everyone thinks i’m the bad seed of the asian community

dear heather,

I’m Asian, and there are a lot of Asian people that go to my school, and they even have this “Ghetto Asian Mafia” thing. It’s not really a gang, but it’s just like their inside joke from which I’m excluded. I’m very proud of my nationality and I love being Chinese, but all the Asian girls around are sweet, docile, hardworking and obedient. I can’t help that I’m outgoing, and prefer to hang out with guys. I enjoy my way of life and my choice of friends, but they really reject me because of it. And the irony is, they get along with my friends fine, and even are buddies with some of them, yet they just seem to hate me like I’m the bad seed of the Asian community. What does a girl do when it comes to this?

No wonder you’re having a hard time making sense of this–this is a complicated issue. Let’s take it piece by piece. The first thing I noticed was that you seemed to express two somewhat contradictory impulses. You describe yourself as an outgoing person, an independent spirit, different from the other Asian girls you describe as “sweet, docile, hardworking and obedient.” You say you prefer to hang out with boys. However, the frustration you’re expressing seems to be about not being accepted by this group of girls. Perhaps the main issue here is not what they think of you, but your concept of yourself. It’s hard to negotiate your sense of individuality in the face of any culture. Some of those messages inevitably get stuck in our heads. If a culture dictates a certain code of behavior that you have avoided simply by being yourself, you may experience your difference as quite an empowering thing, a source of self-esteem. But at the same time, the reactions of those around you, and your own discomfort with “not doing what’s expected” can be a real source of ambivalence. After a while, all that pressure is enough to make you see yourself as a “bad seed.”Who knows if the other girls see you that way? From your letter, I couldn’t tell if you actually want to be friends with them or not. Maybe they’ve become symbolic because they call attention to the contrast between how your culture says you “ought to be” and how you really are. But before you get too obsessed with being part of the “in-crowd,” you might want to consider that being “in” comes with it’s own set of pressures. Trying to establish individual friendships, rather than striving to be part of the “Ghetto Asian Mafia” might be more satisfying for you.

take care,

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