"It Shouldn't Come Out Of Anyone's Mouth": AAPI Folks Are Revealing The Outrageous Microaggressions They've Experienced IRL, And I'm Seething

Note: This post contains mentions of sexual harassment.

As a Filipina who grew up in a predominantly white suburban city, I've sadly experienced my fair share of microaggressions. One time, someone said to me, "You're too brown to be Asian." *Eye roll*

According to Kevin Nadal, a psychology professor at John Jay College, microaggressions are "the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups." And unfortunately, many other Asian American Pacific Islanders — and other POC — have faced them. So, I asked AAPI folks of the BuzzFeed Community to share the microaggressions they've faced either in the workplace or school. Here are some stories that will have you shaking your head in disdain:

1."I go to an Ivy League school. Our curriculum focuses on inclusivity for the patients, but in reality, my white professors mispronounce my name in front of my classmates and patients despite having worked with me for four months. I've corrected them on how to say my name five times. This is not okay."

Woman in scrubs appears stressed with hand on forehead, colleagues in background


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2."I worked at a popular retail store during my first year of college. While talking to one of our managers, I casually mentioned that my mom was from Manila. Later that day, I was dropping something off in the back office when I saw a note saying I was Filipino. The next day, a manager incredulously asked me, 'Why didn't you tell us you're Filipino? We need more diversity points for our store!' I didn't work there for much longer."


3."I'm Chinese American, and though all of my cousins and I are American citizens, we've all been asked at least once in our lives whether we speak English or not."

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4."When I was in ninth grade, my white English teacher got on the topic of religion while we were discussing a book. As she discussed the different religions, she then turned to me and said, 'Well, we should ask the expert here about Buddhism!' I was very introverted and disliked any type of public speaking, so I just whispered, 'I'm not Buddhist.' Yeah, she thought that just because I'm Asian meant I'm automatically Buddhist. I didn't grow up religious at all."


5."I'm Japanese, but because I grew up in Hawaii, people assume I'm Hawaiian. One time, at a conference, someone told me that my English was 'really good.' If I were more quick-witted, I would have said, 'Yours too.'"

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6."Not me, but my dad. When my dad used to work in Glasgow, he said an older British woman there would always give him and his Indian coworkers food and snacks. At first, he thought nothing of it, but then he asked her why she gave them food daily. Apparently, she thought that since my dad and his friends were from India, they were always starving and didn't get any food."


7."I'm Samoan, and during lunch hour at my company, a couple of coworkers and I were talking about our kids graduating. One of my coworkers said, 'You should teach us all how to make that rooster-sounding sound you guys make.' He was talking about fa'aumu, also known as 'chee hoo.' I was disgusted."

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8."I was helping this older gentleman with shipping at my old job. He mentioned that he'd worked at the company years ago and was glad nothing had changed. He then mentioned how he used to ship a lot of this one specific item to Japan because 'the Orientals really loved it.' I was taken aback that someone would still use such an outdated term, especially as a white person speaking to a POC."


9."My experience has been pretty much outright sexual harassment. I'm Hawaiian, so when (most) men found out, there were comments about my 'thick thighs' and what my 'hula hips' could do. One fella blatantly said DURING A SHIFT that he 'fantasized about my big lips' doing you-know-what. I got that jackass fired, but this behavior went on for years. Why people think it's okay to sexualize and fetishize us is vomit-inducing, truly disgusting, and not okay at all. Stop it."

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10.People will ask, 'Where are you from?' When I say I'm from America, they'll say, 'No, where are you REALLY from?'"


11."I'm a Japanese American who was born in the United States. (My parents immigrated to the US in the early '80s.) My parents have done their absolute best to incorporate Japanese culture into my life, and I'm happy they did. Throughout my life, I've had my fair share of stereotyping and generalizations, but one that really affected me was the 'all Asians are good at math' stereotype. Growing up, kids in my class would always come to me for math answers, even though I sucked at ALL types of math. Whatever the teacher taught would never stick, but kids would still come to me for help and then get annoyed when I didn't know the answer. After a while, kids stopped talking to me, and I was lonely and miserably failing in school."

Person at a desk using a calculator with papers and a laptop nearby

12."I’m Samoan, and people always get it wrong when they try to guess my ethnicity (which is fine! I don’t expect people to know by looking at me). But many times, once I’ve shared my background, they’ve responded, 'You can’t be Samoan! You’re too skinny.' Obviously, that’s not something that should ever come out of anyone’s mouth."


13."I'm Chinese and was born and raised in Canada. I was telling a coworker my son was struggling in his final year of high school. I was concerned he wouldn't graduate due to this lack of effort, indifference, and delinquent behavior in his final term. She said, 'Oh, that's right. You Asians have a thing about your children getting good grades in school.' I was rather offended."

Woman in a hijab gesturing during a business presentation with sticky notes on wall behind her


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14."I am Pacific Islander and Asian. For several years, I had an office in a small, liberal, and affluent town in Northern California. A food truck serving Chinese food began to base itself in the area a couple of days a week. EVERYONE asked me or the one other Japanese woman if the food was good. After being asked the same thing so many times, I started saying, 'Are you asking because I'm the only Asian you know? You know, benign racism is racism nonetheless. It made me giggle, seeing everyone get flustered. The food was bad, by the way."

Person dining at a table with various dim sum dishes and tea, indicating a business meal or networking event
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15."I worked with a character designer who was tasked to design some background characters of different races for diversity. He's an older gentleman. Well, his drawings for the Asian characters had those extremely slanted eyes that are in a lot of old racist art of the past. Everyone on the Zoom call where he was presenting the designs were East Asian — all with different eye shapes and none 'slanty.' We weren't mad, but it was just awkward. I don't think he did it intentionally, but he should have been more observant for being such a high-level and experienced designer."


16.Lastly: "I'm Indian American and was born in the US. I'm also a trained vocalist (classical music) and have been since before I entered school as a kid. One of the most painful experiences growing up was people seeing my pursuit of vocal performance and acting as abnormal for 'people like me.' I'd often get cast in stereotypical roles or not at all. I think the greatest offense was when I auditioned for the lead of Lakme, a French opera set in India with an Indian woman as the lead. (Granted, opera is a very old medium, so racist tropes are unfortunately a given.) They didn't cast me. Instead, they cast a white woman and made her do brown face."

Woman appears stressed, resting her head in her hands, sitting by a table with paperwork

—Anonymous, 25, Texas

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If you're Polynesian, Micronesian, East, Southeast, South, Western, or Central Asian and have a story about a microaggression you've faced in the workplace or at school, share it with us in the comments or anonymously submit it using this form.