Essay and Translation by Calista Shang ’20.
When I was little, I rarely spoke Chinese. I was too embarrassed, embarrassed of the way my lunch always smelled of pork dumplings, the way my parents spoke broken English, the way my eyes were small and my hair was black. My features didn’t resemble the people in the movies. They all had blonde hair and blue eyes. I was embarrassed of the way I was different from my classmates and my teachers.
When I was in high school, I didn’t like how people praised my English for being so good and my accent for being barely noticeable. I didn’t like how a group of grown men shouted racial slurs at me on the streets of San Francisco. They yelled at me, telling me to go back to my home country. I didn’t like how, during an interview for a summer internship, the group of women kept asking me where I was from despite my answering each time that I was born and raised in California.
I am now a freshman in college, and I am just starting to understand after 18 years that I can choose to be proud or ashamed of my differences. I can force myself to change or embrace who I am. Being around so many people who embrace their identities and celebrate what make them diverse has opened my eyes to accepting my own differences. Reflecting on the struggles of my parents and being grateful for everything they have accomplished, despite being immigrants, has made me proud of where I come from.
I am American, but I am also Chinese.