May 11, 2018
But You’re Asian: Being Asian in America
One of the major lingering problems that exists in America is racism, specifically, towards Asians. According to the Anti-Defamation League/ADL, “Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics”. There are many portrayals of Asians in America such as being the little nerd who gets straight A’s in school or as the ninjas who climb walls and run on rooftops. Along with the false portrayals, there are also negative stereotypes ranging from all Asians eat cats and dogs to all Asians are bad drivers. Although there may be some cases in which this occurs, it’s not the case for the entire Asian population. Asians live all over America and these stereotypes have emotional, mental, and social effects regardless of their ethnic and racial background.
Often referred to as the “model minority” because of stereotypes depicting Asians being studious and excellent in school, racism towards Asians and Asian-Americans is usually overlooked, but the term “model minority” creates extremely high standards for Asians. “The joke that Mr. Kristof cites — that “an A- is an ‘Asian F'” — is actually a source of pain for many Asian students, who feel a relentless pressure to live up to the model minority image. What gets overlooked is the enormous stress this need to “succeed” puts on the students’ family relationships, self-esteem, and physical and mental health.” (nytimes.com) Education and schooling are both highly valued in Asian cultures and societies and it isn’t rare for parents to take extreme measures to ensure their children get the best grades. The straight A’s only add on to the nerd stereotypes and show that Asians aren’t very good at other things.
Along with the nerd image, Asians are also supposed to know a form of martial arts. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are two of the most well-known Asians in American movies and their movies are packed with action and fighting throughout the film from start to finish, but because of their image, Americans believe that all Asians know martial arts and kung fu. People enjoy watching action movies and people enjoy watching actions movies filled with martial arts, but because a few people do it and it’s portrayed all throughout the media, people believe it to be true. Movies and social media have a major influence on how people view people of other races. For example, if there is an Asian in a movie, chances are that they either know martial arts, they’re extremely smart or excel far beyond their peers at something, or maybe they’re a little old lady. Asians who don’t know any kind of martial arts are often seen as uncool in America compared to the ones who do and can develop social difficulties and psychological problems because of the constant comparisons.
Asians have been in America for hundreds of years, resulting in hundreds of Asian races in America, but some of the more well-known being Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indian, are usually the ones beings portrayed in the movies as being the successful and intelligent ones. In fact, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indians have some the highest graduation rates compared to other Asian races like Vietnamese, Hmong, and Burmese. “68 percent of Asian Indians, age 25 and older, had a bachelor’s degree or more education and 37 percent had a graduate or professional degree; the corresponding numbers for Vietnamese-Americans were 24 percent and 7 percent, respectively” There are very high expectations given to Asians, and if they fail to meet that expectation, they will be humiliated regardless of their race. Because Asian people tend to have accents or broken English in movies, Americans are always surprised whenever an Asian can speak English fluently but if they fail to speak English or speak with broken English, they will get made fun of.
Along with speaking a certain way, Asians often get mocked for looking a certain way, specifically with squinty eyes and tan skin. Americans like to pull the skin around their eyes to emulate what Asians should look like and play if off as a joke. To simply put that joke to rest, not all Asians look alike. K-pop is becoming such an enormous worldwide phenomenon that Americans sometimes tend to purposely say that the members of a certain group all look the same and given the number of members that group has, they will try to slide a joke in there as well. K-pop, although it’s mostly Koreans, is a good example of Asians who look different. For example, the boy group “BTS” recently performed at the American Music Awards this past November and they were all highly praised for their amazing visuals and talent. One of the members can speak English well and when they appeared on talk shows such as “The Ellen Degeneres Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”, the hosts seemed to be surprised that he spoke English so well. It may not be common for a foreigner to speak English well without much of an accent, and it may be more of a positive than a negative, it’s still a minor form of racism.
One of the worst kinds of racism is people say something offensive and pretend it’s a joke or argue with their ignorance. Phrases like “All Asians look alike” and “Are you Chinese?” are two of the most commons ones I hear. One time a few years ago, I was asked “Are you Chinese or Asian?”, and I got flustered because I wasn’t sure if she was seriously asking me that question and Chinese people are also Asian people, so I told her I was Asian, and we carried on with our days. Another racist interaction is similar to that of a game show and something I like to call the “where are you from” game and what happens is someone will walk up to you and try to guess where you’re “from”. Although they’ll be completely oblivious to what they’re saying, it’s one of the most common forms of racism towards Asians.
Being an Asian who lives in America, there are pros and cons. Some of the pros are, simply being Asian, receiving high praise for being good at something and proving that Asians are good at things, making friends with other Asians regardless of racial background, and having Asian communities. Some of the cons are, simply being Asian, getting humiliated for not being good at something that Asians would “normally” be good at, having conflicts with other Asian races, and not being able to make friends due to looks or the language barrier. It’s not uncommon for someone to get bullied for not being able to speak English or for being “different” in America. There are social and emotional effects that this has on people. If a child is excluded from group activities in school and is made fun of for being the way he is, he will hate his life and is more likely to develop social and psychological problems like depression and anxiety. He won’t fully understand why he is being bullied in the beginning, but after he finds out, he’ll see himself differently and will be filled with more hate. A chain of events usually happen after a child gets bullied, from skipping class, to social and psychological problems, to self-harm, and possibly to suicide. Nobody can control how they look like, so nobody should be made fun of for something they can’t control.
For my interview, I interviewed someone whose age isn’t very different from mine and compared our personal experiences with racism for being Asian. My brother and I are two years apart, so I wanted to see how differently our experiences with racism.
“So, Matt” I said, “how have you been effected by racism for being Asian?”
“I didn’t really have much difficulties in school and with making friends”, he said, “people tended to treat me with more respect because I’m Asian”.
I asked, “Do you think you would’ve been treated different if you weren’t Asian?”
He replied, “I feel like I would’ve been treated a lot differently. I was able to use my race as an advantage and people didn’t make fun of me”.
I thought about my school life as I was interviewing him about his and there were similarities with receiving respect from others for being Asian. Neither of us received much hate or discrimination from elementary school through high school and even in college. After thinking about it, I believe that we received respect because we did well in school, we were good at many things, and we respected others. I proceeded with my questions after thinking.
“Have you ever experienced racism outside of school?”, I asked.
“When I go to stores like Wal-Mart and Target, I feel like I’m getting weird looks from people. I just get this weird vibe when I’m out in public. Usually when I go to those stores, there are a lot of old people and not many Asian people, so I’m sure that I get plenty of weird looks just by being there”, he replied.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I’ve also been getting weird looks, but when I go out with my girlfriend. When we go to the mall together, people give us weird looks like it’s weird to see an interracial couple in 2017 America. My girlfriend is white and a few inches taller than me, so I understand why we receive weird looks and uncomfortable stares, but we constantly deal with it in public places like the mall and it gets stressful having to deal with it every time we hang out.
“Was it easier for you to make Asian friends or non-Asian friends in school?”, I asked.
“There were a few other Hmong people and other Asians, so it was easier for me to become friends with them and have our own circle. It was a lot easier to become friends with the other Hmong people because I’m Hmong too”, he said.
“The same happened with me. I became friends pretty quickly with Tim because he’s Hmong as well and being friends with Alex because he’s Asians, but I also didn’t have too much difficulties becoming friends with non-Asian people because of orchestra and I was basically the only Asian in the orchestra for a few years, so I was able to make non-Asian friends through orchestra”, I replied.
“Yeah, I also have a lot of non-Asian friends, but it was easier to become friends with Mandy and Vanessa because they’re Hmong. It’s just like how they always say, ‘us Asians have to stick together’, so we became friends”, he commented. “I guess I got friends mostly because I was Asian., and yeah, I had to deal with some racism because we all just do, but I made friends and people eventually stopped the discrimination and the weird questions, jokes, and gestures”.
In the end, our experiences weren’t very different to each other’s. We both made Asian friends easier because we’re Asian, we dealt with little forms of racism in the beginning, but it slowly stopped happening, we both got weird looks in public places, and we received respect from our peers. I believe that since our ages aren’t very different, we were essentially treated the sane way, even if there are two years between us. We attended the same middle school for one year and the same high school for two, so people knew who we were and knew we were brothers. We were fortunate not to have gone through anything terrible while we were still in school and I’m grateful that we didn’t have to, but that’s not the case for everyone.
Another conflict that occurs is applying for colleges. Sometimes, even the most prestigious colleges decline applications because of race. There is no other reason than discriminating against one’s race and ethnicity. “Sadly, Harvard has a long and ugly history of using “holistic” admissions to discriminate against high-achieving minorities. As many historians have detailed, nearly 100 years ago, Harvard’s leadership believed it had too many Jews because almost a quarter of all Harvard freshmen were Jewish. In 1920, in a letter to a colleague, Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell warned that the increasing number of Jewish students enrolling at Harvard would ultimately “ruin the college.” To solve their “Jewish invasion,” Harvard invented the “holistic” admissions system, which diminished an applicant’s academic achievements in favor of subjective factors such as “leadership” and “sociability.” Within a year, holistic admissions decimated Jewish enrollment.” This type of discrimination in an institutional setting causes unfair competition that excludes one type of people, in this case Jewish people, and uses their race and ethnicity against them, even if it’s something they can’t control. Asians aren’t getting all their opportunities because they’re Asian even if they happen to be the best candidate for the job or the best fit student for an ivy league college.
Racism and discrimination comes in many forms and is not limited to any certain action. It can be physical, psychological, or emotional and can range from giving weird looks in stores to fighting and yelling. No one can choose their race, so no one should have to deal with racism and discrimination for something they can’t control. There are millions of Asians belonging to hundreds of different ethnicities living in America and none of them should have to suffer for something that they can’t do anything about. Americans now are more open-minded than Americans hundreds of years ago. People are learning more about different Asian races, cultures, and languages through social media.
Social media has more of an impact than movies and they help show that not all Asians are the same. Millions of Americans use social media every day and there are millions of Asian people who use social media who are active and share their stories every day as well. There are Asians who are doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but there are also Asians who are movie stars, music artists, supermodels, and bodybuilders. Asians are humans too, so they should be treated like they’re humans. Not all Asians are the same, for example, the cultural clothing for Chinese people is different from the cultural clothes for Japanese people and the cultural clothing for Indian people are different from those. Asians can be whatever they want and even if they receive racial remarks and discrimination, they shouldn’t let that get the best of them.
Asians deal with many forms of racism and there are many forms of outcomes that will result from racism and discrimination. Asians have lived in America for hundreds of years and they won’t leave because of immature things people say to and about them. Racism seems to not be as vivid as it used to be, but there are no signs that it will completely go away.
“Asian Americans Then and Now.” Asia Society, asiasociety.org/education/asian-americans-
“Asian-Americans and Stereotypes.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Oct. 2015,
Blum, Edward. “Opinion | Harvard’s discrimination against Asian Americans must end.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Aug. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harvards-discrimination-against-asian-americans must-end/2017/08/08/446ebd6a-7bb1-11e7-a669 b400c5c7e1cc_story.html?utm_term=.2eb12f50c191.
Chow, Kat. “‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks.” NPR, NPR, 19 Apr. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/19/524571669/model-minority-myth-again-used-as a-racial-wedge-between-asians-and-blacks.
“Racism.” Anti-Defamation League, www.adl.org/racism.
BrandoStarkey. “Why we must talk about the Asian-American story, too.” The Undefeated, The Undefeated, 4 Nov. 2016, theundefeated.com/features/why-we-must-talk-about-the asian-american-story-too/.
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American History, Demographics, & Issues, www.asian-nation.org/14-
When I enrolled in English 102 for the second time, I felt that it wasn’t going to be much different from when I took it the first time. I felt like I was going to be more prepared with the research and with what to do throughout the class, but the research process was still difficult for me. Finding the right research question is the most important part of starting research and I had trouble developing a good research question. I started off by thinking of topics that are interesting to me and I ultimately came up with how music effects children. At first, my research question wasn’t very specific, so I had to brainstorm research questions that were more specific and identify the stakeholders that were being affected. I thought about my interests and things that I would want to possibly write about but coming up with a final research topic was just as difficult as it was the first time. I decided to write about how Asians in America must deal with racism in various forms every day and delve into why it happens. I began my research by searching racism against Asians in America and millions of sources appeared, but that was as expected because of how broad my search was. I didn’t want to focus on one aspect, so I decided to keep my question broad to gather plenty of sources and reshape my research question from there.
I started off by reading sources and finding a starting point through my sources. After I was able to obtain my starting point, I tried to find more sources that supported my topic and supported each other to have more information and a more concrete main idea. I read through the millions of articles that resulted in my search and I went through them, starting off by reading the title and choosing whether the article would seem like it would be relevant to my research topic. I read many articles, some scholarly and some not as scholarly, but I looked for articles that the stakeholders could easily relate to, such as the article about how Harvard only admitted a certain number of Asian students and how Asians are the “model minority” in America. These articles in particular address how Asians deal with racism in America’s school system by being given very high expectations and limiting Asians to become more prosperous and break the stereotype.