Ultimately, Asian Pride, is a personal, intimate feeling reserved for the exclusive members consisting of about half of the world. Really quite exclusive. Cultural pride and significance is not something exclusive to the Asian and multi-ethnic Asian population. As such, then why should anyone other than Asians care about Asian Pride?
In particular, this conversation about pride really concerns more than just Asian Americans, who exist among the innumerous versions of the word (i.e. replace ‘American’ with, let us say, France). And each of these populations is as different from one another in that they are influenced rather strongly by the latter of the combined ethnic tag. So let us state the premise, for now, that we are Americans. Our Asian sub-identity then exists in varying degrees of intensity. For some, it may consist of their entire lifestyle to speech to choice of career even. For others, it is merely an explanation for their physical appearance. This is again, neither new nor exclusive to the Asian American population. There are Jews who cannot recite their Torah portions, Greeks who cannot read their alphabet, Italians who limit their culinary expertise to garlic bread. So what really sets apart Asian Americans from Greek Americans, Italian Americans, Polish Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, etc.? Why do we have such a hard time, simply fitting in?
For one, we are slightly less fortunate than most ethnicities (save for African Americans, Middle-Eastern Americans, and a few others) in that we look nothing American. To be honest, Asian Americans stick out like bananas in a vegetable garden. There is simply no denying that when it comes to physical first impressions, even for Asian Americans, it is reduced down to “Wow, an Asian” (insert a variety of negative or positive voice inflections, open to personal interpretation). This is an immediate disadvantage, somewhat. And I say ‘somewhat’ because the same was true for most immigrants except the damn British. Movies like Gangs of New York, deal strongly with Italian-American and Irish-American ethnic immigrant issues. Irish people have an accent, Scottish do as well; pretty much every damn person has an accent, and Americans even make fun of their own accents. So what sets Asian-Americans apart? Why is a lame movie like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a blockbuster hit when it seriously deals with issues of ethnic identity for second generation Greek-Americans, and the only slightly comparable movie for Asians is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? Why do Asians have to smoke weed, do ridiculous things, and be losers, in order to prove that they are normal people in the media? Ultimately, it lies in the fact that people are simply not used to seeing Asians as Americans, and the media has quite a lot to do with it.
Despite Asians having been around since the 1800’s, building, working, and lookin’ fine on that Trans-Continental Railroad, the majority of Asian ethnic population in the United States is in fact within their first or second generations of lineage within the U.S. And immigrants, even including the all-powerful Jews, generally get picked on the moment they land here. It’s as if they always expect the new kid on the block to have lice or something. So, where did the Asian exchange student fit in? Sixteen Candles. Enter Stage Right, character Long-duck-something-bullshit. The name was so ridiculous and juvenile that I actively drink to forget it. He exists as comic relief; he cannot hold his liquor, he cannot drive, he has no sexuality – the one girl he slightly hits it off with is an Amazon and they do calisthenics while drunk (are they human?). He is tiny, weak, stepped on, and pretty much just written off as an impossibility as a commendable human being. So why did I watch this movie, if I found his character so repulsive? First, it was homework for an excellent class I truly recommend, taught by Professor Aoki, “Asian American Cinema.” Second, it was referenced in Harold and Kumar Goes to White Castle, as Harold’s favorite movie. So, the character Harold, now with the reference of Long Peking Duck Guy in mind, is a more realistic normal version of an Asian American male, who obtains his manhood and sexuality by eating at the ‘White’ Castle, and then proceeds to get with this extremely hot, ethnically-obscure (Latino? Mediterranean? Simply tan?), dream girl. So subtle, these race plays. Basically, after watching Sixteen Candles, I realized that Harold and Kumar Goes to White Castle is a comedic representation of Asian-American struggle to be accepted in White American society. Not as stupid as I first thought (and the sequels shall remain unmentioned. They join the second and third installments of the Matrix trilogy in the DVD collection of the void).
Still, it remains a far ways off – can there be an Asian American conscientious cast in a movie that is not meant for laughs? To be honest, our ethnic identity is filled with the good, and the bad, and the… unfortunate, and much of our concerns deal with mental health, culture clash, social ostracizing, and some serious issues. We have uprising and talented artists of all fields, a multitude of professionals, and a budding culture that is unique to us and no one else’s in the world. With so much to offer to society and the world, we should neither let people ridicule us nor dismiss us as collective teenage angst. We exist as a part of America, but to be honest, the Asian caricature is popular. It makes money, and it works as a business plan for Hollywood. But it also casts us forever aside, apart from the American pool of culture, as the ‘different’ people. This means, that people will continue to poke fun at Asian Americans, because that is what Hollywood teaches them to do. They teach little of what we care about ourselves and our heritage. Some others may care for us, which is truly appreciated and helpful to the Asian American community. But still, the responsibility for our image, our identity, and our, falls largely on ourselves.
The main question I would like to ask to others, is, “Can we be taken seriously, please?” But before that, we have to present ourselves as a people to be seriously considered, a people that can offer more than just laughs (although we can do that too). And the individual can only do so much. And for that reason, I urge you to join us on Thursday, May 24th, 2012, at the Asian NU Project Pride Rally.
Op-Ed by Chulhan Song10 notes link >
She asked, “You’ve become way too Asian since college. Why do you only hang out with Asians?” And, a bit flustered, I responded,
"Why the hell does it matter? Why is it okay for YOU to hang out with hordes of people of your own color, but when I have a majority of friends of my own race, I’m suddenly elitist, or sheltered, or — God forbid — too Asian? Oh, so you have a few token ethnic friends here and there — good for you. So do I! If your idea of a multi-culti society is one in which every person of another color simply conforms to mainstream white American culture, I don’t want to be a part of that."
I’m NOT an American born Chinese. I’m a Chinese born American. But I never let that get to me because what’s the point of letting how others see you or their opinon of you define who you are.
— Amanda Niem ‘14
Photo taken by Kerri Pang
The two main identifying factors of who I am are my faith and my Chinese heritage.I grew up in a Chinese church community and have been surrounded by Chinese values, culture, and people all my life.I love being Asian-American, and I believe that God was pleased to make me this way so that I can advocate for other Asian-Americans in the mental health field. I hope to further shed light on the dsiparities and stigma Asian Americans face in this area.
—Anna Wang ‘12
Photo taken by Tiffany Chang
From Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC):
Two days ago, an act of physical aggression occurred against two fellow Northwestern University students, Sasijaree Rianterawongs and Priyanka Seshadri. The incident and subsequent reactions were deeply troubling from campus safety and unity perspectives, because we are all entitled to feel safe and welcome. We as a community must support those who have not felt comfortable in Evanston and Northwestern’s campuses.
This episode presents not only explicit racism and sexism on campus, but the subsequent commentaries reflect deep misunderstanding and division over the facts and credibility of the victims. Numerous individuals have expressed concerns and criticisms over the authenticity of the racial incident.
As it is an ongoing investigation, we are left with several uncertainties, including the identity and potential Northwestern affiliation of the suspect. Being members of the Northwestern community, we need to unite and support the two young women involved. Regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, they deserve our confidence and support instead of doubt and criticism. It takes a huge amount of courage to bring this attack to Northwestern’s attention and endure the stressful aftermath with all its questioning. This is especially true during this period of critical discussion. Thus, it is in the interest of the Northwestern community to seriously contemplate about why events like this happen and why only the more extreme incidents ever reach the light of day.
To the Asian/Asian American community, these students experienced physical and emotional harassment on the basis of their race and gender. This could have happened to anyone. We in the Asian/Asian American community must have a serious discussion and united front about the issues that stand in front of us. We encourage all Asian/Asian American students to actively participate in the discussions concerning safety and inclusion on campus over the next few weeks. Our voices are just as valid and just as powerful as any other member of the Northwestern community. If anyone has ever felt the need to voice the way they feel, now is the time. An issue confronts us collectively as Asians/Asian Americans that can only be solved by collective deliberation and action.
The Asian Pacific American Coalition will not allow this event to go unnoticed. We will continue to advocate for Asian/Asian American socio-political issues and encourage people from all over campus to join in dialogue. In addition, we fully support and will stand united with the statements provided by the Asian NU Project and the South Asian Student Alliance. We want to let these young women know that the Northwestern community stands in solidarity with them.
From South Asian Student Alliance (SASA):
Along with many other students, we are deeply saddened by the events that transpired earlier this week. We would like to express our greatest sympathy to those directly affected by these events, and would like to applaud them on their strength and courage in coming forward. While these incidents have left their impact on the Northwestern community as a whole, it is important that they unite us, instead of divide us. The road forward is through increased collaboration and understanding between our diverse student population.
The South Asian Student Alliance is in full support of the conversations that have begun on campus, and believes that it is time to move past discussion and tackle these divisive issues. In the past, it has been easy to abstain from discussions of such incidents, especially within our own community. However, over the past few weeks, and especially in the last 12 hours, we have seen our community unite as never before. For its part, SASA would like to encourage the continuation of these difficult discussions, in the hopes of making Northwestern more inclusive for all. We look forward to facilitating this conversation through our programming in the upcoming year, because tackling these issues is an ongoing battle.
As a community, it is important for us to confront these issues, regardless of how difficult they might seem. The recent discussions and events, such as the recent Apna discussion within our own South Asian community, are a step in the right direction. It is only after we overcome these obstacles that we can progress as a campus and coexist in a stronger and more cohesive community.
Nikhil Bhagwat and Anisha Arora
South Asian Student Alliance Co-Presidents
If someone told me, “All Asians are the same, man!” I always took it as good sport and laughed it off, because I do not believe my friends would be truly narrow minded. Nonetheless, the statement affected me subconsciously and I didn’t want to be ‘all the same’.
But by doing this did I betray being Asian?
Jerry Shin, ‘14
Photo by Tiffany Chang