Stereotypes detract from personality of others

Stereotypes+detract+from+personality+of+others

Ipsa Chaudhary

ipshhha
photo illustration by Patrick Smith

Asian Americans portray the model minority. We get perfect scores on tests, whether they be unit tests in a class or standardized tests such as the SAT. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Asian Americans scored an average of 528 on the writing portion of the SAT and scored an average of 23.7 on the writing portion of the ACT, both of which are higher than any other ethnicity for either test.
We get accepted to the most prestigious colleges and universities. We maintain straight A’s in school. We take the heaviest course load possible, even as seniors.
I spent most of my childhood trying to fit all these stereotypes. At first it was because my parents expected me to. But eventually I just expected myself to live up to the expectations that every other Indian seemed to fulfill.
It wasn’t until high school that I felt constricted by these expectations and they began to stress me out to levels of insanity as I started to lose sleep over schoolwork and became more and more absent-minded. The expectations that once motivated me to do the best in school soon came to weigh down on me. After one year of high school, cracks began to appear in the sturdy wall of perfection I had built around myself.
I took Advanced Placement and honors classes but I also enrolled in art to get my fine arts credit. To my surprise, not only did I like art, but I was pretty good at it, too. I had spent so much time trying to maintain a perfect Grade Point Average that I was blind to the possibility that I could be good at something outside the fields of math and science.
While I breezed through art, I struggled in Pre-Calc. It worried me. People would ask what I got on tests, and before I could answer, they would reply, “You got an A.”
I was so used to hearing that statement and knowing it was true that I felt uneasy when it wasn’t. Shouldn’t I get straight A’s? Wasn’t I supposed to be good in math? What was wrong with me?
Indians are known to be good in math. In fact, according to the National Center for Education statistics, Asian Americans scored an average of 595 on the math portion of the SAT, higher than any other ethnicity. So struggling was new to me. The stress of doing better overwhelmed me and left me laying awake blinking through the late hours of the night as I mulled over what I was doing wrong. Every other Indian kid out there was probably finding a solution to poverty or making a machine that would zap the HIV out of infected people. And there I was “failing” pre-calc. What had the world come to if Indians couldn’t even get A’s in math?
In my attempt to be the perfect Indian daughter, I had stressed myself to the point of being in a state of constant sleep deprivation. Even the peace I found during my hour and a half long art class was lost as worry about spoiling my grades in other classes consumed me. And what was it all for?
It was all because of the cliche conception of what every Indian kid has to be like. So maybe it wasn’t a horrible thing to be thought of as a genius because of my ethnicity. But it wasn’t exactly a blessing, either. Any stereotype, even a “good” one, imposes limitations. It limits the way others view us and, more importantly, the way we view ourselves because we still limit ourselves and our choices.
When we embrace notions of how others should act, whether all Americans are obese or that all African Americans are athletes, we limit the goals we deem possible for ourselves. It’s easy to miss the fact that having preconceived notions of someone can place them at a disadvantage.
I shouldn’t feel guilty about not getting perfect grades and living up to these ridiculous expectations everyone seems to have of Indians. Whether we embrace stereotypes of intelligence or physicality, we are simply sending others a message about what we deem is possible for them and what we do not.
By Ipsa Chaudhary