Thursday, December 2, 2021

Asian Americans are unfairly stereotyped

Chink. Jap. Gook. Flip. Slant Eyes. Go back to where you came from.

I’m an Asian American. Throughout our childhood, and even at MSU, we are faced with the same racial slurs, ignorance and discrimination. Exactly where are we supposed to go back to? The United States is home for us, and we are Americans.

Asians have been migrating to America for more than 150 years, yet we’re still being treated like we arrived yesterday. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a fast-growing minority group, and what I believe is the most ignored.

The term Asian American was coined in the 1960s when Asian ethnicity groups joined to fight discrimination and racism after being motivated by the civil rights movement.

Our history and issues are ignored in history books, anti-racist actions and feminist movements. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are depicted as the “least-troubled minorities.” Because of this viewpoint, college students have very few Asian American and Pacific Islander scholarships. There is a lack of funding for poverty programs and help groups. There are rarely any health studies on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and racial/ethnic discrimination and other issues are overlooked. Anti-racist groups always fight for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom, but most ignore the Wen Ho Lee case.

The media’s portrayal of us creates many racial stereotypes. I rarely see Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on television, unless they’re playing a stereotypical exotic female or a nerdy male character. And when they are on television, you can hear the “Asian music” in the background.

The movies are even worse. Asian American and Asian movies only make it big if there are karate scenes in them or they have actors like Jackie Chan or Lucy Liu. Try any search engine and type in “Asian American women”: Your search results will be nothing but porn sites.

Margaret Cho, the infamous Korean American comedian, is both loved and hated by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for her raunchy skits. She was the first Asian American to have her own TV sitcom, called “All-American Girl.”

After two seasons, the show ratings fell and it was canceled. In her one-woman show, “I’m The One That I Want,” she said the show would get complaints because it wasn’t “Asian enough.” Cho’s employers hired a woman to teach her how to be more Asian. This is insane. Apparently, non-Asians know more about being Asian than Cho herself does.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been fighting against sweatshops, immigration exclusion acts and racism. We’ve been fighting for a better environment; gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights; affirmative action; recognition for Asian American males and females and for universities to offer Asian American and Pacific Islander studies and classes. At home, we’re blamed for being too American and outside of home, we are discriminated against for looking Asian.

For years, we have been stereotyped as the “model minority,” which is a myth that stereotypes Asian Americans as smart, hard workers and great citizens. It also claims that we have overcome racism and have successfully blended into American society. It stereotypes Asian Americans as super-smart beings and it creates expectations some Asian Americans can’t live up to.

This creates a problem and people begin to criticize and wonder why blacks, Latinos, Chicanos and Native Americans cannot do the same.

Even though people say we are a success, we wonder why we still bump into the glass ceiling, receive lower pay even though we are equally qualified and have high poverty rates. According to the 1990 U.S. census, the foreign-born Hmongs (Southeast Asians) arriving here had a poverty rate of 61.8 percent. But with the model minority myth breathing down our backs, poverty programs have not been well-funded.

The 1990 U.S. census stated the approximate median family income for Asian Americans was $48,000, while whites made $43,000, Hispanics $29,000 and blacks $26,500. However, the statistics never explained Asian American families tend to have two or three family members working, so their income is - of course - a lot higher.

MSU currently does not offer a specialization program for Asian American and Pacific Islander studies. We are demanding acknowledgment and a freestanding Multicultural Center on campus - not the one hidden in the basement of the Union.

The Coalition of Indian Undergraduate Students - MSU’s Asian Indian student organization - and the Asian Pacific American Student Organization cannot fit all of its members in the conference room comfortably. For our first meeting, we literally had people sitting on each other’s laps. My feminist class does not recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander issues, but only recognizes those in India, where in rural areas widows were burned, or in China, where the subject of foot-binding is still popular.

A month ago when I was working at the Main Library, I was helping a student from the Music Library. Afterward, he said, “xie xie,” meaning “thank you” in Mandarin Chinese. For your information, I can’t speak Mandarin except for what I’ve learned in Chinese 101. What makes me mad is people automatically assume we can speak a foreign language.

From March 19 through April 20, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month at MSU. Please join us at our events and cultural shows - you could learn something.

With your help and open-mindedness, we can break the stereotypes, oppression and racism within our community. And don’t tell us to “go back home,” because we are home.

Helen Kwong, a State News copy editor, can be reached at kwonghel@msu.edu.

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