Help me edit this for class!

I consider myself a Vietnamese American woman. On the street, a random passerby would categorize me as an Asian girl. To the savvy person who can differentiate the many different Asian ethnicities, might be able to pin point what "type of Asian" I am. However, they would confuse me as Filipino or Cambodian due to my dark skin. To the sheltered passerby that is not usually around Asian people, they would assume that I am Chinese (since all Asians are automatically Chinese). Overall, people would assume that I am Asian, but do I seem "American"? I was born in San Jose, California in 1986. I grew up and was raised in San Jose, Stockton, and Tracy and regularly visit the bay area since that is where most of my extended family resides.

Although, I am dressed like the usual 20-something on the street, I still get those questions that still follow me throughout my walks of life. "Are you from here? Where were you born? And where are you really from? How about your parents?" I give the benefit of the doubt that this person is not intentionally trying to insult or mock me, but as years gone by, I just wonder when people will just get a clue. Following those questions and after the person has felt that they have just "figured" me out, I am then bombarded with lame questions that forces me into a conversation. "So, you are Filipino? I LOVElumpia (respectively)! O, you are not Filipino? Ahh, you are Vietnamese? Where is the best pho (respectively) restaurant? I LOVE pho!" It is important in our society to categorize people and "figure" them out. By "figuring" out my ethnicity, it allows this stranger to associate generalizations about my particular group of people and latch those stereotypes onto me in order to feel secure. Categorizations also help people feel comfortable because everything just falls into place and become consistent; they then see only what they want or belief they see.

That random person also looks at me as I am a child. Sometimes I feel that a lot of the odds are against me. Here I am a minority standing at 5 feet, barely making 1 inch, feeling tiny (3 inches shorter and I would legally be considered a midget), as the person to my left or right, towers me by at least 4 to 5 inches. One summer when interning at the State Capital in, what one may believe is a diverse and integrated area, Sacramento, I was forced to see reality. Walking around the building or meeting someone for the first time, I cannot help but feel that I am 1 in a million (or at least 1 in a thousand in the State Capital building). The majority of the people who walk in and out of the building are typically well-off Caucasians and dominantly male. When I meet someone new, it feels like they are sizing me up and questioning my ability. Within a minute, without knowing my skills, my background, or my knowledge, this person already questions why I am there.

I look young, most Asians do. I do not know how, but it just happens. You would think more people would catch on to this, but I get questions such as "How old are you?" or "Are you 15? 16?" and after this person realize that they have gravely mistaken, they attempt to save themselves with, "It's good that you look young now, you will age beautifully!" At that moment, the question has already been internalized by both the receiver and contributor. Thank you for your contribution of thoughts, but I feel that you have made assumptions that just limited my possibilities. What are the odds? I am hit with a double standard because I am Asian, a women, and I look young, too.

I did not put the two terms "Vietnamese" and "American" together until I reached college and after I took a lot of Asian American courses to help me with my identity. Throughout kindergarten to high school, I couldn't really define myself or pinpoint what I was. And I would be perplexed with this ongoing inner debate if I was American or Asian or Vietnamese. Now, after careful thought and with the understanding that my identity is fluid, I claim my ethnicity and nationality. I am Vietnamese American and in broader terms, I am Asian American. I am the product of bi-culture, multi-pluralism, and mainstream America. I embrace my identity in college and am still developing it.

I wouldn't say I came from a privileged family. My parents came to the United States in 1984 as political refugees and worked as janitors and cooks until we were able to save enough money to own our own business. After many business attempts, such as Chinese restaurants and hamburger joints, we had a little shop that lasted for about 14 years. It wasn't until the 10ththrough 12th year that we grew prosperous, but that quickly changed once major conglomerate corporations picked up on our growing town, settled in. The store provided people with a variety of things, from toothpaste to furniture, but we couldn't beat the prices that Wal-Mart and Costco offered. We sold the store in 2005 and money has been a struggle for me since. I worked most of my life and have held about 7 to 8 jobs and usually juggling 2 jobs at a time on top of my full-time student schedule. Money stress and working has taken a toll on my college life and studies, but I am just facing the facts of life. I hope all of these struggles would pay off in the future since I am learning a lot about perseverance and with a pinch of stubbornness.

I am heterosexual female and have been in a serious relationship for a little over 5 years. There are plans of marriage in the future but nothing earlier then 2 to 3 years from now. I am very open with sex and my sexuality. I find it easy to talk about sex to my group of girl friends, sometimes strangers or acquaintances, and share my knowledge of it when those who come and seek for it. I have the same respect for one's sexuality as if they are like everyone else; people with a heart. I am comfortable being around people who are homosexual, bisexual, or claim any other sexuality or identity. I feel that there should be more discussions about sexuality and sex. Oppression does take society as step back from progression. I feel that the same-sex marriage laws are discriminatory and greatly hinder the way for equality.

I hope to represent myself and other Asian Americans and Vietnamese Americans in a positive light. I would like to see the clear glass walls of discrimination and stereotypes be shattered to allow a fairer approach for one's upward mobility and growth. I hope to be alive to see Asian Americans represented in mainstream media and popular culture because we account for the American population as well.