You can’t say you understand because you’ve never experienced the kinds of things that we have. The slurs, the jokes, the appropriation, and the erasure. As an Asian American I’ve never seen myself properly represented the way that white people have - in school, movies, books, on TV, and social media. We make up six percent of the population in America, which is a total of nineteen million people whose heritage is ignored and overlooked in our society today.
Now, it’s wrong to say that Asian Americans are the only ones who face this silent oppression. All minorities shoulder a burden as well, regardless of whatever race they are. But I speak of my own experiences; the experiences of my brothers and sisters, and what all of us have been forced to endure throughout our lives. Our cultures have a long history and are not to be mocked and degraded. We value them as much as you value your own, and they deserve nothing from you but respect.
There are many stereotypes surrounding Asian culture, most of which are rude and insulting toward the people they’re aimed at. I’m sure that not a single one of us has gone through their lives without hearing some variation of these things that people say.
“Of course you got an A on that test. You’re Asian. All Asians are smart.”
“Are you sure you should be driving? Asians are terrible drivers.”
“It’s so Asian of you to do what your parents say all the time.”
And of course, my personal favorite: when you pull out the corners of your eyes, laughing hysterically as you do your best impression of a broken bell tower- “ching chong, ching chong!”
You have no idea just how much damage one small action, one short phrase, can do. Racist comments like these are extremely offensive to such a large group of people. When these stereotypes are enforced, it not only creates a negative depiction of Asian people, but makes them feel as if they’ll never be “normal” in the eyes of the American people. As long as this discrimination continues, it will always set us apart from everyone else. Wouldn’t it be better to live as a united, accepting community rather than groups separated by bigotry? And just imagine what it feels like to the people who have to hear these things themselves. It’s so indecent of you to make fun of someone based on their ethnicity. They’ve earned good grades because they have a good work ethic, not because they’re Asian. They make mistakes on the road because they were distracted by something, not because they’re Asian. And maybe the reason they listen to their parents is because they actually value respect, not because they're Asian. We need to dispel these harmful stereotypes so that everyone can be treated with equality and respect.
On a much larger scale, your discrimination toward Asian people is augmented through their portrayal in the media. Asian Americans make up a mere five percent of total speaking or named roles in movies and only one percent of lead roles. These characters, if there are any at all, are almost always of an East Asian background or origin. You reduce them to a stereotypical archetype such as the nerd, the dragon lady, the karate master, or the submissive love interest. You may not even notice this because there is so little representation on screen. But when there is, it’s so wildly inaccurate that millions are led to believe in this warped depiction of what Asian culture really is.
The degradation of our cultures isn’t something to be brushed off. Before anything else, we’re people who don’t deserve to be objectified. There are Asian countries that exist outside of the East - sixty-two percent of Asians are from South, Southeast, Central, or West Asia. It’s an extremely diverse region with so many different kinds of people, and yet we receive such a poor characterization in the media. You throw symbols of value to the ground when you use traditional clothing as costumes or “exotic” fashion. Cultural appropriation isn’t in style and never will be. This twisting of values includes having white people play Asian characters, more infamously known as whitewashing. With this action, there are even less Asian Americans in film and more inaccuracy and erasure. You have so many opportunities for representation in so many ways; it’s unfair for us to give up what little we have left. We deserve just as much diverse, inspiring, and positive publicity as you do.
I want to live in a world with equality for all. I wish for you to understand and accept our people. I hope to take pride in myself and my family for who we are without having to face your laughs and insults. I know this dream is near impossible with the way things are now, but every little effort has a great effect for someone. Don’t make fun of the boy with broken English; the girl wearing a hijab; the people who work to style your nails. Learn about the different kinds of people in the world and what can be done to support them. We’re all facing the same obstacle together, and we’d love to have you standing by our side, facing and fighting it with us.
Post was written by guest writer Lauren Sabater