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Fish Lens is where we magnify issues and put them up for discussion. Basically op-eds, but with a fancy name.
Another day, another trend that makes you go: “What!?”
You’ve seen the Snow app that turns you into the K-drama version of yourself, but some people on the internet are actually trying to turn themselves into another race.
The acronym “RCTA” (race change to another) or “ECTA” (ethnicity change to another) refers to the concept of transitioning from one race to another.
With the popularity of Asian media such as anime, K-pop and K-dramas, many in the RCTA community are looking to turn themselves into East Asians.
One popular RCTA Discord server even has member introductions indicating where they are from and the race they hope to transition to:
If you’re thinking: “Wait a minute, doesn’t this sound really familiar?”, you’re right.
Remember Oli London, the British internet personality who went through multiple plastic surgeries to look like South Korean boyband BTS’ member Park Jimin and identified as a “transracial” Korean for a while?
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In the case of the RCTA community, however, the “transition” doesn’t take place through surgery or filters, but through manifestation and what is known as “subliminals”.
Simply put, “subliminals” are words of affirmation or messages that are hidden under music, and are believed to be able to bypass one’s consciousness to ingrain themselves in the subconscious as fact.
Here’s one that will apparently give you “Korean eyes”:
Users also offer each other help of varying… helpfulness to get the look they desire:
The slant-eyed gesture recommended is widely considered to be a racist imitation of people of Asian descent.
In 2020, creators came under fire for the “fox-eye” beauty trend, which used makeup to create the illusion of slanted, elongated eyes.
The trend led to accusations of cultural appropriation, with some even criticising the “migraine pose” that often came along with it as reminiscent of the mocking slant-eyed gesture.
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Criticism on TikTok
On TikTok, users have deemed those who partake in RCTA “racist and ignorant”, and accused them of fetishising Asians.
One common criticism of those looking to “race-transition” is that they have a limited understanding of the struggles and experiences of the Asian community.
This is especially so in countries where Asians are the minority and have been victims of hate crime or other discriminatory practices.
Other creators have taken to mocking RCTA-identifying people, purportedly to make a point about how farfetched the idea of transitioning to another race is.
In a video tagged #satire, TikTok user sillylittle_e5 claims to be transitioning from Chinese to American as she identifies more with “white culture and the American core aesthetic”.
“I really love the hamburgers here… I love white people,” she continues.
Evolving beauty standards
The rising prominence of Asians in media in recent years has no doubt contributed to the trend of RCTA-identifying people wishing to become Asian.
Growing up, I don’t recall seeing many people who looked like me, or having my culture celebrated on TV or in movies.
And as a young Asian girl growing up in the the 90s and early 2000s, I distinctly remember wishing I had straight blonde hair, a high sharp nose, thinner lips, a golden tan and light-coloured eyes.
Admittedly, I also thought that I would grow up to hang out in a cafe all day with my five friends, seemingly free of adult responsibilities.
While I never dabbled in subliminals, my hair did fall victim to numerous bad bleach jobs, and I’ve possibly put myself at risk of skin cancer with all the time I spent in the sun trying to get Rachel Green’s tan.
And yes, I also invested in one of those nose clips to create a higher nose bridge.
It didn’t work.
Never did I think I’d see the day that my flat nose and dark-coloured eyes would be embraced, or even desired.
Am I… guilty of RCTA behaviour too?
While writing this, I found myself wondering if all my attempts to look like what I thought was the ideal standard of beauty growing up were just another form of RCTA.
But it turns out that my experience isn’t actually that uncommon.
TikTok user Lu 璐 explains that growing up in a society which was predominantly white and had euro-centric standards of beauty made them want to be white as a way to fit in.
And while I grew up around people who looked like me and shared a similar culture, the media that we were exposed to at that time made us aspire toward having more Caucasian-like features.
We didn’t necessarily want to become white, but we certainly desired the typically-white features that were seen as “beautiful”.
This, according to Lu, is a different scenario from RCTA-identifying people who want to become East Asian because of fetishisation.
“I’m sure many immigrant kids and POCs (people of colour) can agree with me when I say we had to learn to love ourselves, our race, our ethnicity, our appearance. If you grow up white, say, in America, that’s not something you have to do,” the TikTok user added.
Top image via lu2quared/TikTok and yimengling/Instagram.
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