AAPI Hate: A Chinese Transracial Adoptee’s Perspective

Leah Himlie, online publishing coordinator
Young protestors hold up signs in front of the Minnesota state Capitol during the “Stop Asian Hate” rally. Taken by Nicole Neri for MPR News on March 28, 2021. 

I was adopted from China by white parents when I was a baby. All my life I’ve never quite felt like I fit in with the Asian American community because I don’t share any experiences with them. I don’t celebrate Chinese holidays or speak the language or eat the food. Though I am Chinese, I’ve never felt Chinese. 

With the murder of six Asian women in Atlanta on March 16, I feel greatly saddened and distressed but also confused. On one hand, this was a direct attack on the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, my community. On the other hand, I’ve never felt “Asian enough” to be included in that community so it almost felt like I was watching an attack on a community with whom I was not affiliated. I’m angry and hurt but as if for someone else. A post on Instagram addressed to Asian adoptees created by Binaka Norris from the account @diversifyournarrative summed up my feelings quite well: “It’s hard to mourn with a community you feel excluded from.” I mourn for them, but I don’t feel that I have the right to mourn with them.

Now that it’s been a couple weeks, I’ve had some time to process my feelings. I know that there is no such thing as “Asian enough” or “not Asian enough,” and I know that whatever I feel is valid regardless of if I feel accepted in the AAPI community. That goes for all transracial adoptees. We belong wherever we choose to belong. If we want to claim a place in our birth community, we can do that. If we’d rather not, that’s valid too. We are enough.

Asian transracial adoptees hold a unique place in the AAPI community. We often don’t grow up with our birth culture, but we still experience racism and microaggressions. I’ve heard of Asian transracial adoptees’ experiences being called “bananas” or “golden oreos” or “twinkies.” Whatever it is, the message is the same: we’re yellow on the outside, white on the inside–we don’t belong. And this has come from white and Asian people alike. It makes it difficult to feel like we belong anywhere.

Since the shooting I’ve seen a huge outpouring of support for the AAPI community and that warms my heart. Previously, many people did not believe Asians face discrimination and prejudice, largely due to the model minority myth making this a wake-up call for some.

But hate against the AAPI community is not new. It hurts that even after a year of us telling everyone about the increase in hate we experience due to COVID-19, it was still brushed off. It hurts that it had to come to this for people to wake up. And most of all, it hurts that some people still deny AAPI experiences of hate. Even after everything there are still people saying the shooting wasn’t racially motivated.

The kinds of people who believe that race was not a factor in this atrocity are not the kinds of people who will be reading this article, so I won’t waste my energy explaining why they’re wrong. But for those of you who are reading this, it’s time to step up and listen to the AAPI community. Call out the racist jokes and stereotypes that are all too common in everyday life. Advocate for us. Stand with us in solidarity, just as we stand in solidarity with the other racially marginalized communities. 

Check out the resources below to help the AAPI community.