A personal essay about experiencing and overcoming internalized racism.
I’ve never felt as carefree as I did when I was a kid.
I loved getting the latest video games, watching Saturday morning cartoons with my sister, collecting Pokemon cards and even just finishing my homework so I’d have time to play.
It was a simpler time.
I never worried or thought much about my race.
Then, high school came around. Those years were up and down. Mostly down, if I’m truthful.
As a Filipino American, it was tough being proud of my heritage then because around that time, about 12 years ago, the internet was booming and sites like Myspace, Tumblr and Facebook were on the rise. As if stereotypes and racism on TV wasn’t enough, now there was social media to perpetuate them.
I’ll never forget the day I was exploring Tumblr and I stumbled upon a page created by an Asian woman. The post was about why she wouldn’t date an Asian man.
And, boy, were her explanations pretty bad. She started saying that the reason why she wouldn’t date an Asian guy was because they have small penises, they are all ugly, they all look alike, or they all look like her brother.
I was shocked and hurt.
As I nervously kept going through her page, I thought, “This has to be a troll page.”
But the more I read, the more I suspected she was serious about what she said.
For instance, she put up a post on why Asian women should only date white guys and others of herself saying things like, “I want a white guy in me.”
When I turned off the computer and tried to sleep, I couldn’t get my mind off the awful things said about Asian men. Questions raced in my head: “What compelled her to say these things?” “What is her personal life like?” “Am I really that ugly?”
The thoughts got darker. “I hate being Asian.” “I wished I was born white or another ethnicity”.
It’s no surprise I didn’t date anyone in high school, even a girl who I later suspected liked me.
Her name is Kristine. We had a lot in common such as enjoying anime, video games and metal music. We would often talk on Myspace. I wanted to ask her out but after reading the Tumblr posts, my insecurities got the best of me and I never asked her out.
“The ugly truth is, some of our friends and family see having white friends as some sort of social advancement. Oh, you have white friends in college? You’re so cultured. You’re dating a white man? Wow [Average Joe] is so handsome, you’re so lucky, I want one too,” writes Sarah Y. Kim in a commentary for the Johns Hopkins News-Letter. “To acknowledge that somewhere deep down, you may have internalized these stereotypes and that rejecting men because of their ethnicity, because they’re Asian, is racism.”
My early days in community college were no better. I was a pretty terrible person not only to myself, but to other people, including my relatives. My insecurities flared up even worse and I would post comments like “women just want white guys” or “women just want to date bastards.” I would be ripped apart, not only from my friends but even my family.
Over the years, my fears were confirmed by YouTube and other social media posts, including a video of an Asian woman saying she would only date an Asian man if he had a lot of money.
Sadly, I believed what I saw and read then and it made my insecurities worse.
As a last-ditch effort, I tried getting into online dating, which was a train wreck. I remember swiping right on Tinder and getting no matches at all and the only matches I would get were bots. I gave up. I felt like a loser: hopeless and ugly.
I’m not alone. A 26-year-old Chinese Canadian man told the news site, The Conversation, about his experience using dating apps: “It makes me angry cause it sort of feels like you’re getting rejected when sometimes … you’re messaging people and then, they unmatch you … or sometimes they don’t respond, or you just keep getting no responses … It feels like a small rejection.”
Asian American men apparently lose their virginity later than other groups, according to an article in the sociology magazine, Contexts.
“By age 17, 33% of Asian American males, compared to 53% of White males, 82% of Black males, and 69% of Hispanic males had lost their virginity,” according to the magazine. “Girls are typically more likely than boys to date, but the sex gap in romantic involvement is especially pronounced among Asians.”
When I had come across the Asian woman on Tumblr who was obsessed with hating on Asian men, I honestly didn’t think I would ever meet someone like that in real life.
Well, I was wrong. During my last year in community college, I met a Filipino woman through a mutual friend. At first, she was a pretty cool person and I enjoyed hanging out with her.
One day, I texted her to see if she wanted to have lunch.
We went to a Korean BBQ restaurant. We talked about life after community college and other things. When the conversation turned to our dating preferences, she said, “I prefer dating white guys.”
“You don’t like dating Asian guys?” I asked.
“Eeeewwww, no!” she said.
“Why?” I asked, dreading her answer.
“Because the Asian guys I dated all had small penises,” she said.
I tried not to show it, but I was angry and hurt.
“What is wrong with her?” I thought. “Is that the first thing she thinks about when meeting a man for the first time?”
It’s one thing not to date an Asian guy because you just don’t find them attractive but it’s another thing to avoid Asian guys because of stereotypes on social media, TV and movies.
It just sounds racist at that point.
I talked recently about this with a close friend of mine, Perla Beltran, who also knew her.
“She always made fun of Asian men because when we would talk, she would say how they have small penises — even though she is Asian herself,” Beltran said. “I remember we had a conversation on why I like Asian men and she said, ‘Why? They are never good looking.’ It was getting annoying after a while.”
Fast forward to today. Things are a lot different. Although I’m still insecure about myself, I accept and appreciate my heritage thanks to the people and groups I’m part of at Cal State LA. For instance, I learned a lot about my culture through friends who are part of the university’s Filipino American club and for the University Times, I covered an event honoring an amazing civil rights leader, Larry Itliong, who helped organize Filipino farmworkers.
I had a couple of relationships along the way, too, so I’m starting to feel some self-worth.
I know I have a lot to work on, but I’m trying to take it day-by-day and focusing on my career goals. I’m looking for anyone to date right now. I plan to let life help me find that special woman who is just right for me.
Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]