Have you ever felt the need to hide the things you enjoy because others think they’re “weird?” When I was in middle and high school, I constantly felt like I had to keep my interests a secret. While my generation was into R&B music and sexy teen dramas, I preferred listening to K-pop and watching anime. While my classmates were learning Spanish and French, what I really wanted to learn was Japanese. 

I remember the time I wore a BTS sweatshirt to school. They were my favorite K-pop boy band. My “friend” pointed at my sweatshirt in the hallway, laughed, and mockingly said, “Nice shirt.” Later that day, one of my classmates purposely mispronounced the member’s name on the back of my sweatshirt and asked, “What’s a ‘Jimin?’” 

It’s sad that things that are so normalized in other countries are considered weird in America – a country full of so many diverse cultures and ethnicities. K-pop has become incredibly popular, and groups — BTS, as an example — have significant fanbases in many countries outside of Korea (and outside of Asia). Similarly, it’s not uncommon to find anime fans outside of Japan. So why do kids get made fun of for liking them in our country?

The answer is simple — our country is deeply rooted in racism. People thought my desire to learn Japanese was weird and that watching shows in languages other than English “wasn’t normal.” I used to buy t-shirts printed with my favorite anime characters but was too afraid to wear them to school because I was afraid of getting made fun of. When I wore that BTS sweatshirt, I instantly regretted it and hardly wore it to school after that. 

The fact of the matter is this: liking shows or music — or anything for that matter — from another country shouldn’t automatically be perceived negatively. It’s not weird to appreciate aspects of other countries’ cultures. I used to hide my interests and never bring them up in a conversation. But now, I’m open about the things I enjoy. I wear my favorite anime t-shirts and K-pop sweatshirts. I blast my favorite K-pop and J-rock songs. I’m open about the fact that I’m learning Japanese and working hard to improve my skills when I can. 

We need to put an end to the racists who make fun of kids for liking non-American shows, music, and aspects of other cultures. Half of the time, those people don’t know anything about the stuff they make fun of. I bet that if any of the kids who made fun of me in middle and high school had given anime a try, they would’ve really enjoyed it. 

So let’s make it a goal in 2023 to stop making fun of other people’s interests, and to stop teaching kids that cultures outside their own are “foreign” and “weird.” For a country as diverse as ours, it’s time we start embracing the different cultures that make America what it is.

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