By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City
I am a six-year-old woman in the US. I chose to make New York my second home in 2007 when my husband was murdered by a lone paramilitary gunman. I applied for political asylum in February 2008 and was approved in April of the same year. I finally had my Green Card in 2009.
Like everyone in the US, I have been stereotyped as an Asian woman. Many white Americans would vocally tell me how good my English is, and they sound so surprised!
In most cases too, people would ask me if I was a nurse or a teacher when they realize I am a Filipina. I would reply, I am the odd ball in the family. Most of my girl cousins, my sister-in-law, and my only sister are nurses. The stereotyping just amazes me. On these counts, it has not offended me.
My first brush of a negative experience as a woman of color was when a suitor, a black professor told me that I need him because I am a woman and an Asian, so it would be hard for me to succeed in the US. I said, oh really? And that was the last time he heard of me. I laughed at the situation, though. I thought he was a pathetic suitor.
When people define me by stereotypes, I don’t get offended. Their stereotypes do not define my character. In fact, they bolster my individuality (read: defining a person by what she is not).
It is fun for me to appreciate the strengths of my Philippine culture (predominantly hardworking, fun-loving, and faithful) and how I personify these, in this western part of the world.
I observed that here in the US, being a woman of color will dissipate once you begin to speak and act in the way of confidence and sincerity.
Color is just an illusion and an impression.
Who you really are is beyond the epidermis.
(My thoughts on Being a Woman of Color in the US, an essay homework at the AF3IRM Summer School of Activism http://af3irm.org/ )