Are you Jamie or Judy? Mistaken for the wrong Asian

Time for another blog submission, as part of this year’s Stand Against Racism campaign,  “On a Mission for Girls of Color”! Here, Jamie Wong shares her experience as an Asian-American girl living in a relatively small town:

There are some things to be said about residing in a city. Namely, the diversity of citizens in a city. In a town on the smaller side, it becomes increasingly easy to notice diversity. My town is prevailingly white. Not completely, of course, but there’s a lack of minorities, particularly of Asians. I can count the number of Asians in my grade on one hand, while the number of white students in only one class outnumbers us. Which, by itself, is all fine and well. The real problem is being mistaken for the wrong Asian.

Perhaps I don’t have enough room to talk, considering I’m a twin. To mistake the two of us is understandable. To be asked, “I’m sorry, are you Andie or Jamie?” is a mistake typical of even the occasional teacher. (I’m Jamie, by the way.) But to be asked, “Are you Andie or Judy?” – there’s really not an excuse. Judy, to provide context, is also Asian. However, Judy and I look nothing alike. She has straight black hair; I have unruly black hair dyed pink and purple. She dresses modestly and in yoga pants; I wear studs, graphic tee-shirts and black jeans. Even our mannerisms differ (I’m way louder than her). We are practically opposites. What is there to mistake? The same hair color, eye color, height? (Scratch that, she’s three inches taller than me.)

There are plenty of Italians students in the school, even plenty of Irish, yet somehow, they are never mistaken for each other. The redheads don’t share names; all the blue-eyed blondes aren’t subjectively mismatched. No, it’s the Asians that all look the same. It leaves you to wonder what life would be like in a place with a larger Asian population. In fact, when there are more Asians in a particular area, it’s hard for my family not to notice because of how lacking our own town is. For example, when we were at a regional competition for the Odyssey of the Mind program, we noticed a lot of Asian participants, mostly from the biggest school in the region. Most of the time when this happens, you do a double take, reminding yourself that Asians actually make up a huge amount of the world’s population.

Appallingly, there’s only one area where I’ve seen the number of Asians overtake the number of white students. It certainly wasn’t in sports, drama, or musical productions. Math team. It was math team. Figures.

In bigger cities though, Asians are commonplace. Walking the streets of New York, you see Asians on every corner, not just running the one Asian restaurant like in our small town. In places like these, is the mislabeling of names less common? With so many more people, is it harder to just throw us all into the broad category of “Asian” and call it well and good? With more, maybe we could prove we really all don’t look the same. And even if we did, that’s why we have different minds, thoughts, and feelings. Call that diversity.

 

IMG_1622“My name is Jamie Wong. I have a twin sister, Andie, who yes, I am very similar to, no, we don’t fight, yes, we’re identical, and no, we can’t read each other’s minds. I enjoy learning short refrains on the piano, playing anime pieces on the flute, and trying not to make my oboe sound like a duck. In my free time, I write not-so-short stories and very short stories (there’s no in-between.)”