Have you ever been made fun of as a child (and even as an adult) because you were different?
When I was in elementary school and well into high school, people always made fun of me because I was Chinese. I had chinky eyes is what they’d always say. Or they’d always tell me to “open your eyes.” I honestly never thought twice about it at the time. Never thought about how it was inappropriate to judge someone by their features.
I am also a short individual. So shrimp was a nickname that stuck with me for years. Although, I’m not sure that had anything to do with race?
“Go back to China” was another one. For the record, I was actually born in Hong Kong, but they never knew the difference.
One popular insult that, in my opinion, was more embarrassing for the person saying it that it was to the person spoken to, was when they would pretend like they knew the language and say things like “Ching, Chang, Chong.” Reality was, they were just noise more than an offense. If only they could hear themselves.
I was made fun of by other races and ethnicity. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic community so majority of those who made fun of me were of Hispanic decent.
I honestly never thought much about these comments and insults until recently—of course, brought to reality through recent tragic events. Quite honestly, hate crimes happen all the time, but most go unreported. Times are changing now and people are finally speaking up. This I am proud of.
I always felt like I had a lot to lose if I spoke up. I had terrible teeth growing up. Terrible. I’ve now or corrected that as an adult (will write more about that later), but growing up you would never see me smile with teeth. NEVER. I didn’t want to draw anymore attention to that. So, I chose to not to speak up…literally and figuratively. I hated public speaking because of this flaw.
I had what’s called a cross bite. The sides are aligned, but the front was an underbite. It didn’t help that one of my canines was still a baby tooth that was decaying.
I hated eating in public with people I don’t know. I didn’t like meeting new people because I can see they are staring into my mouth and I really didn’t want to explain myself. I avoided these things at all cost. I stuck with people I knew.
I even tried avoiding kids at one point. Kids are brutally honest. They would straight up as “why is your tooth rotten?” Or “Eww your tooth is black!” Yes, I know they are kids, but the feelings are all the same. It took me years to build the courage to turn it around and make it a life-lesson conversation on what they should/should not do when it came to dental hygiene.
Anyway, so because of these reasons, I accepted these remarks and insults about being Chinese. I felt like I had a lot to lose.
Reality is, it was never okay.
I am proud of who I am and where I came from. I am proud of my family. My parents never taught us to see people in color or in race. People are people—they are human beings and we should all be entitled to the same things. It’s that simple. It should be that simple.
I am a stronger individual because of this, but we need to be better humans. Respect goes a long way. Think twice before you say something hurtful to someone else. Think about how it would make you feel if you were in their shoes. Can’t we all just get along?