Are Asians all techies or can I just be myself?Back when I was in high school, at a boarding school in Massachusetts, I was a victim of discrimination. There was one thing that the American students there always asked me to do, and only because I was Korean. They rarely asked anyone else to do this ― only me, and only because of the way I looked.
When something went wrong with the TV in the lounge of our dormitory, the American students, all older and bigger than me, always summoned me to fix it.
Was I qualified to fix TVs? No. I wasn’t a technician or anything. And I didn’t know anything about electronics.
I was told by my classmates that, because I was Korean, I had to know how to fix televisions. To them, Korea was the land of the gadgets.
I remember one fall when our TV was acting up, and the World Series were coming up. “Come on, Brian, we’re going to miss the pregame show,” said Bruce, a big, brawny football player. “It’s do or die time.”
Never mind that our TV wasn’t even made in Korea. It was a JVC, from Japan. But for Bruce and the rest of the brutes, I was Asian so I could fix it.
In those situations I had a choice: get roughed up or try to fix the TV. Naturally, I would go back behind the set and start jiggling wires. I would fiddle with the antenna or unplug and replug the cables. Sometimes it fixed the problems, sometimes it didn’t. When it did I was the hero. When it didn’t I was the goat.
Actually Bruce wasn’t so bad. When I couldn’t fix the problem he would ask, “Should we call a techie?” I would put on a serious face and say, “Let me try again, there seems to be some kind of problem with the circuit reverse load defibrillator.”
Usually the TV would come around and start to behave. It just needed a few more wires jiggled. Bruce and the rest of the football players would be impressed. I never told them that I wasn’t really doing anything back behind the TV, and that anyone could have fixed those problems.
Looking back, though, I realize that I should be ashamed of myself. I wasn’t only victimized by a stereotype ― I perpetuated it.
Mark Twain said that once a man has earned a reputation as an early riser he can wake up at noon.
But maybe he was wrong. Once I was stuck with the Asian fix-it stereotype, I had to keep fixing that stupid TV.
by Brian Lee