Yes, I’m aware I’m Asian

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When I think of a racist, I picture someone throwing insults at a certain ethnicity. I didn’t realize racism could be disguised in the form of admiration — until I started using Tinder. 

More times than I can count, men on the dating app have tried to start a conversation by pointing out that I’m Asian. Usually these conversations start with a one-liner like, “Oh look, a cute Asian.” 

For the most part, my friends and I use my Tinder account as a way to entertain ourselves. The majority of pickup lines and messages don’t warrant a serious reply, if any reply at all. 

But, one day, someone sent me a heart-eyed emoji next to a single word, “Asian.” 

I sarcastically applauded his observation. 

He then asked why I sounded annoyed. It had been intended as a compliment, he said. 

Someone’s preference for a certain ethnicity doesn’t mean the people of that race should be flattered by the fact. 

When someone generalizes me and others like this, they’re assuming certain things about me that are based off of assumptions and prejudice — even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

Yet here I was, expected to feel praised because, just in case I didn’t realize, I’m Asian. Not even a specific type of Asian. Just Asian. 

Unfortunately, beneath my appearance, I know so little about Asian culture that I’m actually a little ashamed that I didn’t spend the time to learn more.

I grew up in Toronto. My parents moved four times within the city before buying a house in the suburbs for me to attend high school. I was your average Torontonian. 

But in a country that prides itself on being multicultural, these subtle forms of prejudice go uncontested. It’s easy to recognize overt racism, but it’s not as easy to condemn racism when it’s subtle and unacknowledged by most. 

We’re ignoring red flags that appear in the generalizing language we use to describe diversity. This same apathy contributes to incidences of inadvertent racism. 

As well as discouraging conspicuous racism, we should pay closer attention to racism when it’s less obvious. 

Ignorance leads us to continue to make clumsy remarks that seem mundane and innocent, but are in reality carpeting a subtle form of social inequality. 

I’d rather not receive a compliment at all, than be told that I’m appreciated based off an inaccurate assumption about who I am.

Anna is The Journal’s Video Editor. She’s a third-year Biology major. 

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