So I have a lot to say about Asian-American representation.
First, I’d like to address the whole Asian v. Black representation.
FIRST, why is that even a thing? Why do I feel like every time I want to talk about Asian-American representation in the media, I’m shot down by people who keep repeating the words “model minority”, and “honorary White” at me?
Yes, I realize, I know, that the majority of Asian-Americans are middle-upper class and higher.
I know that we are not (typically) discriminated against because of our skin color, and especially not on a large-government bureaucracy scale.
I know that we have all the benefits of White people.
I know that it seems like we’re all doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, or just generally super well-off.
And yeah, some of us are. I was one of those. I lived in LA suburbia, I went to a school where we never had to seriously worry about fights, or drugs, or being shot up, or having teachers who just didn’t care. My family had enough money to make a serious road trip every year and fly back to Taiwan to visit family and go to an amusement park. I never wanted for anything.
But my question is: what does that have to do with my right to see people just like me on TV? What does it have to do with little Asian boys growing up and realizing that they can be something other than the nerdy, skinny, glasses-wearing token Asian kid who ruins the curve for everyone in his class? What does it have to do with Asian boys seeing that being that nerdy, skinny, glasses-wearing Asian kid is not a bad thing? What does it have to do with little Asian girls seeing that they can be something other than what we limit them to now? What does it have to do with having boycotts over “White Oscars” and in the same breath, making fun of Asian kids because we’re all “good at math”?
“Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie.”
Equal representation for others does not mean fewer representation for you. It’s not pie.
Second, I want to address why it is so important for young Asian-American (and even White, Black, and Latino) children see Asian-Americans on their TV.
For me? I had the luck to grow up in a predominately Asian community. There, I was part of the Majority. But I turn on my TV and what do I see? White people. As a kid, sure, I didn’t think about Asian-American activism and how we were being kept out of mainstream media. No, I just watched and absorbed. I loved Kim Possible and Totally Spies and even Ed, Edd, And Eddy. I also loved Jake Long: American Dragon, Mulan, and even Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.
And then I grew up and watched NigaHiga and KevJumba and WongFu Productions and they became a part of me.
As I grew older and moved to Taiwan, I had Taiwanese people, American people telling me how “White” I was. What? This confused me at first, then I felt proud about it. I was “White” and “cool” and I could be like all the pretty Instagram girls online.
One of my hardest times was when my Aunt accused me of hating my own people. My own people. She accused me of hating Taiwanese people, Taiwanese culture, and the country. I rolled my eyes and muttered that I just hated my family and they just happened to be Taiwanese. But I had always caught myself wishing my parents spoke the same language I did. That they were like the parents on TV. The “cool parents” who understood their child because there was no language or cultural barrier.
And that was when it hit me. As innocent as the shows I watched were, I never really saw something like me. KevJumba’s father didn’t always understand him, but we only ever saw what he showed us, the funny, the relatable. And Jake Long’s parents spoke English. It was Wendy Wu who was the most similar to me. Who absorbed the “White culture” and just wanted to be like everyone else. And hated her own skin, and her heritage.
I was Wendy Wu and I had been conditioned to hate my own person.
The point of all that is that I had one person to really look up to. Wendy Wu. Brenda Song. London Tipton. And I didn’t absorb her lesson at the tender age of 8. Representation is important. It’s important for young children to know that they are not alone. Asian-Americans have been around for a while now. We deserve our place in the spotlight.
We’ve earned it. And it shouldn’t be something you need to earn.
Just like Black kids deserve Black Panther and Luke Cage, and the LGBTQ+ community deserves Love, Simon and Queer Eye, we deserve our heritage, our ethnicity to be recognized.
Just as an extra point, Black Panther was the perfect movie for the African/African-American community, and I applaud all the progress it represents and is pushing for. My one question is: of all the effort they put into creating this wonderful representation of actual African culture, they couldn’t be bothered to find a Korean lady who knew how to speak Korean well? Are we really that hard to find? Because Alexis Rhee’s Korean was choppy and (according to my Korean friend) hard to listen to. Even Danai Gurira’s Korean was almost better than hers.
We deserve equal representation in media and I’m not stopping until we are heard.