Monday, April 25, 2016

Dealing with Stereotypes

There’s no denying I look Asian. And there’s also no denying that most people have stereotypes about Asian people. They’re super smart, brilliant with electronics, short, take lots of pictures… really there’s an unending list. I’ve dealt with it my whole life, and occasionally, I’ve learned to embrace the cliché. Not because it’s true, but because it’s hilarious.

When I first became a nurse, I worked with some awesome people. Honestly, I’ve got to say that it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had in my life. Most of my coworkers were from Kenya, though there were a few who were from Nigeria, and a few from Zambia. In the facility, there were the Africans, the African-Americans, and the white management.

Then there was me.

They all knew I was Asian, and they all assumed I was the complete package of the 'total' Asian.

I had one particular coworker, who was almost the exact opposite of me. He was African, about six-six, and definitely intimidating. Me, not so much. I’m barely over five foot, and I’ve got the kind of face that makes people think cute, not scary. Whenever the two of us worked together, we had a lot of fun. We had an elevated nurses’ station (so no one could climb over and attack us) and when we were both sitting, you couldn’t see me, but everyone could see him. A few resident’s family members thought he was talking to himself.

I happened to mention to him, as a joke, a few weeks after working together, that I was a karate black belt. It was a joke for me, because people tend to assume that I know martial arts. Truth is, I took one day of karate and then went home and told my mom I didn’t want to go back because I had to hit people.

Apparently my co-worker thought I was telling the truth. Mostly because I hadn't mastered the skill of sarcasm yet. For months, whenever I asked for help, or needed anything, he was there. Other nurses complained that he would try to get out of duties, but not with me. It wasn’t until much later that I learned it was because he was afraid of me. Me! The little, short, cute Asian. Just because I’d made a joke about being a black belt.

Me, my first day as a nurse

It became one of our inside jokes, once he found out I wasn’t trained in martial arts at all.

Anyone else have to deal with stereotypes? Do they work to your advantage or disadvantage?