Being Asian and Driving…
[Image] A man in a car, driving with a focused expression.
Man: “Must drive perfectly. Must drive perfectly. Must not perpetuate stereotype.”
[Caption] As an Asian driving in this country, this is how I feel:
Be perfect (crossed out) invisible (underlined) or be stereotyped.
This isn’t so much a story, but a mentality. It’s an account of how I, like many others, have to be aware of racist stereotypes in our everyday lives. It’s a minor example, but it’s a small instance of how racist attitudes silently affect me.
As an Asian, I know that there is a stereotype about our ability to drive. It’s a very insulting, yet persistent stereotype. I can’t count the number of times that I have seen this stereotype voiced by those around me. I’ll be a passenger in a car, and then the driver gets frustrated at another driver, and looks over to the other car and sees an Asian. Then suddenly the driver says “Damn Asian drivers!”
Then they suddenly remember that I’m also Asian, and say “oh, sorry, no offense, but you know.”
And I honestly “don’t know.” And I honestly do take offense. What I DO know is that there is a racist stereotype about Asian driving, and I have NO idea where that stereotype comes from. I have lots of Asian friends and family who are fantastic drivers. But besides that, the stereotype can’t possibly be true, and here’s why: ASIANS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.
What are these people saying anyway? Is it Asian biology that causes bad driving? Is it Asian culture? Is it Asian food? No option sounds reasonable if you take even one second to think about it.
But the stereotype exists, and it’s always there when a driver looks over to check who is driving the other car.
The consequence of this (other than the blatant racist remarks I hear as a passenger), is that it’s constantly in the back of my mind when I drive. I feel that I need to drive as perfectly as possible, and to be as invisible as possible as a driver. If I do anything that resembles a mistake, I know that when other drivers see me, the stereotype is perpetuated. It feels like everyone around you knows some horrible, untrue rumor about yourself, and when they see you they groan.
I’ve mentioned this to some people, and the racist ones always say “well, don’t worry about what other people think” or “it makes you drive well, who cares” or “how do you know that’s what the other driver is thinking?”
Or how about everyone stops being racist? Because can you honestly say you’ve never, ever, looked over at an Asian driver and thought those racist thoughts?
On a related note, incidentally I was watching some old youtube videos, and came across this clip. The video topic isn’t about racism or anything, but it was “nice” to know that Asians on the other coast also seem to feel this way (if you press play it will skip to relevant part):