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I'm Chinese. Except when I'm not.

2 min read
I'm Chinese. Except when I'm not.
Photo by Nuno Alberto / Unsplash

Table of contents

I’m only Chinese when I want to be. When I hear too many “your eyes are small” jokes, I put on my white-person suit and suddenly I’m white.

Except I can’t. And that’s okay. I’m proud to be Chinese.

So when I hear that some classmates aren’t checking the “Asian” box on their college applications, I’m disappointed. But more than that, I’m puzzled: Why aren’t they checking Asian? Are they ashamed of being Chinese? Is it because it’s harder for Chinese students to get into top colleges? Should I be unchecking the Asian box?

You cannot throw us away when you want to. If you’re not going to check the Chinese box, don’t tell other people you’re Chinese. If you’re going to pick and choose when you associate with us, just leave.

I don’t want someone who isn’t proud of us here. I don’t want to share this identity with you. We’ve endured many hardships as a people and have come out as champions of the American Dream.

But you’re going to throw away our history for a better acceptance rate? Is that what our ancestors worked for? Is that why my parents moved from China to Italy to Canada to America?

So you can leave us behind?

Stop being selfish. You know why they ask for race, right? To correct the starting line. To help the communities that have historically been behind since colonial America’s inception. Do you need that help? Have you been under-resourced your entire life?

I hope you understand you’re taking a spot away from someone else—someone who needs the opportunity more than you do to account for centuries of systemic discrimination.

We are the lucky ones. Somehow, we’ve climbed the education ladder to where they’re capping our numbers because of diversity.

Pick on someone your own size. Fight against us for the spot you so desperately want. I’m fine if you win and I lose, but don’t take it from them.

You may choose to wear your Chinese badge conditionally, but I don’t. I have been Chinese since the day I was born and I will not identify differently.

No matter what, I’m keeping the Asian box checked.

Michel Liao

Michel Liao

Boise, Idaho, United States
Hello! I'm a sophomore studying computer science at Princeton. I like reading, rock climbing, and running.