“Asian” does not equal ugly

Editor-in-Chief Aneesa Conine-Nakano (right) and her sister, Susanna, sit on a train. Conine-Nakano says her childhood was impacted by not having Asian American role models. Photo courtesy of Aneesa Conine-Nakano.

By ANEESA CONINE-NAKANO – Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Aneesa Conine-Nakano shares personal anecdotes about the skewed physical perception of Asian people and growing up around that.

I scroll through Instagram and see a purposefully ugly selfie of a boy on his friend’s account. The caption reads, among other things, “#ugly #asian”.

This scenario isn’t an isolated event.

I have seen similar Snapchat stories and tweets that all reflect a common perception: Asian is synonymous with ugly.

The hurtful part is seeing people I consider friends liking these posts. Do they not see the blatant racism? Did they not read the post fully? Or do they subconsciously agree?

It doesn’t stop at social media. I remember overhearing a classmate describe herself as “chinky”, a derogatory and racist term for Chinese people, when she thought her eyes looked small.
Another memory that sticks out was in middle school when a friend said that she could never be attracted to an Asian guy. She ended saying, “Not to be offensive or anything.”

But that’s just it. It is offensive…and racist.

Growing up, when I watched TV or saw a movie, I wondered why no one looked like me. Most casts were predominantly white, slim with striking Euro-centric features.

When there was an Asian character, they would often be one-dimensional, desexualized characters that lacked any real storyline. On the other side was an equally problematic attempt to stray away from the “nerdy” Asian stereotype, portraying Asian women in an oversexualized, vapid and still one-dimensional light.

My 7-year-old brain processed these recurring themes and wondered if everyone else felt Asians were inherently less attractive than white people. Or if we were attractive, did we have to be equally stupid?

I was able to overcome some of my own insecurities as I grew up, but that period of being ashamed about how I looked and conscious of how I acted simply because of my background will stay with me forever.

I write this thinking of children and teens of Asian descent who are going through some of their most impressionable years and for the ones who distance themselves from their heritage and features because of their classmates’ racially offensive opinions.

Think before you post. Think before you speak.

Asians make up less than 5 percent of our community, but we equally deserve the respect of not being used as a synonym for ugly.

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