Stop That! I’m Domestic


Do you know how many times a teacher or student has assumed I’m from China? Well, I’m not from China! A couple of words can sum up my experience being in an international school as a domestic Asian American student: weird, unique, and shocking. I come from a public middle school in Germantown, MD where being of an Asian background while being a domestic student was really common. I was raised in a Chinese household but grew up with American ideals and dreams. I followed the same Chinese traditions as my parents (and I still do) such as celebrating Chinese New Years or taking off my shoes when I enter the home. But I did American things as well, playing football and singing the national anthem every morning while I was in public school.

I never thought much of being a domestic Asian American student, never thought of the assumptions that I was from China. Of course there were the regular Asian stereotypes that I would be good at math, eat dogs, and have really poor vision. Those are the kind of things you learn to deal with growing up as an Asian American. I was never prepared to deal with the assumption of being from China. I mean how are you supposed to react to the first time someone says, “How do you speak English so well?” or “When did you get to the States?” or “How different is here from China?” I’m always taken aback and need time to find an appropriate response that doesn’t reflect my frustration. I get it: you think I’m from China based on my appearance and the fact almost all Asians at SSFS are from a foreign country. Assuming based on appearance is never okay but that’s the reality.

Here’s one simple idea that anyone can follow to avoid assuming and creating an awkward moment. Just ask if someone’s domestic or not! There is no need to assume and, trust me, it is not an embarrassing thing to ask. In fact I would rather you ask me constantly than to repeatedly assume I’m from China. I had some pretty awkward moments when I first came to SSFS. One time a teacher asked me “Which part of China do you come from?” Another time,  I was singled out and asked only to speak English in that class and not Mandarin. That is ignorance without malicious intent. Bringing awareness to people’s ignorance towards Asian Americans important since if I dismiss those people and their comments, I’m no better than they are. Improving on the misconceptions about Asian Americans provides not only a better experience for Asian Americans at SSFS, but for those of us dealing with this around the country.