Collection of Emma Tucker's Writing and Design


I am from Chongqing (Chong Ching)

“You eat dogs,” my white classmate said during recess. The sky was baby blue, the sun was beating down, and the wind was non-existent.

“No, I don’t,” I replied. We were playing jump rope on the sidewalk. As I jumped, the rope scraped against the concrete.

“Yes, you do. My family said people with small eyes, like you, eat dogs.” 

The rope slammed the back of my ankles. 

“But I don’t,” I replied again and handed him the jump rope for his turn. 

That was the first time I ever encountered an Asian stereotype. I was in first grade. I didn’t even know the definition of a stereotype, yet I heard them repeatedly. And laughs followed every time. I felt ashamed of my appearance and my culture. 

I was born in China but was adopted by a white family when I was one. All I had ever known was American culture. However, my mother tried her best to expose me to my origins. She enrolled me in Chinese classes and joined an Asian group with other mothers. I wanted nothing to do with it. I dreamed of waking up with blonde hair and blue eyes. I dreamed of being someone who doesn’t eat dogs or is the butt of an unoriginal, racist joke. That was impossible, so I had to adapt. 

In middle school, there were more Asians, so the comments died down, but I became the one making the jokes. I was the one carrying on the Asian stereotypes that surround U.S. culture. I had to. It was better to make the jokes myself than have someone else say them. I was always guaranteed a laugh. 

One day in seventh grade, I was in Spanish class with my friends. As the teacher presented a slideshow, my white friend, sitting next to me, tore off a piece of loose-leaf paper and handed it to me. It read: Asian pass? Sign here. He smiled and tapped his pencil against the uneven line. Sign here. I shrugged my shoulders, grabbed my pencil, and signed my name. After the slideshow, the teacher gave us time to finish our Spanish packet. I looked over at him and wondered if he wanted to work together.

“Ching Chong, Ching Chong,” he said in an exaggerated Chinese accent. 

My body froze. Did he really say that? My ears burned with the words that slipped out of his mouth so effortlessly.

“You can’t get mad at me because I have an Asian pass, seeee.” He waved it in front of my face.

My eyes didn’t leave that ugly signature. I imagined myself ripping the paper out of his hands and destroying it forever. Soon other classmates turned around asking for Asian passes, and I joked along but didn’t give them any. My foot was tapping the ground at a rhythmic pace as I felt a hole in my stomach develop. Later, the same classmate convinced a black student to sign a Black pass. He didn’t say the n-word. The whole period, I listened to him make every known basic stereotype of Asians, and I sat there smiling. 

So far, my experience in America has made me feel like the only path it destined me to be on was making fun of myself. That was before the Stop Asian Hate movement. The campaign started when the discovery of COVID-19 began in China, increasing hate crimes against Asians, some not even Chinese. No surprise there. However, it was more than that. It brought attention to the normalization of racist Asian stereotypes played as jokes, and tried to stop it. This empowered me to speak out because I could relate to it. I had experienced it firsthand, and now I felt heard and listened to. Yet, I also felt a sense of guilt. I helped reinforce the jokes about Asians not being able to see or wanting to eat pets. And I made others feel comfortable making such jokes. I felt guilty because I was not worthy of supporting the subject when I was the problem. 

Stop Asian Hate isn’t as relevant a movement today, but it has helped me find myself. I found that accepting and learning about my culture made me stand out. Last year, I took a DNA test that said I was 100% Chinese. Who else can say that? It tells my ancestors' stories deep in China's roots, but here I am in America. I don’t think about returning to China to find my birth parents, but to explore my culture. I’m curious to eat Chinese street food, witness Chinese street markets, and walk on the Great Wall of China. And I know there are still Asians out there promoting the stereotypes for laughs, and unfortunately, it’ll always be like that. But I’m no longer laughing along. 



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