Life with Lin: On being a walking stereotype

Graphic+courtesy+of+Canva.

Graphic courtesy of Canva.

Lin Luo, Multimedia Editor

This previously ran in our December 2021 print issue.

Let me lay out the facts: I’m short (a whole five feet tall!), I’m Chinese, I’m a teenage girl who’s a horrendous driver (ask anyone who’s had the lovely chance to be in my passenger seat), and I’m good at math; at least, good enough to tell colleges that’s my intended major. All these facts about myself intersect in both incredibly racist and sexist stereotypes, leading me to ask myself an unfortunate question.

Am I just a walking stereotype? 

As we’ve all (hopefully) learned in our elementary school classes, stereotypes are extremely harmful. Perpetuating widespread ideas deters people from getting to know their fellow humans on a deeper level, and most stereotypes are built on the societal foundation of white supremacy. I’ve been affected by the “smart Asian” stereotype, having many adults and peers over the years assume that I’m “naturally smart,” putting me in the awkward situation of telling them that my academic abilities weren’t just bestowed upon me from my race, but from the fact that I actually just study and try my best on assignments. 

And on a more extreme level, widespread ignorant perceptions towards Asian Americans have led to many tragic deaths and acts of violence, especially in the past year, leaving many fearing for their lives even as doing something as simple as leaving the house. It was just over a month ago that four teens brutally and unprovoked attacked a group of Asian students traveling on a Philadelphia train, a city that’s only slightly one hour away from Emmaus. 

I can’t help who I am, and if my personality traits simply just happen to fall in line with a number of very lamentable stereotypes. 

Lin’s parking attempt in a Target parking lot. Photo courtesy of Sophia DePhillips.

First of all, driving does not come naturally to me and I have no idea why. I swear I’m competent at many, many things, but my brain shuts off every time I encounter a four-way intersection, leaving me flailing blindly as I try to drive through without getting rudely honked at. 

Secondly, I do tend to get good grades in my math classes, but I’d say that has less to do with the fact that I’m Asian and more that I’ve been in a stable relationship with Khan Academy for many, many years and we are very happy together. And, not to state the obvious, but my height (or lack thereof) and my race were never within my control, and certainly don’t have any bearing on my character.

I don’t appreciate having to compare my mere existence to stereotypes, but I’ve accepted that they’re simply just part of human nature. I can’t even say I’m a completely nonjudgmental angel who’s never made an assumption purely based on appearance. I literally walk through the hallways, putting guys I see wearing rings or an overabundance of chain necklaces into the “red flag” box. 

I think that I should be allowed to exist outside of these stereotypes. They may fall in line with commonly thought assumptions; but nonetheless, they’re my genuine character traits and I refuse to change myself just to fight against lines of thought created from the framework of white supremacy. The next time you see my silly short self hitting a curb, or getting a good grade on my AP Statistics test, just mind your own business!