11 Misperceptions About Asian-Americans

11 Misperceptions About Asian-Americans

From the idea that we all live in mansions to the idea Asian women are porcelain dolls.
Hedy Yu
Hedy Yu

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

Sendhil Ramamurthy

Sheheryar Munawar Siddiqui

Godfrey Gao

...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!

Cover Image Credit: TV Guide

Popular Right Now

To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.


So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?



Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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