The Two Sides of Asian American Representation

The Two Sides of Asian American Representation

Asian-American representation shatters old stereotypes, but also reinforces American imperialism. Confused? I will explain.

Los Angeles Times
186

The Olympics showcased the achievements of Asian-American athletes. Their achievements are part of the representation that Asian-Americans have always wanted. Representation refers to the visibility of a minority group. Asian-Americans have clamored for representation because they want to prove to the rest of the country that they are Americans, too. So, Jianying Fan talks about how Asian-American athletes like Chloe Kim in the Olympics are a milestone for representation. But, the longing for representation could also bolster assimilation. Assimilation refers to integrating into the structural institutions of America like the military. Those structural institutions rely on exploitation. So, Ju-Hyun Park talks about how Asian-Americans reinforce assimilation by supporting America's hegemony in the Pacific. Asian-American representation shatters stereotypes and bolsters imperial hegemony at the same time.

Asian-American athletes like Chloe Kim shattered stereotypes thanks to the sacrifices that their families have made. Fan recounts how the family story of Chloe Kim, which is her father coming to the United States to become an engineer and sacrificing his passion for his daughter, “has been widely held up as a riposte to the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration mood.” Chloe Kim's family story is a cherished immigrant tale that warms hearts and minds. So, Kim making her father proud enough to yell out “the American Dream” was a pleasure to see, especially in the face against a nativist administration. Swelling with pride, Jiayang Fan exclaims that the country is steering away from “old tropes.” What she meant by old tropes is that the country is steering away from stereotypes regarding Asians like the submissive Asian woman romancing the white American soldier or the sinister Fu Manchu with his sly mustache battling the white American protagonist. Asian-American athletes do not fit those old stereotypes. They’re just people or rather, spectacular people, who proved their worth to be part of the Olympic team. All of them made their country proud, even if they did not win a gold medal. With that in mind, the country may be steering away from old tropes to create a new trope: the “good Asian.”

Asian-American athletes bolster the image of the "good Asian" who always seek to show their Americaness that they are eager enough to support America bombing their parent's home country. Ju-Hyun Park talks about his story of how perpetual war with North Korea shaped his identity. Growing up, Park tried to persuade his white classmates that he was one of the “good” Koreans or, perhaps, a “real American” after all. By dividing Koreans into “good” and “bad”, America imposed moralistic standards onto the Korean peninsula. A “good” Korean abides by the American standards of freedom and capitalism. Chloe Kim and her family are the “good” Koreans because they abide by the “American dream. The concept itself uplifts capitalistic standards by preaching that hard work is a path to success. Chloe Kim’s dad worked hard and he got an Olympian for a daughter. So, his family achieved the “American dream.” Asian-Americans are constantly proving to the country that they are real Americans, so they love seeing the Kim family as proof of the "American dream."

However, trying to be “American” would also mean upholding “ the maintenance of Western hegemony through the subjugation of the Orient.” America's hegemony in the Pacific is not benevolent, as per say, because America mowed down villages to create new military bases or failed to hold accountability for their soldiers raped the local women. Indeed, the American hegemony in the Pacific relies on the exploitation of the "Orient" or, otherwise known, as "the other." Asian-Americans refusing to be shown as "the other" are hell-bent on proving their "Americaness." But, by proving their "Americaness", they might also have to support the exploitation of the people in their parents' home countries. Korean-Americans like Chloe Kim might have to be on board for a military option against North Korea.

Asian-Americans in the United States wants to show that they belong in this country. They support the Asian-American athletes because they shattered old misconceptions. However, the Asian-American athletes are examples of a new misconception that is the "good Asian." Henceforth, even though Asian-American representation shatters stereotypes, the concept can also maintain America's imperial hegemony in the Pacific.

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