Being Asian in America means being a perpetual foreigner. It is a constant struggle to try to seem American to America while attempting to hold onto our roots. This is our unique status in this country. To be seen as both a foreigner and a model minority. To be both exotic and cool with our martial arts and great food while also a group of people for America to pick on. And this is what I would like to touch on. The casual racism that we Asians as a whole go through.
The casual racism against Asians both in the media and in real life is a sad reality that many of us have to face. Chink, gook, and “Go back to China” are all very common things most of us have grown up hearing. I can personally attest that when my family escaped Vietnam to Arizona in the 90s that they faced massive amounts of racism at school. Being mocked for how they looked, their accents, and how they dressed were par for the course. I guarantee you if a German kid came over to rural Arizona in the 90s only eating bratwurst, with a thick accent, and wearing lederhosen that most wouldn’t even bat an eye compared to if they saw a Vietnamese kid eating rice, with a thick accent, and wearing clothes from the local Goodwill.
Even in the media, casual racism is just as prevalent. How many times is the Asian character going to be the nerdy loser sidekick? How many times is the Asian character going to be a math genius pushed by their tiger parents to go to an Ivy League? How many times is the Asian character going to be a white guy slightly squinting his eyes and talking in the thickest and most stereotypical accent possible? Probably the most recent example of a stereotyped Asian character in media would be Raj Koothrappali played by Kunal Nayyar on The Big Bang Theory. There, Raj is a typical Asian stereotype of the nerdy figure who struggles more talking to women than he does with calculus.
The rare times that American audiences are not introduced to a stereotypical Asian character would be when foreign films like Parasite by Korean director Bong Joon-Ho won an Academy Award for Best Picture amongst many other well-deserved accolades. America was both equally enthralled and surprised that some “Asian film” could win such a prestigious award often reserved for American films. Some people around me have even claimed that this was an example of America not racist towards Asians. Then, everything changed when COVID-19 attacked. In a flash, Asians globally and in the US went from a hard-working and intelligent group of people able to produce such great films as Parasite to being perceived as parasites ourselves.
Even when there are issues regarding racism, Asians always get left behind. Like when there was discussion around how the Oscars usually nominated and awards predominantly white casts; thus citing the #OscarsSowhite movement in 2016. Then, when it came time for the Oscars and for Chris Rock to give his monologue addressing the racial issues of Hollywood, what does he do? He brings in 3 Asian kids as a prop to crack a joke at their expense while also arguing against the racism inherent in Hollywood. To us, that was simply disrespectful, unnecessary, but not unexpected.
Overall, there are a lot of difficulties that we face in America while being Asian. At our schools, workplaces, and communities, we are attacked and have slurs hurled at us with little consequence of offenders. In the media, we are stereotyped and type cast while still being relegated mainly for the sideline. I fear that with the COVID virus further creating tension against Asians in the US, that how we are perceived and treated will get worse. In the end, all I can wish for is an America that doesn’t look at people like me as a perpetual foreigner.
Posted By Ryan Pham
Posted Apr 7th, 2021