Stereotypes abound in American culture

    I paid a memorable visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles during spring break. After what seemed like hours of endless waiting, I finally progressed to the front of the line. The lady behind the desk glanced at me, and everything that happened afterward was in slow motion.

    The petite lady talked at the retarded pace of a turtle while exaggerating her hand gestures to the absolute extreme.

    Furthermore, as if I would not understand her otherwise, she spoke with an intentional, forceful Asian accent. (It is interesting to note that she had approached the previous people in line with total normalcy.)

    At that point, I understood why she was treating me differently from the others. My yellow skin was the blatant determining factor of her decision to assume that I didn’t speak any English.

    I was in so much shock that I simply stood there with a blank stare. She interpreted my reaction as inability to understand her slow-paced, scattered words. Her heart swelled with sympathy for the little Asian immigrant.

    The next thing I knew, the lady was shoving me to where I was supposed to go and grabbing my hand for a fingerprint. She grew very silent when I finally spoke up.

    In an apologetic tone, she returned to her normal way of talking: “”Mmm … your … perfume smells great. What kind is it?”” The lady at the DMV certainly proved to be a helpful host to the guests of this country.

    Many believe that racial discrimination requires negative treatment. That idea, however, does not always hold true.

    The DMV employee was merely trying to assist someone who she thought could not understand English. But the simple act of projecting racial stereotypes on me, of assuming that I didn’t understand English, was equally as discriminatory as stating explicitly that I do not belong in the United States.

    Asian-Americans are viewed as perpetual foreigners. In the 2002 Winter Olympics, figure skater Michelle Kwan tragically fell during her performance.

    Despite the fact that Kwan refers to herself as an American and represents the United States in world skating competitions, her Chinese ancestry was repeatedly emphasized throughout the media. Evidently, in spite of generations of permanent residence in this country, Asian-Americans are still seen as guests of the United States.

    In the American popular media, Asians are almost always portrayed as aliens who are unwilling and unable to assimilate and who cannot speak English.

    Media portrayals have instinctively led to the way people regard Asians today. Most people don’t even realize that they look at Asians with discriminating eyes. The media, for example, may have thought that acknowledging Kwan’s ethnicity through constant repetition was an act of consideration. To acknowledge one’s ethnic background is a wonderful gesture, but not when it is done to the extent of inflated deliberation. Instead, I find it to be a degrading act of perpetuating the perceived foreignness of Asians.

    It is tragic that Europeans who have recently settled in the United States are considered “”Americans”” by the general public, while Asians who have resided in the United States for countless generations are still being asked, “”Where are you from?””

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