Xianting is a student at Brookstone Highschool in Georgia. Moving across the world to a new country can be hard, not to mention experiencing overwhelming prejudice once you arrived. Let’s dive into her story.
Three years ago, I moved to Georgia from Guangzhou China with mounting excitement and curiosity to experience “Southern life”. But instead, I experienced judgment, misunderstanding and was truly mocked for the first time of my life. Due to this, I began to contemplate the pressing need for communication between classes, races, parties. My past has given me the strength to share my own thoughts and experiences about diversity.
The town in which I live is predominately white. Most people here have known each other since they were babies, and their parents have known each other since childhood as well. According to data, my school is composed of 84% Whites, 6% African Americans, 5% Asians, 4% Mixed, 1% Hispanics, and 0% Native. Many of my white neighbors embody the stereotypes of the “Deep South”— overwhelmingly Baptist, conservative and exclusive.
I promise that I am not exaggerating. Throughout my time in Georgia, I have been purposely ignored and judged, purely because of my race, my Democratic views, and my support of feminism and homosexuality.
I don’t even know where to start my story.
There are too many places to begin.
So I will begin with my own identity.
Due to my Chinese identity, I am constantly bombarded with “How can you speak English?”, “Is it true that all the Chinese people eat dogs?” “Do Asians have any access to the internet? Don’t they have bad living conditions?”. I always hear, “All Asians look alike!” comments and whenever I stand up for my race, I am told by my peers that I’m sensitive and that I can’t take a joke. Once, a classmate of mine took a picture of me with the flash on. When I asked how the picture was, he checked the phone, shrugged his shoulders, and told me “Not good. You look like you’re Chinese.”
The last straw on the camel’s back was when I attended my local church and the minister announced how have missionaries saved the Chinese and how grateful they should be. The preacher knew my heritage. And when these statements flew out of his mouth, he was looking and smiling directly at me as I stared, mortified, from the audience. I couldn’t understand the motive of his hate, for back in Guangzhou though Protestant, I had nothing but love for my Muslim, atheist, and Buddhist friends.
These experiences challenged my views of America and what it truly stood for. I naively assumed that this land of “the free” had established equality for everyone, no matter their nationality, family background, or ethnicity.
However, I quickly discovered that bias exists, hatred exists and oppression exists. While people many people may claim that the United States is “post-racial” I would have lots of evidence to prove them otherwise.
During Pride Month, I posted an Instagram story about celebrating and appreciating LGBTQ community. Within 24 hours, my followers dropped by 20 people; people unfollowed me after reading my post. I was shocked that one statement of supporting a group of people could easily eliminate friendship.
This is the most terrifying and most enraging part: such discriminations could happen around me or be directed towards me any day, any moment and any second, with consequence.
At my high school, students boo during assemblies celebrating International Women’s Day. They bully transgender students. The religious mothers accuse abortion activists of going against God’s will, regardless of the fact that many females looking for abortion services are suffering from unwanted sex, pernicious diseases, or forced pregnancy. And an eighteen-year-old college student I know even teaches his cousin to “not help in the kitchen, it is the place where women go.”
Despite all this, I am not writing this to promote further divisions between people. Instead, these negative factors are positive motivators. I appreciate these three years in the South. Admittedly, it has been stressful and definitely a struggle, but it also urges me to be conscious, sharp and aware of my place in this world.
My attitude has changed. I have learned that prejudice and judgment will never change anything, but instead, the point is to discover, listen, understand and act. Today, I manage an Instagram account called @asianfemmme. Its goal is to promote racial and gender equality, feminist novels, and cultural diversity. I am proud to say that I now embrace my Asian background and celebrate it proudly. I hope as time goes by things will start to change in my small Georgian town.
My dark-skinned French friend laughed after I told her these stories: “Been there, done that. So when are you going to transfer?”
I told her, I want to do something for the change.
Her eyes opened wide as she laughed even harder—
“Stop dreaming. You can’t do anything about it.”
I crossed my fingers.