I went to play tennis yesterday, and the guy I was playing with managed to make fun of both me and Asian-American culture at the same time. As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve gotten a bit out of shape, more out of shape than I’m comfortable with, so in between games, I was running lines. For those not familiar with the exercise, what’s involved is that the player starts off on the far side of the court touching the outside line, runs, bends over and touches the next line, and runs the distance of the whole court that way. Since two courts were available, I ran two sets of lines at a tennis club called Tanglewood while an Asian family played tennis on some other other courts that were closer to the swimming pool. The kid playing was good. His serve was especially good. He served with deadly accuracy.

“Whatta happen? Why you try so hard?” My friend mock joked, teasing me being winded, out of shape, and for trying to be extra diligent about getting back in shape.

There are many cultural stereotypes out there, and one of the most persistent is that Asian-Americans simply work harder than the rest of us, that they’re more dedicated, better pianists, better students, harder workers. Why should this be a problem?

I think this becomes a problem because there’s a subtle pressure in our culture not to stick out, a pressure to blend in, and fit in, even if that means being average in each and every way. There are repercussions for more than just Asians. It means that others among us, including the dominant Caucasian culture, are taught that it’s not okay to be a high achiever, and to me, that’s not okay.

In the meantime, we need to be just a little more careful with what we carelessly say.