into deeper depths of hell than before, when will I hear of the good stuff? When will I hear of a community coming together to face natural disasters, when will I hear of how far the Chinese have come since those days in dry, barren land? When will I hear of stories, both good and bad, of Asia so the adults of the future can make an informed judgement on how they want to treat me, instead of opinions plastered on them the moment they popped out the womb.
Imagine a nine-year old, forced to choose a new dream because of something she could not control.
I grew up, wishing my skin was lighter, because maybe only then, they’d stop giving me ‘happy slaps’ every lunch time.
(Hint: they were not happy)