Jade is a social entrepreneur and current CEO at X8 media, an influencer marketing agency that works with tech platforms and civic movements. She also founded an incubator program CRE8, an organization that recruits and mentors early staged creators to generate jobs and stimulate entrepreneurship. With over 500k+ fans and followers, her personal brand focuses on social media growth and motivation. Her content exceeds 15 Million views via YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. She started the millennial entrepreneurship podcast The Raisn Brand in December 2017. Then received the "Creator on The Rise" feature on YouTube Trending Worldwide. Her beliefs include, human centered influence and wealth distribution in the creator economy (the 20% solution).
We’ve all stumbled upon the same question. When we fill out an application or take a test, it always seems to follow us. The question being, to select your race from a list of choices. When I was five years old, my Middle Eastern self never knew how to answer this question. 12 years later, I still struggle with the same question, and that shouldn’t be the case anymore.
For context, surveys and other types of forms will often ask for your race in order to create statistics. This data is used for research, particularly towards civil rights. However, only five races are officially recognized by the U.S government:
-Black or African American
-Native Americans and Alaska Native
-Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
As a child, this list used to haunt me. I would sit in my chair, staring at this list while my other classmates were already on the second page. It would take a while before I could muster the courage to ask an adult, who would always give me one of two choices. Some adults told me that I need to choose Asian American because that’s where Afghanistan is. However, that didn’t feel right. Others would say I needed to choose white because that’s technically what Middle Easterns are. That really didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like my White classmates. I also didn’t feel like the few Asian kids who were in my class either. And so I’ve grown to settle for the “Other” category.
But I’m 17 now, and I’m sick and tired of being an Other, of being a question mark. I know what I am. I’m Muslim, I’m brown, I’m Middle Eastern. I’m not White, or Asian, or even an Other. There are millions of Americans who identify as Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian, etc. And of those people, a large portion identifies as followers of Islam, which is expected to become the second leading religion in the U.S by 2040. Clearly, we are not going anywhere.
There are two arguments I often hear about this situation. They are the same two arguments adults used to tell me as a child. The first is that Middle Easterns belong in the Asian category. The second is that they belong in the White category. Well, if the fact that there even is an argument about where we belong doesn’t prove that it’s time we have our own category, allow me to break it down further.
Imagine putting an East Asian in a room with a South Asian, and asking them to talk about Asian culture. Do you think they’re going to have a lot to talk about? Exactly. The term “Asian” is too broad to classify an entire group of people. Especially since the world seems to have one vision of what “Asian” means. In all my years, I can’t think of one time I’ve ever told someone I’m Asian. For some reason, most people only think of East Asia when they hear “Asian.” East Asia and South Asia are almost nothing alike. Not only is the culture dramatically different, but so are the experiences. All Asians have likely faced hardships for their ethnicity; however, those hardships look different depending on where exactly you’re from. There’s different stereotypes, prejudice, jokes, etc., that target East Asians and South Asians. For example, ever since the spread of COVID-19, anti-Asian violence has soared. How much of that violence do you think was targeted towards South Asians? The answer is none. And the reason for that is because society doesn’t think of South Asians and East Asians as the same group of people. So why does our government?
The next argument I’m going to tackle is the idea that Middle Easterners are White. It deeply saddens me that I even have to explain why this is a completely inappropriate belief. Middle Easterns are minorities. We constantly face racism and mistreatment, and having to self-identify as White completely disregards all of that. When I was a kid, I was made fun of for the traditional food I brought to school, for the way my mom spoke English, for my traditional clothes. And you know who was on the other hand of that teasing? White kids. Every time I can remember being mocked for my culture, it has always been by a White person. That is how I know I am not White. I even knew it when I was a five-year-old girl asking my teacher which box to check. Even then, I knew that “White” was a box I did not belong in. Making Middle Easterns identify themselves as White is a huge slap in the face to every single one of us. To force us to identify ourselves as a race, who does not face discrimination, is the same as telling us our stories aren’t valid.
Acknowledgment is one of the simplest acts of kindness. It’s hard to feel one with a country that doesn’t acknowledge you. To constantly be put into a category that doesn’t feel right. It makes you feel like an outsider. And after years of answering the same question, checking the same box, you start to get used to it. But that doesn’t mean everyone should get used to it either. I’m willing to start a conversation so that another confused five-year-old never has to feel forgotten again. The real question is, are you?
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!
We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.