I Don't Want To Be The Token Angry Asian Person — But I Really Am Very Angry

by Virginia Duan
Originally Published: 
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I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, I think I get hired as a writer because I can very effectively channel an angry Asian American woman persona. An insidious voice slides into the back of my mind, seductive in its pernicious lies. I start to wonder if I’m these publications’ token Asian person, conveniently checking off a few diversity boxes. What a lovely bonus I am for not being even a little bit submissive, quiet, or timid.

And honestly, part of me is delighted at the prospect of getting paid to be a shit starter. Though I do not appreciate the threats to my and my family’s safety, I would be lying if I said I was displeased by causing no small outrage to fragile white men on the internet.

If these toxic humans want me to live rent-free in their heads, mocking their frangibility, who am I to argue? They made their choices, and I’ve made mine.

Here’s the thing: despite what some may believe, I’m not what folks would describe as an angry person — and I don’t want to be.

I don’t want to be mad all the time. I find anger to be useful, but ultimately, I prefer the pursuit of joy (and spreading the way, the truth, and life of K-pop band BTS).

Except — and ain’t that some shit — I really am very angry.

I mean, there’s just so much feculence produced — especially from white people. Like, stop working so hard for white supremacy, my mediocre humans.

From the blatantly uncreative Kate LaGere, Annie O’Grady, and Bianca Watson appropriating and commodifying mahjong while insulting and degrading Chinese culture with the laughably ugly gibberish these exploiters tried to pass off as the cultural “refresh” no one asked for, to the white dude on TikTok with the now inactivated username “citizenattorney1” telling white men to get themselves an Asian woman from actual Asia because Asian American women are mean, to escalating anti-Asian hate crimes in the wake of COVID-19, there’s a lot to be mad about as an Asian American.

I am livid that white supremacists committed acts of white supremacy and traitorous sedition with impunity and support from the actual President of the United States.


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I am exasperated that white supremacy infiltrates every aspect of my life — that white women especially have wrought havoc in multiple groups I belong to, but the mental, physical, and emotional toll is paid by women of color.

We are the pariahs, blamed for causing drama when pointing out the inherent white supremacy bolstering the entitlement that allows these white women to take and steal and gaslight us. We are the ones left fielding heart palpitation inducing DMs — many from people of our own race and ethnicity — accusing us of anti-whiteness, of creating spaces where white folks are unwelcome, of being unfair and unnecessarily racial.

How can a reasonable person — of Asian descent or not — not be angry?

And then, on top of the asshattery of white folks, I’m angry that though Asian Americans are perpetually foreign and exoticized, too many of us are complicit in being used as a wedge to justify anti-Blackness. I’m furious that Asian Americans will get outraged at anti-Asian racism (and rightfully so), but then go noticeably silent in the face of anti-Black racism. I’m disgusted that 31% of Asian Americans voted for Trump in 2020 — up from the 18% in 2016. I’m despondent that so many Asian Americans would rather sidle up next to and embrace white adjacency than to fight for true justice and equality.

I am so very, very angry because the only appropriate response in such a world is anger. But even my anger is used against me. It is co-opted and twisted.

“They only hired you because you’re a lightning rod for controversy,” my fears insinuate. “If you stop being angry, they won’t have any use for you.”

And though I guess I’m grateful the stereotype of Asian American women is the opposite of angry, I resent that even in expressing my dissent, the tentacles of white supremacy distort and warp who I am in service of itself.

This is what lack of representation does to people — why women and people of color feel a disproportionate amount of imposter syndrome. Why among its many evils, racism robs us of the fullness of our humanity.

It doesn’t matter how many people tell me they love my work. It doesn’t matter when women email me, thanking me for helping them feel less alone. It doesn’t matter how my friends generally associate me with radical honesty, hot Asian men, and my inability to determine if today was Tuesday or Wednesday. (No, there are no other days.)

We are reduced — I am reduced — to a caricature.

But I am more than any one aspect. I will continue to rage and pursue joy because they are not mutually exclusive and to do otherwise is to admit defeat. I refuse to be flattened, to be squeezed into some predetermined box.

I contain multitudes. I exist, and in my existence is my resistance.

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