Tag Archives: Asian

The Model Minority

Why are Asians considered the “model minority”?

Because we don’t lash out but slink into depression when we are called “Chink,” “Cambodian Refugee,” “China Doll,” … ?

Because we try overachieving to distract from our insecurities?

Because we try to overcompensate by using humor to diffuse uncomfortable situations?

Because we appear to fulfill someone’s unrealistic fantasies about Asian women?

Because we can be held up as “equals” but not featured as strong, competent people in sitcoms, movies or ads? 

Because we are numbers in the “minority count” while our Black and Hispanic friends are discounted?

This “model” doesn’t seem too ideal to me. Keep your moniker, thank you.

A Day of Ups & Downs

The sun was shining today as I walked my daughter to school. She asked out of the blue, “Who do I look like? Some say I look more like Daddy, but I want to look more like you.”

I had to think about this a moment, then I said, “Why do you want to look more like me?”

Her reply? “I want to be more Asian, like brother.”

I reassured her that she and her brother were a beautiful mix of her father and me, and that she was Hapa, a very special mix. She skipped into school, seemingly happy.

After school, the kids and I ran errands and then chatted as we always do at dinner. I also noticed writing on my son’s arm. “What’s that, dude?” I asked.

“What do you think it is?” he replied. “Think texting language.”

I looked at him puzzled.

“Okay,” he began, “AZN, and say the ‘A’ as the letter.”

Still puzzled.

“Geez Mom! Don’t you get it? WAZN. AZN is Asian. I’m WAsian, because I am white and Asian. Asian Pride!”

I was quite impressed by his pride in his race. Now, I was happy, just not skipping.

At bedtime, my daughter has been reading me a book she had chosen, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. She had chosen this book because she wanted to know more about segregation in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Tonight, the story entered the dark world of the KKK. One wife, who has been beaten by her husband, finds his white cloak in the closet. Threats are made on the women of the integrationist WEC (Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools). One letter says, “You and all the others who think like you should be tied to a car and dragged down Ninth Street, as did happen once before.”

From here, the 1927 story of John Carter, the last lynching in Little Rock, is told in some detail. I am sitting quietly as she reads this, not sure how she is taking it.

We finish the chapter, and I tuck her in bed. “Mom,” she begins, “The KKK hated lots of people who were different. Are they still around?”

I tell her yes but that they are the ones who now meet in secret and that they only protest. I try to assure her that the law protects us from them.

As I get prepared for tomorrow, a small shadow emerges. “Mom, I’m scared of the KKK. What if there are cloaks in the closet?” she asks.

I can only tell her that I will protect her and that I doubt there are KKK near us. It may be a restless night.

Asian Attraction, Part 3

Another two installments of the “seeking asian female” series called “They’re All So Beautiful” has hit YouTube.

Here’s the third episode:

This one is interesting as it asks Asian men to join the conversation about Asian-Caucasian couplings. Some Asian men express frustration in the attraction that Asian women have for Caucasian men. In response, an Asian woman says that dating an Asian man would be “like dating my brother.” Personally, I have felt the same and refer to my two best, male Asian friends as my “Big Brother” and my “Little Brother.”

In addition, one man described Asian women in this way (I believe my husband could attest to this.), “quite belligerent, demanding, controlling, and not afraid to say what is on their [sic] mind … not afraid to act independently on what they feel.” This completely contradicts the first installment that asked Caucasian men what they sought in Asian women.

The most disturbing segment of this video (in minute 4:43) is the Caucasian women’s subtleties in descriptive language of Asian women.  These two women continue to describe the couplings as “white males and Asian girls,” and “Asian girls looking for white men.” Why refer to other women as “girls”? Demeaning, belittling, and just plain name-calling, in my opinion.

Installment four goes like this:

Here we dig further into the attraction that Asian women have for Caucasian men. The culture card comes up here. Stereotypes are being flung to all parties … Asian men, Caucasian men, Asian women!

One Asian woman says that what attracts her to Caucasian men is that they are independent (exactly what an Asian man called Asian women). Now we’re getting somewhere.

We learn that the highest percentage of interracial marriages are made up by Asian women married to Caucasian men. There it is. My love for my husband plays into a statistic that proves this Asian fixation.

Thankfully, Dr. Benjamin Tong, Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, comes to our rescue, saying:

“Love has nothing to do with selling out on a people, has nothing to do with disloyalty. Love is something that simply happens between two people, and it can cross gender and race lines … ”

I needed that, Dr. Tong, on this, our eighteenth wedding anniversary. Love is love.

Asian Attraction, Part 2

The documentarian who is producing “seeking asian female” has also produced some short video studies of the Asian attraction.  Her first goes like this:

The studies look into the term “yellow fever.” The fever refers to something one cannot control. Elaine Kim, a UC Berkeley Asian American Studies professor puts it this way, “Part of it has to do with a fascination with something that seems totally different … even physiologically different.”

A young woman is interviewed here who has dated men who have this “yellow fever.” She laments, “Can you not tell me to change my race? I can do anything else but that!” I wanted to sit down with her and say, “Don’t change anything about yourself. Just find the person who loves you for yourself!”

What are we doing? Why do women feel the need to change themselves? Why must Asian women scrutinize love for fear that it is a fetish?

In the second study, she addresses whether only white men have Asian fetishes.

Words that describe Asians?  Exotic, petite, gracious, have a level of maturity, sweet, beautiful.  The author of The Asian Mystique, Sheridan Prasso hits the nail on the head, saying, “Everyone has something that turns them on, and there is nothing wrong with that … what is wrong is when it crosses a line into expectations with behavior.”

But the quote I most reacted to is this one from Dr. Benjamin Tong, Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies,

“What fixed images tend to be prevalent in fixed communities? It would be the case that in the white community, ‘Latina women are hot, difficult to control, exotic as well, but they’re fiery, ’ ‘Asian women are more controllable; they live to please,’ ‘Black women, wow. They’re too powerful. Watch out for the Super Mama! She’s really the boss in this house.’ That might sound corny, talking like that, but in everyday language, you still hear these things.”

As an Asian American with Puerto Rican roots, I do not feel that I fit any of these white perceptions of my race. If you asked my husband, I’m sure he would tell you that I am strong-willed and certainly not submissive or controllable. In my Puerto Rican family, we have a term for such a woman. Strong women who love life, are Gonzo Girls. We relish it, celebrate it, and live it.

We spend too much time compartmentalizing people. I suppose it is human nature to make sense of ourselves by generalizing and grouping. We live in a world that wants facts, data and percentages. I argue that we are far more than that.

Asian Attraction?

Recently, one of my new Asian adoptee friends qualified her Caucasian husband, as “not one of those men with Asian fetishes.”

I must admit, I was puzzled by this, and I questioned what she meant. She and another friend quickly explained that there were men who had Asian fetishes. This week in This American Life’s episode called “Tribes,” Act 3, tackles this subject by highlighting the filmmaker of the documentary “seeking asian female.” The outcome is surprising.

Watching the trailer for the documentary (see below),  and having heard Jennifer in the film, Adopted, talk about Asian fetishes, I began to wonder how I had been so naive.

My Asian friends and I have all married Caucasian men. While my two closest friends and I have joked about our “white hubbies,” none of us ever spoke of the Asian fetish. If anything, we all talked about our own attractions to Caucasian men. One friend’s parents often tried pairing her with “nice Taiwanese” men.

Growing up in rural Tennessee, young boys were more repulsed by my ethnicity than enamored. There would be no talk about the Asian fetish. That was unspeakable in Appalachia.

My first date occurred when I was 17. My date was a young college man from the big metropolis of Knoxville, who had been traveling back to Wake Forest, North Carolina. He had stopped at the Cracker Barrel where I worked, and I had mistaken him for a movie star. He took my contact details, and we wrote long letters. I enjoyed sharing with someone who didn’t solely see me from the outside. When he escorted me to my senior prom, a popular young woman asked me the following Monday, “So, where’d your mom and dad find such a cute escort to hire?” She couldn’t understand why an older, Caucasian man would want to take me to the prom.

Throughout my life, I shied away from Asian boys, as I had often been paired with the only

Asian boy in my grade; his family moved to our town in fourth grade. That year, we studied square dancing in gym.  This was the only time boys and girls mixed for gym. I was always paired with this Asian boy. Our peers saw us as a match made by race.

Some may hypothesize that my attraction to Caucasian men is a product of being raised by parents of a different race, or a product of living in a community where the racial “pickins were slim.” They may also blame racial confusion for my seemingly Caucasian fetish. I theorize that we all have initial attractions that are based in physical attractiveness. But as Act 3 proves, those attractions are only the spark that may or may not lead to a lasting relationship.

My daughter recently asked me what attracted me to her father. My reply was that I thought he was cute. He had long sideburns, wore a denim jacket and sported a Smiths button on his lapel. That was all I needed to be attracted.

As we became more acquainted, I quickly fell in love with his optimism, idealism, humanitarianism, and finally, his dedication to wildlife. We were, as my mother would have said, “two peas in a pod.”

Wait … I’m Asian?

Take yourself back to the most memorable day in your life. Remember the elation? Remember the sheer joy you felt? Remember those who surrounded you?

This past weekend, my boy and I felt that feeling again. A couple of years ago, on a cold weekend (Aren’t most days cold in Wisconsin?), with the man away, I set out a Times Square 1000-piece puzzle.  I said to the boy, “If we put this puzzle together before your father returns on Monday, I will take you to Times Square.”

He worked diligently and completed it. So, last weekend in celebration of his journey into teenhood, we met up with our best friends from Virginia, Adrienne and her son, Nick. Our relationship with this family is like a favorite pair of pajamas … immediately comfortable.

Adrienne picked us up from our hotel in DC, and we set off to Gettysburg to pick up Nick from a school trip. 

As you may recall, Adrienne and I are both Korean. We both married Englishmen who studied at Cambridge University. Essentially being of the same genetic background, we often joke about Asian myths. Of course, the jokes this time were rooted in truth. It took us well over an hour to exit DC, despite having paper Google directions and two iPhones running Apple Maps and Google Maps. Adrienne describes this fiasco here in her own blog.

We arrived in Gettysburg at a small motel to pick up Nick. The lobby was simple with a small “Retail Therapy” shop. This shop did not put us at ease with its Confederate flags flying. Another reality … uneasiness in rural areas where few Asians live.

This uneasiness was quickly dispelled as we made our way to the Big Apple. We arrived in New York City and immediately, Adrienne and I began documenting the boy’s trip! We were fulfilling the next Asian myth … obnoxious camera-slinging mothers.

These boys are no strangers to this behavior. My boy carried his camera around as well, and eventually the boys captured us.

Adrienne also writes in more depth about our photographic obsessions in her blog. We continued to document our travels around the city that never sleeps.

 

 

Back in the days of my youth, I hated the references by others, mostly Caucasian, to those Asian myths … good at math, poor drivers, obnoxious camera carriers. 

 

Today, I relish these commonalities with my Asian friends, and I am comfortable in my own skin. I see the same things in my son and daughter.  Their love of paper, Asian design, Asian foods and Asian trinkets emphasizes my connection to them. 

 

New York City was the perfect place for me to connect with our friends, my son and our Asian side. In that vast city, we discovered Pearl River, Chinatown, and Uniqlo.  Asian myths … bring ’em on!