The Asian American Discourses

The world around us is becoming more globalized and it is important for us as Americans to understand what cultures other than our own are about so that we can survive in this global society. We need to be open mind and not set up discourses that continue stereotypes about Asian Americans and keep people non-Asians out of participating in “Asian” cultural things. Everybody should be able to experience other cultures as it is only through this that we can become globally minded people. As a non-Asian student taking this class, I became aware of the discourses attached to Asian Americans both culturally and physically through popular culture. Through film, comics, food, television, Asian American spaces, Asian American cultural nights and music we have been shown that Asian Americans are seen as others in American society. Of these categories it seems like film, television, Asian American cultural nights and music are the more likely areas where discourses and negative stereotypes are placed on Asian Americans and to a lesser extent non-Asians as participants in the cultures.

Many films with Asian American characters often make them out to be stereotypically smart students who never do anything wrong. The film Better Luck Tomorrow also shows this stereotype at first but then we see the main characters trying to break free of this stereotype. Although the film was progressive because of this break from the norm, it went about this change in a negative way. The main character, Ben, had to commit crimes in order to get the girl he wanted. Just like how this film went about presenting Asian Americans in a different light, television shows with Asian Americans have also tried to do this. In the show All-American Girl, we are a shown the stereotypical Asian American with the older brothers character but we are also shown through Margaret Cho’s character that the term Asian American should not have a stereotype. Asian Americans can be many things, there is no set personality or intelligence level that all Asian Americans have because they are individuals just like everybody else.

While in the line for TASA Night Market I became uncomfortably aware of the fact that some people may see me as an intruder because I am not Asian. The people behind me in the line that were Asian American felt that they had to ask my friends and me if the line was indeed for the TASA Night Market. This was probably because they didn’t expect non-Asian UMCP students to come, especially those of African American background. As a society we should not be shocked to see people of different backgrounds at cultural events. It shows that people are becoming more open minded to other cultures and that they do not have this narrow minded idea that because they are Americans they cannot take part in events for other cultures. Discourses about what it is to be Asian American are so embedded in society that non-Asians who participate in consuming Asian culture are seen as weird and as people who are abandoning their culture. Cultural night events like TASA Night Market are meant to bring outsiders and insiders together so that we can experience the culture together.

In the case of popular music, Asian Americans get the short end of the stick because of what they had been stereotyped to be for so long. Most of these artists end up only breaking through on YouTube because talent shows like American idol are won by people who have the American look. A lot of the time they go to countries in Asia to seek fame in the music industry. This is especially true for Korean Americans who often end up going to South Korea in the hopes of reaching their dream of becoming a singer professionally. Also the discourses surrounding what an Asian American is, makes it so that trying to succeed in genres like hip-hop is even more difficult. For instance, the group Blue Scholars would be seen as trying to be black by mainstream America because they are a hip-hop group. Even though they are good at what they do, people will see them as not being authentic because of their background of Filipino and Iranian. Although in the past this was something that all non-Black/African American people faced when taking part in this genre of music.

All of these discourses have made life as an Asian American or a person who is non-Asian but interested in Asian culture more difficult than being what people see as a “normal” American. We have had to face stereotypes and be told that what we are doing is going against who we are. As individuals nobody should be able to tell us what we are and how we should do things. American citizens need to become more open minded and stop stereotyping people because of their ethnicity.


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