As a Fish Among Minnows
By: Eric Liu
A fish among minnows. This term is used for people who are super good at what they do that they stand out at whatever field they are in, but for me this term means someone who stands out in a society that they don’t t really fit it. For me this idiom represents my experiences in America growing up Asian American.
In America, about 7% of the people who live there are Asian. This might seem like a lot, but in the U.S. the Asian race is considered to be a minority. Growing up Asian and being surrounded by people who look nothing like me has been a very educating experience.
As a kid, I was sheltered from the outside world by my parents. I thought that everyone was just like us, but when I grew up and went to school things changed. August 2014 was when I started school and I realized how different I was, and in that kindergarten year there was only 1 other Asian American in my grade. While talking to other students, I found out that it was really hard talking to them because I couldn't really relate to them unless we were talking about games that we had during recess.
A few years went by and my parents started packing my lunch. As the lunch would usually consist of the meal from yesterday plus rice, or it was some rice boiled with extra water so that it became a soup with porridge-like consistency. While I was eating a particularly delicious meal made by my parents that had a nasty smell I could faintly hear someone saying “Ew why is it so stinky.” After hearing this I started putting my meal in the lunch box, so that it was covered in a way that only I could see it and eat from it, and when I was talking to friends, I would close the lunchbox. When I went home in the afternoon, I asked my parents to just make me rice porridge for lunch as it didn't have a distinct odor compared to the other foods.
While I don't blame the kid a bit, because when kids are younger, they can be brutally honest and they don't think about hurting people's feelings, but this definitely left me with trauma as a kid to specifically limit what food I could eat in front of other people. I eventually moved on, and now whenever my mom or dad makes me something delicious I eat the leftovers the next day for lunch.
One thing I haven’t talked about are the stereotypes that come with being Asian American. A particular stereotype that many people talk about is that Asian Americans are naturally good and smart at everything. Sometimes in school, I dread group projects since half the time many people want to team up with me knowing the stereotype, so they can get away with doing as little as possible. Of course, this stereotype is wrong, or at least not always true, and to prove that, I can attest that my grammar is really bad. I could go on about how bad my grammar can be at times, but to simplify, I once got a really bad score doing a grammar test at school when I was young but with dedication and hard work it has continued to go up.
Another stereotype I want to talk about has been relatively recent and has to do with the Chinese part of Asian Americans. Over some years ago, the coronavirus pandemic was the biggest event that happened and many people came up to me and made jokes about how I “started” corona and and some people tried to physically get away from me. At that time, the coronavirus was a very serious matter, this honestly made me really sad, since I was in no way associated with the coronavirus besides the fact that I was the same race as the people who created it. Fortunately nobody does this to me now that the coronavirus epidemic has ended. These stereotypes helped me to not take things so seriously as they were joking around and possibly could’ve used it to cope at the time.
Being Asian American has always been an educating experience for me. From the fact that it has helped me to truly embrace being different, and it helps me take things not too seriously. Despite my negative experiences of being a lonely fish among minnows, I can now embrace the fact that I am a fish among minnows for the better.