There is little representation of Asian Americans in the media, but what little exists usually plays on Asian American stereotypes. I'm sure you're familiar with the rhetoric:
"That Asian guy is so nerdy."
"Damn, I've got yellow fever!"
"They are all the same."
"They are super great at math!"
I'm sorry to break it to you, but some of this rhetoric is as untrue as Donald Trump's promise to "Make America Great Again." Here are just a few misperceptions:
1. This group is only made up of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people.
We are actually a very diverse group! When we think of Asian Americans, we probably think of people of East Asian descent, but we forget about those of South Asian and Pacific Island descent. Filipino-, Cambodian-, Indian-, Pakistani- Americans have all made an impact on in the US and its mosaic of cultures, but they are so often overlooked.
2. We speak the same language and have the same culture.
There are actually more than 48 different ethnic groups underneath the category of “Asian American.” And among those 48 ethnic groups, there are more than 300 spoken languages. Every group has its own distinct and unique culture and we shouldn’t stop celebrating that even if we are all Asian American!
3. Asian-American men are undesirable.
Believe it or not, Asian men are widely perceived as being the least desirable group in the US.
…I’m just going to leave these here.
Ki Hong Lee
Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui
...anyways, this myth probably derives from the laws from the late 1800s and early 1900s. When Asian men first came to the US, it was illegal for them to marry white women. In addition, non-white women could lose their citizenship if they married Asian men. This fear caused Asian men to be much less desirable. Hollywood has also played a big part in reinforcing this stereotype. Have a look yourself:
From "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
From "How I Met Your Mother"
4. Asian-American women are submissive and exotic.
How am I “exotic” if I was born and raised in L.A.? Please tell me. Also, we are not innately submissive. No woman is. This was an idea that was spread from a popular novel in the 1800s called Madame Chrysanthemum. We are strong, beautiful, badass women and will not be fetishized for your pleasure!
Malala Yousafzai - From a young age, she was an advocate of girl's education. In 2014, she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Piece Prize.
Margaret Cho - She is an American comedian, actress, authot, and singer-songwriter. She is well known for her critiques of social and political issues through stand-up comedy.
5. We are smart because we are Asian.
A few things about this statement bothers me. 1. How can simply being a certain race make one smart? And 2. What does being “smart” constitute anyway?
East Asian families stress a great education. The glorification of being the first in your class, etc. is part of the culture there, and so this value has been ingrained into many Asian Americans of East Asian descent.
And if by “smart” you mean being talented at things such as art, music, writing, politics, business, then HELL YEAH we’re smart. But so is every other racial group! Race should not determine the perception of intelligence. It is based on the individual.
6. We love and are good at STEM.
We don’t just like STEM. We also like and are good at things like art, dance, literature, sports, film, race car driving, music, you name it.
7. We are the model minority.
We are not your model minority. A lot goes into this stereotype, but the main idea of it is that Asian Americans achieve a higher degree of success economically, socially, etc. and that other minorities should strive to be like us.
Like I said in #1 and #2, we are a very diverse group and the entire group does not fit this myth.
I personally do not want there to be the rhetoric that we are better than other minorities. We all struggle and we do not need to divide ourselves or pit ourselves against one another, though there are certain privileges certain Asian Americans need to acknowledge.
I am proud of being Asian. But it'd be nice for you to value me based on more than my race.
8. We are passive and not political.
This is part of the model minority myth. We do not just lie on our backs waiting for things to happen to us. We do not all keep quiet in the face of adversity. We stand tall and speak our minds.
Politics isn’t everyone’s “thing,” but some Asian Americans have devoted their lives to it.
9. We are all wealthy.
A big part of the model minority myth is that Asian Americans are economically well-off like white Americans. Many of East Asian descent are more wealthy, but we forget those of Southeast Asian descent who are not doing as well.
We’re not all like this:
10. We are all conservative.
My parents are pretty conservative, but I sure as hell am not. One might find it surprising that according to a study done by PewResearchCenter, 31 percent of Asian Americans overall identify as being liberal and 31 percent identify as being conservative.
11. We are foreigners, and not Americans.
To me, this is the most hurtful misperception of them all.
It’s interesting that we are still perceived as foreigners. Surprisingly, I’ve been told countless times: “Your English is so good.”
And asked many times: “Are you visiting from China?”
In addition to us being seen as foreigners, we are seen as unAmerican. Similar to how Donald Trump asserted that the Mexican-American judge could not do his job because of his heritage, some people say that we cannot be of Asian descent and be American. It's one or the other.
I was born in CA and have grown up loving the people around me and the state that I live in. Although America isn't at its best (and never was), I still want the best for my country. I am Asian, but I am also an American. That's where the beautiful, and uncomplicated hyphen comes in.
We are Asian-American.
Were there any misperceptions I missed or that you don't agree with? Let me know in the comments!