So Asian?

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"You're so Asian."

I have unfortunately been the helpless target of this phrase too many times. I have been the victim of stereotyping for most of my life -- for having small eyes, for being shorter than everyone else, for playing the violin, and, especially, for loving mathematics. But while I've had this phrase directed at me quite often, I've learned to move past it and not let others' opinions affect who I am. In fact, I've instead used it as a constant reminder to not let others' expectations act as a bridge to my future. The bridge I will cross is not made of petty prejudices; it is made of me.

Up until a couple of years ago, my favorite subject in school was always mathematics. I loved it. I found patterns exciting, equations interesting and problems intriguing. Unfortunately, math was also the subject that the stereotypical Asian student also excelled in.

In sixth grade, I first heard someone describe my fervor for the subject as a result of my being Asian, and I honestly could not understand their logic. My heroes were Euler, Gauss and LaGrange -- illustrious mathematicians, none of whom were even remotely Asian. But I was so obsessed with wanting to be an individual and standing out from a seemingly homogenous group of people that, for a while, I pretended to dislike math. Though I realize my friends did not intend any harm, I still found their constant nagging disconcerting enough for me to costume myself.

But as I grew older, I realized that I was indeed an individual, regardless of which subjects I liked or which instruments I played. The bridge of expectations that people created for me was not the one I was going to walk on. My bridge was created on my own personal pillars. It's true, I am still a huge fan of math, but I also like history, poetry and listening to classic rock. I was, and am, an individual. The stereotypes and expectations stemming from my Asian heritage do not determine who I am.


I determine who I am.

With a Perspective, I'm Karen Chee.

Karen Chee is an incoming senior at San Mateo High School.