My confidence was obliterated after that instance. Time and time again, I was shown that white beauty was undisputed and I was second rate. For black guys, I was considered beautiful (but even still, they idolized white girls). Nevertheless, I wanted to be noticed by the majority; the jocks; the doctors’ sons; the cool crowd; and that crowd in my community centralized around white people. Even though white boys wouldn’t date me, I was still something nice to look at. I was exotic, yet nonthreatening. I was peculiar but familiar. I was spicy, but not pungent. And that’s where I stayed — trapped in those ideas — and that’s all I ever amounted to be for them — an idea. Even worse, I allowed myself to shrivel up and live inside of those ideas — because living inside of that was better than stepping outside of my arena, and getting rejected.
Complacency, in a way, became a cancer, in that it pervaded my spirit, and worst of all, I let it. I shunned the idea of school dances because I knew I wouldn’t get asked; I continued playing my role as my friend’s accomplice to the movies or a guy’s house to make sure she was comfortable; and when my mom told me I was allowed to date at 16, I just nodded because secretly, I knew that as long as I lived in that town, no one would want someone like me. I accepted the many ways that were indirectly communicated to me, that I was less than.
Looking back, I can see part of the reason I was perceived as the ‘sidekick’ and that’s because that’s how American pop culture presented ethnic girls like me. As Arimoto fearlessly states in her narrative, Responsibilities of the Asian Best Friend,
This Asian body was something I believed made me inferior, not relatable, and unworthy of being the main character.
However, like Arimoto now sees, adhering to that belief further succumbs to white supremacy. As aforementioned, this world operates in a eurocentric paradigm, and as long as I live (and beyond), the dialogue of equality needs to persist, and I just can’t be silent about it in the name of ‘positivity’ or the refusal to yield to ‘victimization.’ And as much as I would like to continue traveling and believe in forward-thinking, I can’t rely on globalization and American, liberal cities to protect me from the racism that still suffuses the world or moreover, my residual pain of feeling inferior.
The racist, exploitive, patriarchal paradigm we live in is a complex cancer, which is why we need to keep talking about it and writing about it and reading about it and hearing about it until it is extricated from our culture. Additionally, I have to believe for myself that I am more than a helper; I am more than a sidekick; and I am completely worthy of being the protagonist in the beautiful, black body I move in, and there is nothing “typical” about that. There is nothing “typical” about having hair that defies gravity, hips that span horizons, and skin that relishes in the sun. If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her, “There’s nothing typical about being different. There’s nothing typical about you.”
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