Today, I shocked an editor at work with my stories of drinking while under 21. I told her I had lived outside of the US. Then I realized how incredible that moment was.
She was the first person who saw me and didn’t assume I was from somewhere other than the United States. She met me, read my Asian American body and projected “Yeah, American.”
All my life, I’ve been defending my American-ness from the othering that afflicts Asian Americans. Like so many of my brothers and sisters, I’m often repeatedly questioned about where I’m from, when I got the US, if I’m a US citizen. A few times, it’s gotten as far as people asking me what East Asian city I want to work in after graduation.
If I’m in a good mood and the conversation’s been easygoing, I dismiss the questions. But often I’m annoyed by this questioning and call it out for its underlying racism — after all, I’m an American citizen as much as anyone else. And I’ll admit I have spun a lie in circumstances where the questioner has no right or need to know the truth, just so I can frame a story that specifically denies him the ability to code me as non-American.
But this moment was the first time that the reverse has happened — I presented as Asian American and was read as an American. It was the first time that someone had saw my body and coded me as an American like everybody else around me. And that means so much.