The town I grew up in has a population of about 2,000. It’s filled with people who’s parents grew up here who’s parents grew up here. My great-grandparents have a road named after them since that is where they built their home. If I were to walk in to the local mom and pop restaurant and mention my grandpa’s name, half the patrons would know who he was and everything about him. It’s safe to say that everybody knows everybody in this town.
When it comes to diversity, well, there’s really no such thing. We have a few African Americans and a couple Asians in the area, but we are really few and far between. That’s where “The Small Town Asian Game” comes in. Whenever two Asians see each other in a small town, we instantly know something about each other without exchanging a word: Are you from a small town, too?
Here’s how the game is played.
1) Be Asian.
2) Spot another Asian in your small town that you’ve never seen before.
3) Stare down said Asian until you make eye contact. You may permit yourself to do a once-over if you are crossing paths.
4a) If other Asian does not make eye contact, then he is not from a small town.
4b) If other Asian stares you down equally and sizes you up as if to say, “I don’t know you. Where did you come from?” then he is a member of the small-town-and-Asian ranks.
While this may seem a bit silly to someone who is not in the >1% minority, it is a very real thing. Even when we have close friends and family, it is sometimes difficult connect to that level of belonging. No, they don’t treat us differently or leave us out. It’s just that the people who are closest to us forget that we look Asian, but the rest of the community doesn’t. Seeing another person who “looks like me” is a rare treat and reminds me that I’m not alone. It’s in that brief moment when our eyes meet that I feel a deeper sense of belonging.