Race in America

From My Perspective: This “Aggressively Asian Face” Is Over It

This “aggressively Asian face” is over it. 

I don’t want to pay any more mind to the podcaster/Youtuber whose casual bigotry, racism and sexism was put on full display recently targeting a fellow Bay Area reporter.

However, I do want to talk about the emotions the comments invoked in my Asian and Asian American community. 

It’s clear the YouTuber exhibited anti-Asian sentiments. He expressed genuine shock and, one could interpret, aversion - a form of Asian hate - when the news clip popped up. 

What really gets me though are the triggering and perpetuating impacts of his remarks on Asian self-hate. 

Do you know how many Asian and Asian Americans tape and surgically slice their eyelids to appear more “Western;” how many pay thousands of dollars for surgeons to break their noses and their jawlines to achieve that social media influencer, Hollywood look?

In 2019, an estimated 1.3 million people underwent double eyelid surgery worldwide. It’s also currently the second most common surgical procedure behind rhinoplasty nationwide. 

And, for those who can’t afford to go under the knife, words cut just as deep.

Yes, words from strangers who spew bigotry online. But also words from people very close to home. 

I often commiserate with my Asian American girl friends about our childhoods - when we’d come home from school hoping for validation about a test score but got “Were you out in the sun? You’re too dark” or “You’re big but here eat more.” These (also) casual comments from our mothers, aunties and grandmothers stung and stuck. I realize now they’re not isolated to Asian cultures, and they likely result from what their mothers, aunties and grandmothers told them. 

To be thin and white was beautiful. To be anything else could be subjected to sly, dinnertime criticism. This seed of Asian self-hate is planted early and deeply for many. 

The thing is...I/we are proud to be Asian. I know that sounds contradictory; but both feelings can and do co-exist in my culture, especially among first and second generation Asian Americans. 

As you can probably tell, I’m not immune. 

For as long as I can remember, I disliked my nose. No one has explicitly told me my nose was big or ugly. It was that toxic inner chatter fueled by Hollywood and social media that made me desire the filtered version of me over the actual me. Insane. 

Years ago I even ventured into a plastic surgeon's office in San Diego to get a quote on a nose job. I think it came out to be $9,000. I couldn’t afford that. Thank goodness! That was the only time being an underpaid, overworked reporter worked out in my favor.

And, if I’m being completely honest, there’s a small part of me that still wants a rhinoplasty. But - and it’s a big but - I’m in my thirties now. I’m engaged, and I’m thinking about having children one day. Time, perspective, and that ironic silver lining of being young and broke gave me the space to wonder: How am I supposed to tell my son or daughter their noses are perfect when I can’t accept my own? 

I’m an on-air reporter too. Families with children watch my news reports all the time. Aside from my nose, how can I represent my community if I can’t accept myself? 

These are my thoughts, my feelings. The next Asian American writer or TV reporter likely has a different story - a story they should own and navigate at their pace.  

But when someone like that YouTuber hops on a platform in front of millions and takes it upon himself to define what’s Western and non-Western Asian beauty, the words pick at an already existing scab, you see. The casualness and sense of triviality then stab at that open wound despite his peers telling him “easy.” The moment was inconsequential to them; it was meaningless entertainment among friends.

I’m over all this. It’s 2021, soon-to-be 2022. It’s old. Toxic masculinity is not funny; the reactions are not overreactions; and, yes, there’s a good chance it’ll get checked. If even minor at the time, it can lead to things like this latest display of racism and sexism.

So, to the man who expressed genuine shock at a gorgeous Asian face that popped up on your own online show: What world do you live in that that would surprise and stupefy you?

I’ll let the public answer that one (and maybe change your mind).

Also, I wonder, are our faces aggressive, or is your worldview simply incredibly myopic? 

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