Reflection of “Your Average N-Word”
The most notable part of “Your Average N-Word” is that it’s a reflection of my life. It portrays what it feels to be in a family that has already struggled so that people like Vershawn Ashanti Young, the author, and I could avoid the status our parents held, such as being poor, uneducated, a criminal, or an immigrant. Living in a family that had taken a step up from poverty to a higher social economics class before I was born, I was disconnected from the words “immigrants” or “minority” that seemed extremely attached to my parent's identity. Having been forced to flee Vietnam as children, my parents had to adopt the cliche poor immigrant status from their original extravagant wealthy one. They went from riches to rags in an instance as the Communist stole all their wealth and property. My grandma on my mom's side of the family lived in a two-person apartment in America with nine of her children illegally because she couldn’t afford a better place. The landlord, an African American woman, was gracious enough to pity my grandma that she didn’t report or raise the price for my grandma, who already had to provide for her nine children on a single mail carrier income because her husband, my grandpa, was still being kept in jail by the Communist. My dad’s side was no better. He and his dad, my other grandpa, had to escape on a homemade boat, leaving my pregnant grandma and aunt behind. They planned to establish a home somewhere outside of Vietnam and wait for my grandma as the immigration laws for most first-world countries were strict. They had to relocate to many refugee camps, from the Phillippines to America, before settling in California. After getting naturalized thanks to a relative living in America, they were forced to live in a tiny one-room apartment with 3 other families. My dad was a mail boy, and my grandpa was a construction worker, both working and waiting until their family could become complete again. Both my families’ fates were cruel, yet mine was full of joy, with no struggle that a typical poor immigrant family would have. So, when Vershawn Ashanti Young, the author’s mother, said the words, “You should be glad that any place is taking a chance on you. Part-time is better than no time; at least you can eat,” it reminded me of my own family lifestyle, to be glad for being able to work and have food on the table, not to worry about anything else. My family had worked hard, taking on low-income jobs that they never in their wildest dream thought be doing, living paycheck by paycheck to eat. My grandma on my dad’s side, after escaping Vietnam, worked as a lunch lady at the community college my dad attended so that my dad would get a reduction of tuition and that school food would be brought home so that they didn’t have to worry about starving. To get an undergraduate degree so that he could get a job that would alleviate his family condition, my dad lived in his car at the UCI parking lot, warming up 7-Eleven burritos in the morning to eat because he couldn’t afford a food plan or housing. They didn’t have time to fight racism as outsiders as they needed to survive. My parents had told me the purpose of their struggle of overcoming the status of a poor, minority immigrant was so I could enjoy the opportunities that they couldn’t. They wanted to shelter me from racism or discrimination so that I could focus on education, which was a synonym for having a roof over my head and food on the table. I lived in a two-story house, in an upper-middle-class life, in a diverse urban community where the only thing to worry about was getting a good education. Hence why, Young, talking about his single mother working hard so that her family could get the best education and escape the label of a stereotypical black man from the hood, reminded me of my family. I felt that Young’s introductory biography portrays what it feels to be part of that generation that escaped the injustice acted upon by the previous generation.
One of the strongest pieces in “Your Average N-Word” was the part that describes the event between Malcolm X and a Professor. I felt like Young’s choice to add in this part was a stab at my character because I identified with the professor's way of thinking. Having been sheltered all my life, I've become blinded to racial injustices, either avoiding or justify why something like Asian hate crime or police on black violence is happening. It just, the racial injustice never happened to me so it felt too distant to fight it. Like how Young has never “ been called a n*gger” so felt it was hard to defend against racism, I have never been discriminated before, only promoted, based on my race, so I didn’t feel it was my right to yell racist. Instead, I used the word “reverse racist” because, living in a diverse community ruled mostly by minorities, the only racism I noticed was towards whites. However, Young points out that the professor’s speech and views “represented identification with whites” and “wholesales assimilation into white culture” awakened self-realization that I myself was trying to become white. My parents and grandparents had struggled so that I could live a normal life, one without discrimination based on their status, which was a poor immigrant. So having been born in a normal American household, the type that could be seen in 90’s TV shows, I felt I had to ignore discrimination like my parents did when they were struggling to put food on the table to live that normal life. So education became the solution. I thought that by becoming educated, I not only achieve what my parents wanted but conquered the barrier of discrimination based on a previous status as everyone respects educated people. Hence, I expected every non-white in America to do the same as I. However, just like the professor, who had gained an educated status, yet was silenced and reduced by the word “n*gger,” I, with a single racial profiling comment, would be silenced and reduced back to an Asian who didn’t belong here because my family came from a boat. Inwardly, I knew that no matter how educated I am, no matter how hard I try, no matter the method I use, I am, and will always be, an Asian whose family are immigrants. It why I unconsciously avoid mostly white areas out of fear of being told I don’t belong here. It why, when given an opportunity to study in Georgia, a mostly white state with a high amount of Asian hate crime, for the summer, I declined. I was bullshitting myself when I said I wasn’t afraid of being discriminated against or that I wasn't trying to identify with whites. I just wanted to believe that America, the place that I consider home, would accept me more if I became more white. Young exposes the truth in my life, that I try to hide. Indeed, I fear my educated status crumbling back into a person born from immigrants that don’t belong here, hence why I try to act more white when in reality I’m not. In the end, I just don’t want to ever feel like I have no home like my parents and grandparents do.