My parents wanted to make sure that the reason they made sacrifices was worth it. They expected me to study hard so I could get a good job. And that’s exactly what I did. It could have gone a total different way though. When I graduated high school, I told my parents I wanted to study arts. The first thing my dad told me was : “you won’t drive a BMW with this kind of major”. I fought with my parents for a while and eventually applied for an arts major.
Then, I started looking at my future through the same lens as them and taking the safe route made it seem less blurry. That’s why I withdrew my application and switched to a business major. A business degree would land me a secure job and allow me to make a decent amount of money. I would be respected by my family. I would be safe. I don’t regret it but I keep wondering if it was even my decision to begin with. My parents conditioned me to fit all the stereotypes related to the model minority using the most popular weapon amongst most Asian parents: shame.
So, I did it. I studied hard and got the good grades. I now have a good job with great benefits. I live in the suburbs. I don’t get into trouble and respect the rules. One would think that I meet all the criteria to be considered a part of the model minority, that I should be shielded from any type of oppression and should feel like the rich white kid living next to my house. Well, some might be surprised.
When teachers in elementary school would ask the “Quebecois students” to raise their hands, I would keep mine down. I started internalizing the fact that I didn’t belong when other kids would squint their eyes and tell me “chingchong, konichiwa” when they walked past me even though I had no idea what those words meant. When teenagers would tell me to go back to my country. When grown adults would refuse to say my name because it was too difficult to pronounce. When my very own friends would ask me if I’m Chinese or Asian.
Ever since I was young, I knew that the model minority was a myth despite having absolutely no knowledge of such a concept. They don’t care how smart or successful you are. All they care about is that you don’t look and sound like them. No matter how hard you try to fit the mold, there will always be someone who will remind you that you don’t belong here. They are the model that you cannot and will never be able to replicate and that’s okay.
Collaboration:JE SUIS MTL x JÉ T'AIME
June 26, 2021