10 Things You Should NOT Say to an AAPI Student | Haiyun Lu | 5 Min Read

June 16, 2022

Very often, the media portrays Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) with stereotypes and biases, so it is not surprising that audiences have all been plagued by prejudice, bigotry, and racism.  Confronting these implicit biases takes conscious effort, tremendous courage, and enormous determination.  However, it can also be as simple as educating oneself about microaggressions and changing habitual thoughts and behaviors about AAPI.  Here are 10 things one can easily learn about what not to say to AAPI people and students.

  1. You are good at math and science; can you help your classmates?  OR your family values education more than anything so you will have no problem getting a good grade. The research shows that about 1/3 of AAPI high schoolers either don’t finish or drop out of high school.  Our implicit bias is deeply rooted in the Model Minority Myth.  It assumes that all AAPI people are successful academically as well as socioeconomically, and all AAPI parents are well educated and have the means to invest in their children’s education.
  2. My favorite Chinese food is sweet & sour chicken and chicken with broccoli. I hope I won’t disappoint you by revealing that both dishes are totally American inventions.  As a native Chinese, I never heard about many of the Americanized Chinese meals and fortune cookies before I arrived in the States.  Your enjoyment of fake Chinese food cannot elevate your cross-cultural understanding, acceptance, and support for AAPI.  In fact, it would be really a nice thing to do if you could try out authentic ethnic cuisines and truly expand your taste buds.  And, if you could expand your friend circle to include many diverse people from different racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups, it would be even better.
  3.  “Where are you from?” I mean, “Where are you truly from?” This question, on the surface, might show your curiosity and innocence.  Deep down, it reveals an implicit bias that being an American identifies with one look, one skin color, and one race.  Many AAPI have been born and raised in the U.S.  For some, they have been there for centuries.  Their different look and skin color, in your eyes, only define their “otherness”.  Your question reminds them they don’t belong to this country.
  4. “You are Chinese, aren’t you?”  In this country, when many people think of Asians, very often, an East-Asian-looking face pops up in their head. …
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Haiyun Lu

Haiyun Lu, a Chinese language teacher at the University School of Milwaukee (WI), is also a writer, blogger, trainer, curriculum designer, meditator, and Co-Founder at Ignite Chinese.