"Oh look. Here comes the DIVERSITY.”
"Because [diversity] is racist." - Andre Nowzick, The League
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