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Anonymous

New York, USA

Wuhan, China


When you start to grow up, you’re trying to find your own identity separate from your parents. And so not knowing your past or heritage really comes into play.

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I think it was really important for me that my parents decided to adopt another child from China - just to have that connection with someone who looks like you, because the places I’ve grown up have been mostly Caucasian. In terms of keeping connected with Chinese culture, it’s been rather difficult because when I was younger we moved around a lot. And then we settled in a very white, rural area in upstate New York. So there’s not much you can do to connect to Chinese heritage. I think I didn’t notice it as much when I was younger, but definitely in the past few years I’ve been able to do some travelling, and when you go off to college you start making your own connections in society. I’m connecting with other people’s stories and realizing that it’s difficult when you are part of one culture, but you totally grew up in another culture. When you start to grow up, you’re trying to find your own identity separate from your parents. And so not knowing your past or heritage really comes into play.


I’ve had one experience where I was with my mom and my aunt and people didn’t assume I was with them. They assumed I was by myself because I didn’t look like them. That was several years ago, but it was kind of a wake up call. People aren’t going to automatically assume I’m related to them. When I was younger, it definitely helped having a sister who was also Chinese because that was kind of a hint that we were together. But I think people don’t really look past the part that we’re both Asian. When I was in middle school, my sister and I would go to the gym after school. One of my friends said, “You guys look so much alike. I can’t tell you apart.” She may have been joking, but if you live in a predominantly Caucasian community, sometimes people just tend to group Asian faces together.


I did face a few instances of microaggressions. During high school, we were doing a musical review and one of the songs they were performing was basically a parody of Chinese culture. I was playing in the pit orchestra and some of my friends who were performing the song asked me, “How do you feel about the song that we’re playing?” I was going to say something, but they didn’t wait to hear my answer. They brushed me off and that kind of hurt. They just wanted to enjoy it from their perspective and think it was really funny. Another time, I was in middle school and my family and I were on vacation. I was sitting at a picnic table by myself and this man came up to me and was chatting with me for a little bit. Then he said, “You speak very good English.” I didn’t understand it at the time because I thought of course I speak good English. I’m American. Looking back, I realized he assumed that I was a foreigner. That I wasn’t American.



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