Buckle up — this one’s going to be educational.
I’m 19. I know, I know — surprising for a lot of you. I’m often told I act and carry myself differently than many other people my age. However, I do find that my lack of lifetime experience often leads me to weird and striking realizations. Lately, I’ve been finding myself really involved with my identity as an Asian-American woman. Maybe it’s a coming-of-age thing, or maybe it’s just the plethora of Asian-centric Facebook groups I’m a part of. Whatever the case, I definitely want to touch on a lot of my life as an Asian-American living in America. I guess I’m writing this in part to get all of this inspiration off my chest (I got in a fight with a bunch of gamers on Twitter about the fetishization of Asian women about a week ago and was met with misogynistic and racist comments), and also to acknowledge the fact that Asian-Americans should be aware and standing in solidarity with each other.
A lot of people may say that I’m sensitive, and point-blank — I’m not. I’m not a sensitive person, I keep a lot to myself; I prefer to keep my inner demons confined to my own thoughts. Ring a bell for my fellow Asians? I am not sensitive. I am, however, sensitive to these issues. As we all should be. So often are Asian-Americans silenced for speaking out against their stereotypes and generalizations. When I spoke out last week about fetishization, I was told, “You’re not an activist.” Fuck off. I attend marches to hear about issues like these; issues that are important to our community. I’ve even spoken at conferences centered around diversity for people of color. I am sensitive about these issues, because when we don’t speak out — Our oppression continues.
I’ll start with an excerpt from the short story, “Streets of Gold,” written by Asian-American author, Curtis Chang: “Unless we assert our true identity as a minority and challenge racial misconceptions and inequalities, we will be nothing more than techno-coolies – collecting our wages but silently enduring basic political and economical inequality” (373). Let’s not wade in silence.
I guess at the forefront, I’d like to address the myth of the Model Minority, in which case Asians are often seen as submissive to the white-aligned ideas of the country. There is a lot built into this myth, but that’s essentially the core of it. Asians are seen as smart and successful — how could that be a bad thing? I guess there’s a lot. Asians are often assumed to fall into the categories of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), alienating the many Asians that delve into creative arts. According to the United States Census Bureau, “Asians had the highest median income in 2017, $81,331.” Many people might think, ‘isn’t that a good thing?’ I mean, yeah, it is a great thing. I love that there are a lot of Asian-Americans that are doing well; however it’s also important to recognize the fact that socioeconomic status doesn’t determine a minority’s quality of life.
Nonetheless, the model minority myth perpetuates a false idea of success and security within our communities. While some Asian-Americans may have reached success, it falls upon us in a way that is beyond ourselves. The notion of being ‘successful,’ which is subjective, is a constant worry to Asian-Americans, especially those that may be taking an unconventional route in their life. Because ‘success’ is such an extreme factor within the lives of Asian-Americans, the group often aligns with Caucasians, as it’s the easiest way to assimilate. Then, this ends up overwriting the history of the Japanese who were forced into internment camps, the thousands of bombs leftover in Laos today, and many other wrongs committed to Asians. When Asian-Americans come to America, they overlook their own culture to assimilate to what is considered to be ‘successful.’ As someone who works with social media and writing, I often questioned what it would be like if I had gone into medical as I planned; what would I be doing now? I often question now why my parents didn’t stick closer to our Vietnamese roots, as I don’t speak a lick of my own language, nor do we really do traditional things. But I find that this is just an example of the assimilation they faced. I wanted to be different from Eurocentric ideas. I didn’t want to lose my identity through assimilation. So, I speak out against them.
When I speak about things like fetishization and stereotypes, I feel like I’m connecting to my roots. When I speak out against a white man’s obsession with Asian women, I’m met with comments like, “You’re too sensitive. Take a joke.” Honestly, part of me wishes I could stand idly by while things are happening — But I can’t. When we speak up, we’re given harsh criticism and we’re invalidated. I spoke up about something I have experienced time and time again, and yet, I was not taken seriously. I’m really passionate about my identity, and I know what’s right and wrong. If I shut up about these issues, I’m letting oppression continue to happen. If I shut up about it, I’m playing into the Model Minority myth of the submissive Asian. I am more than that. I am not the stereotype. I write this blog post in the hopes that other Asians will agree, and they’ll speak up for themselves. So long have we been hushed into silence. I refuse to let this happen to me any longer. I urge you guys to speak up, too.
With everything said and done, this is just the basis of what it’s like to be Asian, but not necessarily what it’s like growing up Asian. Let’s keep learning about ourselves. I’ll see you guys next post, but until then:
Chang, C. (1971, June 21). Streets of gold: The myth of the model minority. Newsweek.
US Census Bureau. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017.” Income and Poverty in the United States: 2017, 12 Sept. 2018, www.census.gov/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.html.