Ending “smart Asian” stereotypes

Pramika Kadari, Copy Editor

Laura Amador-Toro
Many Asian students at Coppell High School and around the nation face academic stereotypes based on their ethnicity. The Sidekick Copy Editor Pramika Kadari discusses why these stereotypes must end.

I am Indian, and I am not enrolled in six AP classes. I am Indian, and I did not score well on the SAT my first try. I am Indian, and I struggle so much in calculus that I study for hours outside class just to understand basic concepts, because I cannot keep pace with the teacher’s lectures.

 

Throughout my life, solely due to my ethnicity, people have often assumed I am extremely academically intelligent. We have all made “smart Asian” jokes before, including myself, but joking aside, the stereotype can do more harm than good and needs to end.

 

During my history class in freshman year, after my classmate found out my grades were imperfect, she was surprised. According to her, I “seemed like the kind of person who would have amazing grades … even more than most Indians.” Her words and the tone she said them stuck with me, punching me with a feeling of disappointment, as if I was not living up to my potential or people’s expectations.

 

“Sometimes if Asians don’t live up to the ‘Asian standard’, they feel bad about themselves,” Coppell High School junior and AP student Aishwarya Kannan said. “That’s how I feel sometimes, like I’m disappointing everyone.”

 

For some reason my academic intelligence  is one of my biggest insecurities. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid of falling short of people’s assumptions; but I should not have this fear, because people should not be making these assumptions in the first place.

 

There are two versions of the “smart Asian” stereotype: the first describes someone who obsessively studies every minute of every day, while the second describes someone who is naturally a genius and has no need to study. Neither describes me, and both hurt me.

 

I consider myself a passionate person. Much of my time is spent reading, watching films, speaking with friends and writing both creatively and journalistically. I will never apologize for getting sucked into a well-written book instead of spending a few extra hours studying for my AP exam. I do not devote myself to my GPA, and I do not want people to see me that way – as someone who has no interests outside memorizing trigonometry formulas.

 

At the same time, my grades are still important to me, which drives me to work hard in school. When people assume I do not need to study, my effort feels brushed off. Earlier this year, a peer complained AP U.S. History would be so much harder for her than it was for me when I took it last year because I am “naturally really smart”. But I have never put more work into a class than I did into APUSH.

 

“It’s frustrating that if I get good grades people will be like, ‘oh, it’s because you’re Indian,  because you’re smart,’” CHS senior and AP student Arohi Srivastav said. “I could take that as a compliment, but that’s also pretty annoying for someone to brush it aside and just assume you’re so much luckier than them in that way.”

 

Boys are not always messy and loud. Girls are not always obsessed with their appearance. And Asians are not always either lazy geniuses or study-addicts. We are not clones of each other, we are humans.

 

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