As the White mother of my 21-year old Asian daughter, Maya, who was born in China during its one-child policy, I've learned a lot about the assumptions that Westerners too often make about Asian girls and women. We call it unconscious bias, a term describing how we perceive others even if we don't know that these biases are driving us to do so.
Because Maya has shared with me what it's like for her to move in the world, first as a girl, now a young woman with an Asian face, I've been able to learn how powerful Americans' unconscious biases are. This is especially true when it comes to labeling an Asian person based entirely on her Asian face. I'm offering a few words from an essay that Maya recently wrote touching on some challenges she has had in coming to terms with the duality of her identity as my daughter:
Like any other Asian girl, growing up she dealt with assumptions made of her. People would presume that Maya had mastered a musical instrument – isn't that what Asian girls do? She didn't. Or that she excels in math; she doesn't. Or they think they know about her temperament just by seeing her face; they don't. A lot else is occasionally bundled with these most typical stereotypical assumptions.
All of this explains why I'm thrilled that Jiayang Fan's wrote her essay in The New Yorker in which she reminds us how sports can be a powerful vehicle for shifting our biased perceptions.
Kim Yo Jong, Chloe Kim, and the Shifting Images of Asian and Asian-American Women at the Olympics
Here her opening paragraph that kicks her essay into high gear, where it remains:
As I girl, I played sports. As a young woman, I wrote sports. I know the power of sports to push societal change and alter societal perceptions – witness Jackie Robinson in baseball, the end of apartheid in South Africa, propelled by a global sports boycott, and the raised fists on Olympic podium in 1968 Summer Games.
Of course, let's give thanks to American girls and women's greatest lever of all, Title IX.
How Title IX First Changed the World of Women's Sports, Time magazine