She was saying, “You know, when instructors assume I’m from some Asian country besides Laos, I feel kind of embarrassed because I’m first of all put out in front of the class for a kind of display. Because while all this is going on between me and the instructor, the class is there watching. In these situations, whatever the instructor is saying just kind of goes through my mind, just goes through my ears and out the other side because I’m still thinking about the situation and so that interferes a lot with my paying attention in class. When I got home, I started . . . I felt belittled because I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. I felt powerless and started to get depressed because, you know, I have to go back into that class the very next day. I live at home with my family, and they don’t really understand college, so I can’t really talk to them about this.”
Lilly turned to Maicee and said, “Well, it’s important that you feel comfortable enough to bring it up with us.”
Maicee said, “Thanks. And when I went back, the professor put us in small groups, and I had a chance to be more verbal like I am in this smaller group, and he came by the group and commented that I spoke English very well. I should, you know, because I’ve lived here almost fifteen years, and I told him that politely. He said, ‘Oh, then, you don’t probably speak any Chinese.’ So I had to tell him a second time, ‘I’m not Chinese.’”
Todd looked around the room. He knew that he was supposed be interested in people from different cultures, but he just couldn’t figure what the big deal was. What did it matter if his ancestors were German or Polish or Scandinavian? Who cared? He couldn’t help thinking that Maicee was whining. Why couldn’t she have just gone up to the guy after the first class and said to him, “Look, I’m Hmong from Laos; I’m not Chinese. This is real important to me.” “Why should I have to spend time on a problem that has such an easy solution?” he thought to himself.