ASIAN IN AMERICA: Luke Aidge Patterson
Asian In America: Luke Aidge Patterson
Growing up as an API in DC & LA
I grew up in Washington DC during a time when it really was the Chocolate City. I was the only non-black baby at the hospital where I was born. The doctors had most likely never seen an Asian baby, as they kept telling my parents that I had jaundice, while my parents kept arguing with them that I was half-Chinese and was supposed to be yellow (ha ha). I lived in majority Black & Latino communities throughout my entire childhood, and was never around more than a handful of Asian/Pacific Islanders (API) at any time other than family events until I got to college.
Anyhow, growing up as the only Chinese kid in your classes (at least feeling like that, with literally at most 5 or 6 APIs in the whole school), especially as a Chinese boy, can do wonders to your self esteem.
It started with the constant “other-ing.” People always asking you mad questions about all of Asian culture as though I, as a(n) 6/7/8 year-old who lived hundreds of miles away from any of my extended family knew all the answers the other kids felt they needed. Then as I got older, what was I to do when I not only didn’t fit into Western Eurocentric ideas of attractiveness, but also didn’t fit into the ideas of attractiveness within the Black community I was raised in. I hated my completely straight, jet black hair, my Chinky eyes, and had major self consciousness from seeing how non-sexualized Asian men are in AmeriKKKan society in relation to (just as racist) stereotypes of overly-sexualized Black and Latino men.
Through middle & high school I began to both participate and excel in many of the popular activities of urban youth in my neighborhood (sports, rhyming/MCing, graffiti, cracking jokes) and I began to feel more acceptance both from young men and women. But beyond that, I didn’t feel as much of a need for acceptance, because I had gained confidence in myself as a man, as a worthy human being, outside of simple ethnic boxes we get placed in.
Then when I started college, I began to meet many other APIs who were fuckin’ rockstars in their own right, which helped me build more of a confidence in our folks as a whole. I was no longer feeling like an outsider or anomaly. I was part of a larger community of awesome people whom I could and should be proud of. Knowing our history of greatness and beautiful culture back in Asia is one thing, but it was a whole other thing to find that greatness and beauty in our people in This Time & This Society…