“Only Half Asian”


Image Courtesy of Nuchaba Scholte

Nuchaba Scholte, Staff Profile

Blonde hair and blue eyes, in a Lily Pulitzer dress, eating a PB&J sandwich in the school cafeteria on the first day of kindergarten. My name is Nuchaba Scholte,  I’ve lived in Mendham, New Jersey for most of my life, and that was NOT me growing up. But that was what I wished for when I blew out the candles celebrating my sixth birthday. Mendham Borough is a predominantly white town; I am half Thai and half Dutch, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was different from other kids. As early as first grade, I watched kids stretch their eyes, imitating me. By second grade, the girl I called my best friend threw out my lunch box that had been packed with fried rice by my mother that morning. I begged my mom for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and goldfish. In the third grade, I was teased each time I did well academically, to the point where I acted dumb to avoid contributing to the Asian stereotype. By fourth grade, I refused to speak any Thai yet willingly attended Dutch school. By the time I left elementary school, my barely 4-foot self was filled with miles of frustration explaining that I was NOT Chinese and that I was Thai, and only HALF Thai, so it hardly counted anyway. I religiously followed “stretches to grow taller,” on Youtube in hopes to appear less Asian. I refused to eat rice or any Asian food. I refused my own mother. I refused my Asian culture. 

    I entered middle school with a twist in my stomach during attendance, dreading the usual intrigue of my name, annoyed my parents didn’t name me “Kate,” “Sarah,” or “Ava” – any typical white girl name would do. “Call me Nuch. It’s short for Nuchaba. Nuch” I would repeat, embarrassed and annoyed, always. Then, one day I learned that at the age of eighteen I would have to give up one of my four passports: American, British, Dutch, and Thai. My strong-willed brother was disappointed by the fact that he would have to give up some of his nationality. I, on the other hand, beamed, excited to finally have the opportunity to officially escape my Asian heritage. 

     There wasn’t a certain turning point I can identify, but as I grew, I became more confident in myself despite my mixed race. I was lucky to have strong support from friends. I became comfortable. I still came across the occasional, “Where are you really from?,” and “Do you eat dog?” comments, but, after a while, I realized that I didn’t care what other people thought of me and that I was a kind, hardworking, and funny person, and that’s all that mattered. I went to a few parties, joined a handful of clubs, created pieces of art, found several passions, and loved my friends and family (even the Asian ones!)

      But today, March 2021, the fear, the anger, the urge to dye my hair blonde, change my name, and beg for a PB&J all came rushing back. The evening after that the heart-wrenching Atlanta news aired, I walked through Trader Joe’s “half-blind”, leaving my glasses in the car because my mother said they make me “appear more Asian.” I realized that as good as Trader Joe’s snacks are, it is a scary place. The world is a scary place. It’s not the same comfortable bubble that Mendham is, and Asian people livein the real world in fear for their lives. My mom is angrier than I have ever seen her in my 16 years of life. My brother is more frustrated than I’ve ever seen him. I am more scared than I’ve ever seen myself. And it’s unfair. I should be able to wear my glasses out in Trader Joe’s to navigate the aisles. I should tell people my name without hesitation. I should be able to wear my pin-straight dark hair with confidence. I should be able to stand tall, despite being slim of five feet. I shouldn’t be scared to be Asian.


This piece was originally posted to Instagram via Nuchaba Scholte.