As we reach the crest of our hour long hike, a breathtaking view greets us. Ragged edges of a crater created by the force of the earth loom before us as a metropolis created by the force of human nature rises behind it. The ocean sits flat and picturesque beyond the city as the sun starts to dip below the horizon.
I reach for my camera for the shot. As I bring out my unassuming little camera, my sister groans. “Now everyone’s gonna think we’re those asian tourists!”
See anything wrong with the exchange above? The fact that my sister didn’t even have to specify which asian tourists we would be confused with because everyone knows the stereotype. We all know what “those asian tourists” are like. They’re always talking loudly, ignoring their surroundings completely until it comes to the attraction they’re trying to see. Then, they’re all pushing and shoving to get the best view, pulling out cameras, squatting in strange positions to take pictures. As soon as they get the picture, they leave. They are inconsiderate, rude, and obnoxious. And, of course, they’re asian.
But that’s the most important part.
White tourists do this plenty. So do tourists of every race, nationality, and ethnicity. So why is that asian tourists specifically are pegged with the stereotype?
On the hike I mentioned before, the view was incredible. Everyone was taking pictures, but when it came time for me to take the picture, I was afraid of contributing to the stereotype. And this was not an isolated incident.
Sadly, that is what traveling as a minority is like a lot of the time. “Where are you really from?” is always asked after I say I’m from the US. Oftentimes, I’m complimented on how good my English is, even though it isn’t much better than other Americans who have been born and raised them.
And it isn’t just well-meaning but somehow still snide comments. I still remember one time a few years ago when I was landing in LAX and had to go to customs, and the lady working there yelled at me for going in the citizen line. She had assumed I was foreign from my appearance. Nevermind the fact that I was carrying my obviously American passport.
A few months ago, there was an incident involving a travel blogger using the hashtag #whenasiansattack to describe tourists overcrowding the Wanaka tree in New Zealand. I didn’t even see the post before it got taken down, but it was disheartening to say the least.
Travelling as a minority means that sometimes it feels like I’m representing my entire race, and have to tiptoe around stereotypes to make sure I’m not giving my race a bad name.
Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Should anyone ever have to worry about representing an entire race when they’re just out and about trying to see more of the world? No, they shouldn’t.
So if you have also bought into this stereotype of asians being obnoxious tourists (don’t worry if you have, even I did for a while), stop and think to yourself. Why am I making a blanket judgement about an entire race?
Yes, I am asian. Yes, I am sometimes a tourist. Yes I take a lot of pictures and yes I like to travel. But what I do and what individuals do don’t automatically apply to an entire race.