Now I’m a year 13, no longer ashamed of my own heritage. But I am tired of people’s assumption that I’m smart only because I’m Asian. That my accomplishments mean less to you because of my ethnicity. I’ve worked just as hard as other students at Wakatipu High School and nobody should have the right to claim that my academic achievements deserve less acknowledgment because my race is supposed to be “smarter”.
The prejudice against Asians is perhaps one of the lesser evils experienced in this world. It’s not police violence, nor is it gang violence. We don’t get stopped because of the way we look unless it’s when we’re buying alcohol because we look to young. My ethnicity experiences many desirable stereotypes unlike other ethnicities, for example like the model minority stereotype. But just as much of a privilege it is to be labeled with these flattering positive stereotypes, they also strip Asians of their individuality and degrade their intelligence into something less meaningful. One of the most self-inflicting stereotypes of an Asian is that they are all expected to excel academically.
Many people perceive Asians as smart individuals, and yes being called smart wouldn’t offend anyone in their right mind. But of all the discriminations I’ve experienced from year 1 right through to year 13, this stereotype has provoked my individuality to feel the most at risk. First of all, I’d like to debunk this idea of “every Asian is smart” because, like any other stereotypes, it obviously doesn’t imply to everyone in the spectrum. It is true that 82.3% of all Asian students passed NCEA level 3 in 2017, which is the highest graduation rate of all major ethnic groups across secondary schools in New Zealand. But because of these Asian stereotypes that are existent in Kiwi culture, sometimes people forget that not all Asians are the same. And due to the way that many people – from all ethnic backgrounds, including Asian- regard this “Asian-is-smart” stereotype as something honorable, it’s usually disguised as a compliment. But, I personally don’t feel any gratification from being praised for my academic ability caused by my “Asian-ness.” In fact, I’ll take it as an insult because it makes me feel as though you are judging my intelligence based off me having Asian genes. I cannot help but feel that the societies stereotype that “Asians are smart” translates to, “Asians are smart because they are Asian.” Therefore, no matter how much effort an Asian student put into their studies, when he or she passes with excellence, it’s likely that your reactions will be along the lines of “Asians are so smart,” or more commonly, “she’s so Asian.”
It’s hardly difficult to see that an Asian student’s achievements and intelligence is being attributed to one thing and one thing only – their race. But shouldn’t we feel blessed that we’re not being called stupid? I mean, people think we’re smart for god’s sake. Could it possibly get any worse than that? Well despite how trite this may sound, it actually can. Many of us who are of Asian descent are, without even having to prove to others, already presumed to be smart because that’s how society labels us. But if my race is taking all the credit for my accomplishments and achievements, what am I left with as an individual? Will the grades that I get and the awards I receive always be defined by my race? What if I’m unable to reach these expectations that the public school system has imposed on me …Am I not authentically Asian? I’ve witnessed during the 13 years of my school life how classmates and even teachers expect the Asian students to excel academically and unknowingly guide them to paths in the math and science department without considering their student’s interest and ambitions. I, along with other Asian students have felt as though we have been boxed into this stereotype. And although it’s easy to ignore that people assume I’m smart as per society suggests I’m “supposed” to be, I feel disheartened to know that I’m only regarded as smart because of my ethnicity. Something like intelligence is an important part of a person’s identity and by you attributing it to a race becomes more than just a stereotype. It becomes an insult.
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