How the Rules of Racism Are Different For Asian Americans

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About Matthew Salesses

Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea at age two and lives in Boston with his wife, baby, and cats. He has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, NPR, Hyphen, The Rumpus, and other venues. His new book is I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying. See more at his eponymous website. Contact him via email or @salesses.


  1. ogwriter says:

    …of course the rules of racism are different for Asians Americans, but it’s the same game played on the same field as every other group affected by racism.

  2. Alice Zindagi says:

    I will never know what it’s like to be Asian, but having grown up in a heavily Asian community, I’ve seen the impact of a lot of the racism first hand. It’s horrifying, some of it. The sad fact remains that over fifty percent of Asian children are the targets of these racist bullies:

    You’d never run around spouting off about “nig***” this or “wetback” that, but a lot of people wouldn’t even blink twice about calling someone a “chink” and making jokes about martial arts, math whizzes, and tiny penises. I look forward to the day when this is no longer acceptable, perhaps in my children’s future or soon enough that they’d never have to face it in the first place, but these things hurt. A lot. Years of stereotypes and social rejection don’t exactly make for a crop of socially confident Asians.

  3. ogwriter says:

    There is one major problem with this article and that is the lack of context present. When one reads this article one doesn’t consider the amount of racism emanating from the Asian community towards others. But then again this sort of denial is commonplace in this scenario. Unfortunately, this type of slant, Asian’s only exist as victims, doesn’t actually encourage finding real solutions, which would take real reflection

    • This is just one article by a writer who has written much more. What’s more, he is focusing on his personal experience. Is it really fair to expect one writer to write an analysis of all things racist in the Asian experience in a brief article?

  4. I’m not Asian (or white), but I thoroughly, THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading this. Any minority in the United States growing up in a predominately white neighborhood can relate to many of the confusion and internal struggles you’ve experienced. Even though I’m not Asian I was able to feel for your situation. I hope that more people will come across this article.

  5. @Elle_Reezy says:

    This is a great essay, every story of how racism makes some feel should be shared. This is one that I’d find useful in talking with students about how racism is normalized in society and how that affects people’s view of themselves.
    However, I do not see the grand difference in the racism Asian American’s face and racism that other groups encounter in society. I understand that stereotypes about Asian Americans are often “positive pigeonholing”, but the personal sting of and shame the author describes is the exact effect racism has on just about every person that’s felt it.
    Racism, as an institutional tool of oppression, is a renewable resource. The methods of application have not changed since the British occupation of Ireland. Racism makes people feel otherized, and by that I mean inferior, to the norm which is often whiteness. It breeds feelings of shame, inadequacy, and the target has to go through psychological re-discovery of self-worth and value. This is the people who are the would-be victims of racism unite against it. By seeing the common intended effect, not matter how varied the application of racism seems.


  1. [...] How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans Matthew Salesses, a transnational adoptee, reflects upon the moment he realized he was not white, and explores the ways in which racism against Asian Americans is nearly invisible in our culture. Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers St. Photo by Andrea Vocos [...]

  2. [...] “I had grown up constantly wavering between denying and suspecting that my skin color was behind the fights picked with me, the insults, the casual distance kept up even between myself and some of my closest friends. Sometimes—in retrospect: oftentimes—these incidents were obviously rooted in race. I have been called “chink” and “flat face” and “monkey” many many times. And it is the context of these words that make a child grow uncomfortable with who he is, that instill a deep fear in him.” How the Rules of Racism Are Different for Asian Americans – The Good Men Project [...]

  3. [...] “How the Rules of Racism Are Different for Asian Americans” (The Good Men [...]

  4. [...] How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans by Matthew Salesses  [...]

  5. [...] In this past week alone, I have come across several articles that have been eye opening: How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans, Thanksgiving: What’s Is All About, and 5 Things To Know About Blacks and Native Americans. I [...]

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  7. [...] as it is overplayed, and I’ve never once used it, but for the first time I will. Inspired by an article from Matthew Salesses, in which he poignantly and classily gives insight into the Racism of Asian [...]

  8. [...] How The Rules of Racism Are Different for Asian Americans [...]

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  10. […] this day, I always wondered why I never heard racist comments until I was in my mid-twenties. Was it because I only wanted to hear things that were only about […]

  11. […] How the Rules of Racism Are Different For Asian Americans — The Good Men Project. […]

  12. […] the “Raising Asian American Voices” piece of the series, I came across the word, “chink.” Chink is a racial slur used towards Asian Americans. Within a couple days, I read the word in a book and in an article. My senses were heightened and I […]

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