When I stepped onto my college campus fresh-off-the-boat (or FOB, as they call it) from some-obscure-country that I call home, I had no idea of the social niceties of dating in the states; my encounter with the opposite gender consisted of couple of weeks with a classmate in high school, who thought that drawstring shorts were most fashionable when paired with topsiders and gold jewelry. Needless to say, we broke up when I decided that the smell of his pineapple scented hair gel was overpowering the amorous odor of hamburgers and onion rings from burger king, which was our usual joint.
My freshman naivete wasn’t helped by the fact that I had that desperate urge to become the “IT” girl, something I had never been able to do in high school. I had lost 20 lbs. over the summer in anticipation that I would rise to a new social status at my east coast school, stocked my wardrobe with skin tight jeans and bling-encrusted baby Ts and headed to college.
So when I didn’t immediately become the most popular girl on campus, I was a little surprised. And taken aback. Moreover, my pre-college fantasies of hooking up with hot blonde-haired guys sporting surfer bodies wasn’t quite satisfied by the fact that NO ONE in the opposite gender seemed to want to talk to me. But I wasn’t giving up: I was willing to give it another shot two weeks later…and another one another two weeks later…but no action.
I then appealed to a friend who I shall call Courtney. Court listened to my problems, nodding along and making the occasional “uh-huh” as she listened to my ranting about guys not liking me and not being popular enough. At the end of my litany, she spoke a couple of words that seemed to make absolutely no sense at all.
“Honey…that’s because you’re Asian.”
I had been expecting something along the lines of “honey…you need to lose like 10 more pounds” or “you need to reinvent your wardrobe” or even “you need to suck up to the right people” but certainly not THAT.
I was struck by how blunt Court had been. I was Asian…ergo…I was less desirable to the rest of the male population on this campus than the dubious meatloaf dish served at the dining hall.
For a while, I didn’t believe what Court had said…until I came across a post on a website that collected various rumors and gossip on campuses scattered across the nation. One post read “Hottest Asian Girl” and despite myself, I clicked.
The usual suspects were all listed – as I read off the list, I nodded along; A was simply gorgeous, B was known for her modeling career, C was just beautiful enough to stop people dead in their tracks with a single stare…but one post read: “It’s like looking down into a trashcan and trying to pick out the most appetizing thing.”
Okay. To recap, I don’t really remember how I reacted. My first reaction was that it was one of the most racist things ever to say about any group or anyone on campus – then I realized it didn’t have so much to do with race than the fact that these kids were empowered by the anonymity granted by the web.
But logical reasoning came later and I literally seethed. I almost hit “reply” on the message and ALMOST (almost being the prime word here) wrote “What, you think you’re good-looking enough to get laid by ANYONE?” but my sense of on-line civility set in and I kept my thoughts to myself. What Court had said seemed to be coming true before my own computer screen.
After spending several years in college, I have come to love my school. But the idea that someone I know can write that about a group of people just because they are of a different ethnicity truly horrifies me; if they are capable of looking at Asians in a different light than other students, who knows what else they’re capable of? Racial stigma? Racial profiling?
To some, it might seem like I’m overreacting, but this kind of stuff really disturbs me as the initial signs of a school-wide trend; profiling begins at stereotyping different members of different ethnic groups and races. In the years after 9.11, people have watched with horror as police officers randomly rounded up members of the Muslim community simply because they fit the racial profile of suspected terrorists. I’m not saying that my campus will impose stigma on Asians, but it is sincerely troubling.
Now I’d like to hear your opinion – What do you think? Am I overreacting? Or are problems like these something we should be paying more attention to?