being azn: resentment, regret, re-evaluation

posted by telleou

What does it mean to be Azn? For me, in the early years – it had a lot to do with resentment; now – regret, and regret is inevitably linked to re-evaluation.

I grew up in Whitey-Ville, where I was one of six Azns in the school. My best friend was an Indian Muslim from South Africa. I was not the politically savvy, racist-rebuker I am today.  I didn’t understand the fierce pride that came with laying claim to a minority status; I was nine, and all I really wanted to do was fit in with everyone else.

So I resented everything that marked me as an outsider: the rice in my lunch box, the cute little keipos my parents thought to dress me in. Even my parents themselves; I couldn’t understand why they didn’t understand … that a bagel in my lunch box would make everything easier, that a t-shirt would do. I hated when there was mention of Chinese New Year; I hated how everyone looked at me to be a spokesman for the country that I was not part of and did not want to be part of. I wanted to turn my ethnicity on and off–Chinese  at home and white whenever the situation called for it.

Now, I hate the fact that I don’t qualify for the Mandarin course for heritage students at UofT.  (That one stung quite a bit … Is it not my heritage?) Now, I hate that my conversations with my parents sometimes rely on Google Translate. Now, I regret.

I regret the grey area I chose to isolate myself in–‘neither here nor there’ and at the same time, ‘on the outside looking in.’ Too distant to be part of the wars of my father, and much too close to something much too unfamiliar.

I regret that I grew up thinking that the immediacy lay in trying to change into someone else, instead of retaining who I was.

I regret that I never saw my parents for who they are: two incredibly strong people who bore the burden of systemic discrimination. Two people that work a whole lot harder than they should have to; two people that still love more than they hate.

Now, I’m re-evaluating.

Posting to the invazn is part of that. (I still don’t like to draw attention to my ethnicity. When it happens, I’m usually pointing and screaming, ‘Racist!’)

Who would have thought the girl who was scared to be Azn for the first half of her life would announce her ethnicity like this?

Who would have thought that the little Azn girl in first grade, who barely had a useable grasp of English, would go on to be an English major at the University of Toronto?

I’m doing some re-evaluating. And everyone else needs to do some too.

I’m looking forward to moving forward.

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