As the math tests are passed back, I hold my breath in anticipation of my pending grade. After countless hours of homework (always turned in on time), late nights filled with practice problems, and writing and rewriting equations, it’s time to see if my hard work has paid off.
When the paper slides onto my desk, I hastily pick it up, turn it over and breathe a sigh of relief. Internally beaming, I am once again reassured that hard work can pay off until the scoff of my friend, accompanied by the one-word remark, “Asian,” pulls me back into reality.
Simply because of my DNA, the way my eyes are shaped, I am stereotyped into an oversimplified group of people who are naturally smart. All Asians are smart, all Asians are good at math, all Asians get A’s, so it’s no biggie when I ace a math test.
Stereotyping Asians, or anyone, is not only unacceptable, but this particular stereotype is ironically inaccurate. The stereotype portrays the idea that Asians are so naturally intelligent that they don’t even have to try to succeed (or get an A). If I were to make a generalization about Asians at all, it would be that it is a part of our culture to put in hours of hard work to earn those high grades.
Asians are not smart because of their DNA, but rather they are hardworking because of their history. The first influx of Asian immigrants occurred in 1848. During those years of immigration, the Chinese, in particular, worked as gardeners, laundry workers, farmers and starting in 1865, as railroad workers on the Transcontinental Railroad project doing the hardest and most dangerous jobs for 60 percent of what European immigrant workers got paid.
In short, Asian immigrants have faced hardships from exhausting jobs to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which stopped Chinese immigration and prevented immigrants already in the U.S. from becoming citizens. When faced with prejudice and hostility the Chinese fought for their rights and dignity.
Since the eighteen and nineteen hundreds, that ethic has been transferred from physical jobs to more intellectual jobs. Having the discipline to put in the hard work in order to reap the benefits of education is a virtue of Asian American culture.
Although Asians are no longer seen as outcasts or foreigners, that has not stopped new stereotypes from forming. Present day, the most common stereotype about Asians is that we are “smart.” Because of the positive connotation, people think that it is okay to use this stereotype or it is often overlooked as being one at all.
While it may not necessarily be offensive, this stereotype discredits a lot of the achievements Asians have earned. An Asian student is not getting straight A’s, ranking in the top two-percent and getting into good colleges because of his race. It is because he probably has dedicated hours to studying and furthering his education.
I often feel as though people think that “Asian A’s don’t count” because they think it is a given that Asians will get A’s. My peers don’t see the hours spent pouring over notes or homework, they only see my race.