I Am Not Your Asian Stereotype | Canwen Xu | TEDxBoise


Translator: Desiree Kramer
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney My name is Canwen, and I play
both the piano and the violin. I aspire to some day be a doctor,
and my favorite subject is calculus. My mom and dad are tiger parents, who won’t let me go to sleepovers, but they make up for it by serving
my favorite meal every single day. Rice. And I’m a really bad driver. So my question for you now is, “How long did it take you
to figure out I was joking?” (Laughter) As you’ve probably guessed,
today I am going to talk about race and I’ll start off
by sharing with you my story of growing up Asian-American. I moved to the United States
when I was two years old, so almost my entire life
has been a blend of two cultures. I eat pasta with chopsticks. I’m addicted to orange chicken,
and my childhood hero was Yao Ming. But having grown up in North Dakota,
South Dakota, and Idaho, all states with incredible
little racial diversity, it was difficult to reconcile
my so-called exotic Chinese heritage with my mainstream American self. Used to being the only Asian in the room, I was self-conscious at the first thing
people noticed about me was, that I wasn’t white. And as a child I quickly began to realize that I had two options in front of me. Conformed to the stereotype
that was expected of me, or conformed to the whiteness
that surrounded me. There was no in between. For me, this meant that I always felt
self-conscious about being good at maths, because people would just say
it was because I was Asian, not because I actually worked hard. It meant that whenever
a boy asked me out, it was because he had the yellow fever, and not because he actually liked me. It meant that for the longest time my identity had formed
around the fact that I was different. And I thought that being Asian
was the only special thing about me. These effects were emphasized
by the places where I lived. Don’t get me wrong. Only a small percentage
of people were actually racist, or, even borderline racist, but the vast majority were
just a little bit clueless. Now, I know you are probably thinking,
“What’s the difference?” Well, here is an example. Not racist can sound like,
“I’m white and you’re not.” Racist can sound like, “I’m white, you’re not,
and that makes me better than you.” But clueless sounds like, “I’m white, you’re not,
and I don’t know how to deal with that.” Now, I don’t doubt for a second that these clueless people
are still nice individuals with great intentions. But they do ask some questions
that become pretty annoying after a while. Here are a few examples. “You’re Chinese, oh my goodness,
I have a Chinese friend, do you know him?” (Laughter) “No. I don’t know him. Because contrary
to your unrealistic expectations, I do not know every single one
of the 1.35 billion Chinese people who live on Planet Earth.” People also tend to ask, “Where does your name come from?”, and I really don’t know
how to answer that, so I usually stick with the truth. “My parents gave it to me. Where does your name come from?” (Laughter) Don’t even get me started on how many times people have confused me
with a different Asian person. One time someone came up to me and said, “Angie, I love your art work!” And I was super confused, so I just thanked them and walked away. But, out of all the questions my favorite one is still the classic,
“Where are you from?”, because I’ve lived in quite a few places, so this is how
the conversation usually goes. “Where are you from?” “Oh, I am from Boise, Idaho.” “I see, but where are you really from?” “I mean, I lived
in South Dakota for a while.” “Okay, what about before that?” “I mean, I lived in North Dakota.” “Okay, I’m just going to cut
straight to the chase here, I guess what I’m saying is, have you ever lived anywhere
far away from here, where people talk a little differently?” “Oh, I know where you talking about,
yes I have, I used to live in Texas.” (Laughter) By then, they usually have just given up
and wonder to themselves why I’m not one of the cool Asians
like Jeremy Lin or Jackie Chan, or they skip the needless banter
and go straight for the, “Where is your family from?” So, just an FYI for all of you out there,
that is the safest strategy. But, as amusing
as these interactions were, oftentimes they made me
want to reject my own culture, because I thought it helped me conform. I distanced myself
from the Asian stereotype as much as possible,
by degrading my own race, and pretending I hated math. And the worse part was, it worked. The more I rejected my Chinese identity,
the more popular I became. My peers liked me more,
because I was more similar to them. I became more confident,
because I knew I was more similar to them. But as I became more Americanized, I also began to lose
bits and pieces of myself, parts of me that I can never get back, and no matter how much I tried to pretend that I was the same
as my American classmates, I wasn’t. Because for people who have lived
in the places where I lived, white is the norm, and for me,
white became the norm too. For my fourteenth birthday,
I received the video game The Sims 3, which lets you create your own characters
and control their lives. My fourteen-year-old self created
the perfect little mainstream family, complete with a huge mansion
and an enormous swimming pool. I binge-played the game
for about three months, then put it away and never
really thought about it again, until a few weeks ago, when I came to a sudden realization. The family, that I had custom-designed,
was white. The character that I had designed
for myself, was white. Everyone I had designed was white. And the worst part was, this was by no means
a conscious decision that I had made. Never once did I think to myself that I could actually make
the characters look like me. Without even thinking,
white had become my norm too. The truth is, Asian Americans play a strange role
in the American melting pot. We are the model minority. Society uses our success to pit us
against other people of color as justification
that racism doesn’t exist. But was does that mean
for us, Asian Americans? It means that we are not quite
similar enough to be accepted, but we aren’t different enough
to be loathed. We are in a perpetually grey zone, and society isn’t quite sure
what to do with us. So they group us by the color of our skin. They tell us that we must reject
our own heritages, so we can fit in with the crowd. They tell us that our foreignness is the only identifying
characteristic of us. They strip away our identities one by one, until we are foreign,
but not quite foreign, American but not quite American, individual, but only when there are no other people
from our native country around. I wish that I had always had the courage
to speak out about these issues. But coming from one culture
that avoids confrontation, and another that is divided over race, how do I overcome the pressure
to keep the peace, while also staying true to who I am? And as much as I hate to admit it,
often times I don’t speak out, because, if I do, it’s at the the risk of being told
that I am too sensitive, or that I get offended too easily, or that it’s just not worth it. But I would point,
are people willing to admit that? Yes, race issues are controversial. But that’s precisely the reason
why we need to talk about them. I just turned eighteen, and there are still so many things
that I don’t know about the world. But what I do know
is that it’s hard to admit that you might be part of the problem, that, all of us
might be part of the problem. So, instead of giving you
a step-by-step guide on how to not be racist towards Asians, I will let you decide
what to take from this talk. All I can do, is share my story. My name is Canwen,
my favorite color is purple. And I play the piano,
but not so much the violin. I have two incredibly supportive,
hardworking parents, and one very awesome ten-year-old brother. I love calculus more than anything, despise eating rice,
and I’m a horrendous driver. But most of all,
I am proud of who I am. A little bit American, a little bit Chinese, and a whole lot of both. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “I Am Not Your Asian Stereotype | Canwen Xu | TEDxBoise”

  1. I didn't reject my culture/heritage i just absorbed more of mainstream culture. Why? because of the 4,000 years of rich chinese history, im proud to be chinese even though my mentality isn't 100% chinese.

  2. 中国就是中国,在中国的历史上没亚洲一说,亚洲是西方人的词汇,我们中国就是中国,不要把我们和什么小鸡巴日本韩国绑在一起,我们是炎黄子孙,龙的传人,和这些猪狗之后不是一起的

  3. 生活在美国的中国二代真是悲哀,没有认同,想有认同别人又不认同你,在社会中又很难跻身高层,除了一些卖批给白人的女性能往上爬,其他的顶多只能混个中层,尤其是男性,低端男性简直和吃屎一样。还要被卷进中美注定而来的冲突中。上一次美国和日本冲突,美国把所有在美国的日本人全关在了集中营,历史上美国就对中国人充满恶意,排华法案,麦肯锡主义,还有根植于西方人血液里的对于黄祸的恐惧,我很好奇美国人这次会干什么

  4. 9:38 for her to finally admit that she is textbook asian. This is all an internal conflict within herself. Her story is mediocre at best in terms of struggle and racism.

  5. So.. After all these years of identity politics… Why hasn't people been able to capitalize on racial stereotype to their advantage?

  6. Me being a 12 year old optimistic kid, I never realized how true this video is.
    I'm basically stuck in the position she's in.
    This video is a life saver.

  7. 私は日本人です。英語でコメントできず申し訳ありません。残念ながら、差別はなくならないと思います。自分と違うものを排除しようとするのが人間の本質です。私自身にも、心の底に差別心は潜んでいますから。自分のルーツに誇りを持つこと、大事なことですね。

  8. As Asian I made the same mistake myself when I ask another Asian girl where she's from. She's native Kiwi however I just presume that she's from China. I didn't mean to be offensive in any way. I was just wondering if she speak Chinese so we can talk together….Similar thing happened when I ask my friend "are you from India" when she's from Sri Lanka. Now I just quit asking. If they wanna share they will.

  9. When I was young I just saw people as people but slowly over time I was taught to see people by their race and to even treat or speak differently to them. It took me a long time to get back to the same mindset of my childhood and I still won’t ever be the same. It has taught me a lot about stereotypes and perceptions though.

  10. LOL, Ill take math good = you re asian as a compliment, when math is so important in any technological field nowadays, and Im not sure that's really a stereotype cause if you look at International Mathematical Olympiad and see american team, you noticed most of the member in it are asian, if im not mistaken the team that wins the champion with China is 80% asians, is just looked funny when they take picture and stand side by side with China team, cause it looks like China have 2 team wining the Mathematical Olympiad

  11. What I about to say is true, no joking.
    I am 100% Chinese, I hate math, when I was in China, my math is the worst in my class, from elementary to high school.
    After I came to Canada for university, my math is the best in class….
    This is real. The math in the university in Canada is easier than Chinese middle school….

  12. Asian women are the least attractive in the world. There's nothing special or exotic about Asian people at all.

  13. now american uses people from India as a neutral divider …and then .write laws to circumvent the race problem in america.

  14. Wish some day I'm gonna give a talk on stereotypes that Chinese people living in China have about foreigners. And something tells me that 9 minutes will not be enough.

  15. Wow she's really cute and pretty. I'm glad you found your own identity to be something to be proud of. Sincerely hope to see you become a doctor one day too Canwen, keep being you 🙂

  16. 对啊!没问题啊!美国在一开始就是白人的殖民地,他们的那些建国之父也都是白人,所以大家很自然地认为这个国家是白人的国家,因此其他肤色的人肯定是来自另外一个地方。作为Asian American,你就很自然地承认我的祖先,我的文化来自中国不就完了吗?这不就是事实吗?为什么不直接告诉他们?另外,也给移民一代父母一个提醒,要从小教育你的孩子,你们的根、祖来自中国,那里才是你们真正的家乡。让下一代从小就接受自己祖先的文化,这件事情不丢人!

  17. When I was a kid people thought I was native American since I was adopted in the southwest….lol not so much now…but I do get Mexicans talking to me in Spanish assuming I'm Mexican too lol…

  18. Meanwhile, Pacific islanders with asian features
    Person; where are you from?
    Islanders; Polynesia
    Person; awesome, i love sushi!

  19. It's impressive for you to have such clear awareness that you only had two options, either to conform to the Asian stereotype or act like everybody else around you, nothing in between, where you actually belong. Good on you and so proud of you!

  20. My university diploma and transcrpits are all english because I lived & graduated from a university in England. When I moved to Germany, the people around me (including most of my coworkers) said to me that I cannot submit my documents. They told me that I must translate my diploma from chinese to english (???). Over the last 2 yrs here in Bayern I have never been asked where I am from. People here just think that all asians are chinese. I really look forward to the moment I would encounter someone who has a basic sense of the globe and asks me where I am from.

  21. Most people are clueless? Or just living their own lives and didn't realise you have to pander to minorities that demand you acknowledge their culture. You live in a majority white country. Did you not realise that? If an American moved to China, would you expect a Chinese person to know where they're from, and what is their cultural differences?

  22. Lived in China for over 12 years, they ask a lot more weird questions to the foreigners than white people ask Asians.

  23. If you are Asian guys and been through bullying by whites,blacks,Latino and 10 years laters….Who got the last laugh?

  24. Camwen, you are fortunate to Asian Chinese. A heritage with so much to have pride in. Worse are Vietnamese who are more susceptible to being whitewashed because there’s no good heritage to hold onto to. Or even more worse are Philippinos, who don’t even have a clue.

  25. This looks like a speech on racism from 1992. In 2019 I'm expecting more subtlety and critical thinking on that topic.

  26. "I have 2 dogs and someone told me if I took them to China then they were food"
    Me:???

  27. Having lived in China for 5 years, i find it even more difficult to love any because of their silly questions to people of color.

  28. My brother, as a summer job back in 1975, sold bibles in the bible belt and was often asked if he was Bruce Lee.

  29. i usually dont blame ppl for stereotyping a bit on the culture or country that they do not know about. but i hate ppl keep bringing up dog eating. I DO NOT EAT MY PET

  30. I experience this kind of thing all the time. As a white guy with yellow fever people always ask ME the questions, I just tell them to ask my wife as she is right here with me!

  31. as an asian, i get annoyed when people make a big deal of not being able to tell us apart. we’re easier to tell apart. If you look at a filipino guy and a korean one, they look completely different from their height, to shape of their nose, to their skin color. meanwhile, if you see two tall white girls, how can you tell which is swedish and which is polish? maybe some people can but I certainly can’t. asians are only hard to tell apart individually, but from country to country, they have defining features so it is easy to tell apart a japanese person from a kazakhstani but hard to tell apart a japanese person from another japanese person. it’s the exact opposite with white people. i think it’s really interesting-

  32. yup I got that "where are you really from?" and "can you speak chinese?" alllll the time LOL (I'm vietnamese fyi)

  33. Ted should ask me to give a talk on being Asian American. I'm 63 from Seattle Washington family of WW2 vets fighting the Japanese and Nazi's during WW2. Medal of Honour, medal of outstanding service to the United States from the CIA. Vietnam vet, and yet we still get the "Go back where you came from".

  34. For everyone
    Asia= China, Japan, North Korea, South Area, Thailand, Vietnam

    India, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan etc… are they in Asia?

  35. To save you time, this is another video about how the existence of white people makes no whites uncomfortable and so white people need to end. I just saved you 10 minutes.

  36. Asians can also ask whites are you from France or Germany maybe Ireland etc etc, only if they ask you where your from 😉

  37. Person:omg can you help me with this math problem?
    Me very bad at math but also Asian:uhh no I don't even understand that
    Person:your a bad Asian

    Me:what the-

  38. I can totally relate as a British Chinese !
    my most asked question growing up was ‘ Do you do kung Fu ‘ ? LOL

  39. Its a true story once on the beach some group of white chicks where laying on the beach……..while i was about to cross them one girl suddenly calls me HEY YOU CHINESE CAN YOU PASS. ME THAT BOTTLE(they were laughing and giggling) i took the bottle and handed over to her but i saw something on her😂 and i just said to her 'hey its a beautiful biniki ITS MADE IN CHINA' 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣I saw the tag😂🤣😂🤣😂 her face got red😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣

  40. I don’t know… I don’t get mad or offended with questions from a white person. There are no bad intentions with stereotypical questions, more like curiosity.

  41. 日本に住んでいる白人や黒人やその他、ミックスの方たちも同じ気持ちでしょうよ

  42. Omg, you are so right. I am mixt asian but still I get that a lot, I feel the same as you. Love you 💙😘
    “Hey look momy a chinese girl, lets take pictures ! “
    Dude I am mongolian !!! Not all asians are chinese 😂

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