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  • Episode of Color Yellow – My Personal Experience with Discrimination

    Posted on May 6th, 2009 Michele Sun No comments

    On Tue, April 9, Texas State Rep. Betty Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should change their names because they’re too difficult to pronounce.

    “Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

    Rep. Betty Brown makes comment on Asian-American names

    I am not sure how many Asian friends Brown has, but by her first refusing to issue an apology statement on Wed, but then changed her ground on Thur, I would say she does cares about her Asian-American voters after all. I think Brown probably doesn’t know that many (most) Asian-Americans do have English names, in the State or in “their countries”. Most of Chinese I know have English names which they adopted in school, and continue using them at work place. Many people use English name on their business cards, voice mail greetings and of course their email addresses.

    Some people are very uncomfortable and think it is racist that Brown singled out Asian-Americans and demanded they change their names just so she won’t be inconvenienced by them, and ignoring people of her own race with difficult names. However, I won’t call her a racist just over this one incident. Racism does exist and I have my share of experience of it, but mostly come from people with same skin color like mine.

    One summer when visiting my parents in Taiwan, after giving the cab driver where I wanted to go in Mandarin Chinese, I was asked to get out of taxi by the driver because I could not speak the his dialect – Taiwanese; the rain was pouring down so hard outside of the cab but he refused to take me. He said that in disgust “you are in Taiwan, you should speak Min Nan.” Getting unfair racism treatment from one of my own people was shocking and hurt, and of course standing in the middle of street with rain pouring down all over me made the experience ten times worse.

    I went to Shanghai, China couple years ago, and had stayed at the Hilton Hotel during my entire trip. I have chosen the Hilton with expectation that I would receive same level of service and care that we are used to it here. However, it wasn’t the case at all, and the reason is my skin color and birth place. I was treated with below American but above Chinese standard.

    At the check in counter, I was asked to present my Taiwan passport which came as a total surprise. I explained that “I am an American and I don’t have Taiwan passport.” The clerk behind the counter said “but your passport said your birth place is Taiwan” while she looked at my American passport. “So I am an American, can’t you see?” She hesitated for several seconds, then went in to speak to her supervisor I assumed. Then she came out and produced a different registry book asking me to sign in Chinese. Thank goodness that my parents did give me a Chinese name and I know how to write it. But the request was weird and nonsense to me, what if I can’t write my Chinese name? Hmm…

    Several incidents happened during my stay and made it a very unpleasant and upsetting experience for me. I can understand and accept the guards at Shanghai Museum asked me to leave at 4:45pm so he could go home at 5:00pm promptly, and I can understand and accept the monks at the Jade Buddha Temple asked me to pay $6 to see and worship the Jade Buddha so the temple could generate some revenue, and certainly I can understand and accept the street vendor refused to give me back my changes so she can make extra bucks. But I don’t understand why Chinese treated me as second class American because of my skin color.

    Another unpleasant experience and I would say the most ridiculous one happened at the consulate office of Taiwan in San Francisco; I got stuck in Taiwan for two extra days after encountered typhoon one summer, and that had violated the VISA rule in Taiwan. From that point, my privilege of getting a landing VISA was removed and I had to apply for a VISA to enter Taiwan. I totally respected the rules and was happy to comply with that on my next trip; however the most ridiculous event took place when I went to apply for the entry VISA.

    After I submitted my VISA application form, I was asked to write a Statement of Remorse and I should promise that I would not repeat my wrong doing again. I was in complete, total , absolute shock and thinking “What am I now? A fourth grader?” Not only I had to write that statement but it has to be in Chinese. And I must produce two copies and was told that I could pay 10 cents to use the copier machine in the office for making extra copies. I asked the clerk in the office “if I were not an Asian-American, will you still ask me to write this Statement of Remorse?” She said “No, then you don’t have to, because this rule only applies to  Chinese American.” Ah ha! I am second class American again!

    You see, I am treated with racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination all the time by my own people with my kind of skin color, and I am considered non-American by non-Americans. Racism?


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