Thayer at midnight was lit up with neon signs and girls in short dazzling dresses. I caught a glimpse of myself in the Bagel Gourmet window — a girl in a striped blouse, long sleeved blue cardigan, and modest navy shorts. I began to slow my pace. A mob of drunk townies in front of me were having a difficult time putting one foot in front of the other. A couple of the guys were sober enough to notice someone walking behind them. “Let the lady pass!” they yelled into the air. I had almost reached the corner where I turn into Cushing St. — when a member of the rowdy gang stopped me. Barely able to fix his gaze, he bowed and yelled, “NI HAO!” A roar of laughter from his friends. I quickly maneuvered past him and dove into the safety of my dorm — and into the shower I went, knowing that this wasn’t the kind of dirty, grimy feeling you could wash off.
My friends responses have been “I’ve heard worse.” True. Me, too. I wasn’t sexually assaulted or mugged. I was just an “Asian” girl walking down the street who happened to run into a bunch of drunk white guys — who thought it would be funny to speak to me in Chinese. Maybe that was the only Asian exposure that he had. Maybe he was just trying to be nice and be “culturally competent.” Maybe he was just drunk. You never know his intentions.
But his intentions don’t matter. Well-meaning people can still offend others and perpetuate racist images in society. The incident arose in me various fears and insecurities that I have as an Asian American woman in this country.
I felt as though I looked extremely “Asian.” I’m foreign. Who am I kidding, I don’t belong here in America.
I felt that my hard-fought individuality was lost in the larger “Asian” stereotype. We all look alike to them. Maybe I’m just another Asian girl after all.
For y’all interactive learners, here’s a video called “How to Hit on An Asian Girl,” telling guys out there why talking about chopsticks or yelling Chinese at a random girl is not usually a very effective technique to express interest in Asian/AA women: