The Asian-American Community is its own Worst Enemy
By Ronald Chiang
I’ve been following online sentiment and Asian-Americans at large seem to be interested in the following:
- Issues surrounding ethnic identity
- Issues related to systematic exclusion in society
It seems that the majority of Asian-Americans dwell on their identity. On one hand, they tend to do what they can to fit in with the majority population, whether it is just learning to be a monolingual English speaker, studying a eurocentric view of Asian history, or trying hard to fit in.
For whatever reason, many Asian-Americans chose to pursue a monolingual existence with English being their native or primary language. They tend to not like speaking their cultural language (Chinese, Vietnamese, Gujarati) over some misguided attempt to fit in with the majority non-Asian peers in school or because they believe they are superior by virtue of living in the USA.
Then later in life, they lament about having a narrow life experience because they cannot pursue other professional opportunities due to a lack of knowledge in an Asian language or some sense of regret that they’ve compromised themselves.
Like most people, history in the United States for Asian-Americans is taught from a western standpoint often with the general concept that much of the US, Canada and Europe are rich and free while the rest of the world is poor and dependent on the USA for their futures. As a result, enough Asian-Americans grow up believing they are again superior by virtue of living in the United States and develop a tendency to look down on their unamericanized Asian peers.
Again, as they get older and learn about reality being Asian-American, they regret being indoctrinated in such a falsehood and sometimes overcompensate with zealous support of their native country (China, Korea) in such a manner, including but not limiting to nationalism, and apologism, that they make native citizens of those places seem unpatriotic.
Then lastly, like their parents and other immigrants, many Asian-Americans work too hard to “make it” in the USA by becoming financially secure and often compromise themselves to fit in. Some ways they’ve done this is by embracing the Model Minority stereotype, which implies that Asian-Americans will be accepted and fit in American society if they choose to become leading professionals in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) and avoid social issues of “undesirable minorities” like African-Americans and Latinos.
They’ve also persuaded the rest of the country that they do not need diversity programmes like other minorities because they’re superior Model Minorities and they can work hard to go anywhere. In extreme cases, they’ve gone out of their way to support Affirmative Action with calls to minimise Asian students to an absolute quantity in favour of diversity for everyone else (including White students).
Not surprisingly, because of the Asian-American community’s apathy and distance from diversity initiatives and the willingness of their majority to hold back their own community in favour of other groups, American society at large became indifferent to social issues in the Asian-American community ranging from dismissing Asians with personal struggles as “rejects” to simply keeping Asian-American media portrayals to an absolute minimum.
When the Asian-American community complains as a whole, the majority population does not take their calls seriously due to their ongoing claims of being Model Minorities, their willingness to put the interests of everyone else above their own community and their general need to stay inoffensive when faced with major social issues.
While it would be unfair to generalise the Asian-American community, the majority of individuals with such values tend to be those from California living in suburbs with upper-middle incomes, from families with university degrees, and have a misguided sense of social justice that involves letting everyone else benefit at their own expense.
These people are the reasons why no meaningful change has occurred among the Asian-American community due to outlandish fears of being grouped with the other minority groups, which often motivates them to avoid “rocking the boat” and an ongoing misguided belief that conforming to an untrue stereotype is the only way to succeed for a place in the USA.
Also, with the growth of social media and online forums these same individuals that often conform to stereotypes usually overcompensate for their perceived shortcomings by resorting to worshipping, if not cheerleading, events in their families’ ancestral country where they have no actual connection to their daily lives other than their ethnicity and known family history. Examples of this involve Chinese-Americans supporting China’s decision to restrict foreign NGOs or build artificial islands in disputed waters.
Frankly, I am frustrated by all of you Asian-Americans for being walking stereotypes that resort to passive and weak methods to overcompensate for a lack of self-respect and ignorance in their actual history. Moreover, any suggestions that Asian-Americans can improve their standing within the community through self-respect, understanding of their culture (bilingualism, history), and being assertive in society are often dismissed, invalidated and rejected by the majority who believe in conforming for the sake of pleasing others.
With that in mind, I honestly do not expect any meaningful change in the perception and treatment of the Asian-American community by Asian-Americans themselves and by other Americans in my lifetime.