5 signs you are a banana

Have you ever been called a banana? This term may seem derogatory at first, and in certain cases it surely is, but it also helps cover with humour a reality for the Asian diaspora: the fact that we are yellow outside and white inside. I am a so-called “banana”, I was born and raised in France, my parents emigrated from Hong-Kong and Indonesia. I went to a public school in France and grew up identifying myself with being French, speaking only French and absorbing French education and culture. Inside, I’m French, but outside, I still look Asian. If this sounds familiar, here are five signs that you are a banana too.

1. Your parents or grandparents immigrated from Asia and you were born and raised in the West. It could be Europe, America, Australia, anywhere in the wild white West, where your parents or grandparents moved in search of a better life. For some, they had no choice and were fleeing a war, and were sent to whichever country would welcome refugees at that time. For others, they left to study abroad, or join some family members already established overseas and work in their business. So your family comes from a distant Asian country, and you are just trying to fit in where you are.

2. When people see you, they would ask you where you are from. Give them one minute, sometimes ten, but you know you will get the question. Whether you never left the only city you may know and you were born in, or you are travelling in an exotic country, people are curious. Your face doesn’t quite match the place you are, so they need to trace your cultural and ethnic heritage. It feels like having to carry along a certificate of origins, having to justify why your face looks the way it does or your accent sounds like that. As if people you met were always thinking: “show me where you are from, so I can understand what’s different about you.”

3. When you go back to Asia to your “country of origin” so to speak, you sound and look funny. Your relatives make fun of you and don’t understand why you don't speak Mandarin or Vietnamese (or any other languages your family speaks) properly. Have your parents not taught you? Maybe they did, but for you, it felt like a foreign language and you had not many opportunities to practise it. So yes, you are accented, you know only basic language, and some of the expressions you use are not even relevant, because your parents left decades ago, and people don’t speak like that anymore in their country.

4. You absorbed your Western culture and education, you are assimilated as an American/ Canadian/ French/ Australian...but in Asia, people would challenge you and think you are an impostor. In fact, you can understand both sides, both cultures. You know the codes of both worlds, your parents passed you some of their Chinese/Vietnamese/ Filipino/ Korean/ Thai (...) values. Even if you don’t speak an Asian language perfectly, the culture, food, history are not totally foreign to you. You can navigate your way in and out, from the West to the East, and vice versa.

5. You are a chameleon, a citizen of the world. You feel you belong nowhere 100%, and at the same time, that means you belong everywhere. You are a bridge between two worlds, you are multicultural, multilingual, multi-skilled. In Asia, locals would intuitively trust you more than they do a Westerner. In the West, you open their minds to your Asian heritage, culture and experience.

And that’s where I’m coming to, my friend: if you are a banana, you are powerful. You have the power to reach beyond borders and bring meaningful connections between worlds that are tearing apart and people who don’t always understand each other. You have the power to bring peace. Use it, now.

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