Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: code switching

WWDTAOL: cultural gaslighting and pretending to be normal

There has been plenty written about microaggressions and how they can add up. Most of us have at least heard of code-switching and what a toll it can take on a person. When I was in college, i got asked all the time where I was from. Since I was a bitch, I would say with a straight face, Minnesota and wait for the following question. “No, I mean where are you really from?” Normally I would say something along the lines of, “My ancestors are from Taiwan” and that was usually enough to get people to shut the fuck up. Once in a while, someone would continue with something even more insensitive such as, “My adopted daughter is Korean.” Ok. Well. What am I supposed to do with that? There are so many levels wrong with that. First of all, I’m not Korean. Secondly, even if I were, it wouldn’t mean I’d have an instant connection to all Korean people. I’ve had people ask if I knew this other Taiwanese person they know, which is also grating. It shows that I’m a category, not a person to them.

I’ve had well-meaning white people ask me why that’s so frustrating. Or saying that people are just being curious. I hate that because it’ll take too long to explain the whole background of being a minority in an overwhelmingly white state and it’s why so many minorities don’t want to do Racism 101. (Or women and Sexism 101, etc.). It really does boil down to trust me after a lifetime of living as me, I know the intent of people doing this kind of shit. I don’t think they’re being malicious, but it’s ignorance and it’s intrusive. Also, when you have it happen over and over again, it’s a not-so-subtle hint that I’m viewed as an outsider.

That, by the way, is another microagression–people constantly questioning what you experienced as real. That’s the cultural gaslighting I mentioned in the title and it’s exhausting. “Are you sure that’s what happened? Maybe that person you thought mistreated you because you’re Asian was actually just having a bad day!” It’s as if the person who actually has the experience is considered biased BECAUSE they’ve had the experiences so often. You see it all over the place, such as in trials. If you’re black (as a potential jurist), it’s assumed that you can’t possibly be neutral if it’s a case involving a black victim. Same with women and sex crimes. Or, in a more common phenomenon, a man is described as being creepy and so many people, mostly men, fall over themselves to explain why he’s just misunderstood.


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