Hey APC! My name is Lu Garcia, I’m Chinese and Vietnamese, in my senior year of high school. I live in New York City, but I was born in China. I was nervous as I was writing this essay on my struggle with my identity because I felt as though it was a common struggle, but then I realized that it was important to write about my struggles because they are unique to me. Nobody else can tell my story, only I can, and I should want to share the battles I have endured because they have made me who I am today.
Two Christmases ago, I celebrated the holiday with my mom’s side of the family. My cousins invited me to their yearly Christmas celebration with their dad’s side of the family. I was the only one in the house with hair darker than a light brown, but that’s just a hair color, right? It was a nice holiday party, but I didn’t know their side of the family so I felt a bit awkward. As the night went on, I got more comfortable with everyone and felt like I was a part of the family. At one point, their uncle stood up and goes, “Mom, we have three generations all in this room! Isn’t that amazing?” and then one of my cousins goes, “Yeah, except Lu.” I could feel my entire body go cold. I looked around, wondering if anyone heard what my cousin had just said. Nobody did.
I was born in Changsha, China in 2002. I was adopted by my parents at 8 months old and began my American life in New York City. I grew up knowing that I was Chinese, my mom was white, and my dad was Mexican. Even at a young age, I understood that my family wasn’t typical. We all looked different, and those aren’t the types of families you see in picture books.
In sixth grade, I began to understand what it felt like to deal with issues of race, segregation, alienation, and what it meant to be a person of color. There were two sections of my middle school: the honors section and the regular section. I took the diagnostic test for the honors section and qualified, although my school told me that the program was full even though they continued to admit other students… white students. I was placed into the regular section, which was mostly black and Latino kids, but I didn’t mind. However, I began to realize that the regular section was treated differently, both socially and academically. I found myself denying my Chinese heritage and wishing that I was white because it seemed as though my experience in school would be better for me if I was. I pushed through the insults that were hurled at me. The looks that my teachers would give me whenever they mentioned an Asian name, half expecting me to tell them the correct pronunciation. Those micro-aggressions were little, but it made me feel alienated from my culture because it seemed to be a bad thing to be Chinese.
I remember walking into my first class in high school and almost immediately getting questions about my last name. One girl asked me if I was mixed, meaning half Asian and half white. I said yes even though I knew it wasn’t true. I felt that by saying yes I would be more respected. I felt ashamed to admit I wasn’t any part white and I had been born outside of the country. I feared to be different.
I would be lying if I said I’ve completely recovered from all of that, but I’ve grown immensely. I no longer denounce my ethnicity because I realize that it is something to be proud of. I used to be shy and quiet but now I hold myself with confidence. I feel as though my struggles with the alienation of my ethnicity, family, and peers have made me who I am today. My high school taught me that individuality is something to be embraced. I learned that while stereotypes are derogatory and as much as I want to prove everyone that I am not a stereotype, I shouldn’t let an amused look from a classmate discourage me from studying for the upcoming math test. Everyone has a story, and despite the struggles I’ve experienced, mine is something I am proud of.