Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One of these things is not like the other...

Here's something I've been thinking about recently...

 Once upon a time, a few months ago "Linsanity" gripped the nation! What's Linsanity? You all know Jeremy Lin right? That bench warmer who outscored the Lakers one fateful NBA game! At this time I was talking to a friend and he was telling me about Lin and I was thinking that I might blog about him, having East Asian heritage and all that. But then I thought about it more deeply and came to this extremely obvious yet somehow profound conclusion. "Wait a second! Jeremy Lin isn't East Asian, he's American! The guy was born in L.A!" and thus I maintain it would be inappropriate to blog about him on my blog called "Alex's East Asian Studies".

Mr. Lin himself.
 Now some of you might be wondering, "But Alex! That dude is so totally Asian, man! I mean look at him! And that last name! tre Chinois!". Don't let your eyes and rudimentary perception of culture fool you my friends! Jeremy Lin, like many other people who are often branded as "Asian" by the unenlightened (god I must be sounding REALLY pretentious right now) is actually an Asian-American person! "Whatever dude! That's just semantics! I know my Asians!" I hear some of you say. Well listen friends, it might blow your mind to know that there are myriad profound cultural differences between those who were born and live on the Eastern portion of the Asian continent, and those who were born and live in our North America. Yes, there is a BIG cultural difference between my friend George Wong from Toronto and my friend Wei Yi Fan from Szechuan. This difference? That one is East Asian, and one is North American. But of course that's not where the argument ends.

I read this sometime ago. Wanna learn about Asian-American culture? Read it!
 Within the context of North America, Asian-American communities have, historically had (and continue to have) a uniquely North American experience both in negative ways such as having to deal with marginalization, racism, racial profiling etc. and more positive ways, exposure to the many American sub-cultures, multi-ethnic mingling etc., These people have grown up speaking English, hanging out with Americans of other backgrounds and generally developing what could be considered an "American Sensibility". What do I mean by this? Well, at least in my experience, everything from fashion, tastes in media, ideals of beauty, tastes in food and all that stuff tend to differ greatly between my East Asian friends and my Asian-American friends (this is a generalization but bear with me). This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but I still encounter a disturbing number of "non-asians" who can't seem to figure out the extremely obvious differences between these two groups of people and who continue to view Asian-Americans as "foreigners" or "outsiders" despite them being a major part of our urban and rural communities for over 100 years!

Wanna learn about contemporary Asian Americans? Get to know this guy! This guy here is Philip Yu, he's the main man behind the "Angry Asian Man" blog that I've been reading for years! A fine resource on all things Asian-American. I'll put a link to his page at the bottom of this post.
 Anyway! The result of all this "North American exposure" is that Asian-Americans have emerged as a uniquely American sub-culture. They are American, yes, but they continue to have to deal with issues and experiences that are uniquely Asian-American. This often, and sadly, seems to be a result of them being marginalized for essentially looking different than white people, who for some reason often continue to be considered "more American" than say, "Blacks" or Hispanics who have also been part of the American spectrum for untold generations. However, because of these various social hardships (and other more positive elements) Asian-Americans exist as a very diverse group of people (because I'm talking about people with backgrounds from all of Asia here! -see my previous post "Those Asians") who are about as American as cowboys and lite-beer! Asian-Americans are an American people, the experiences that have solidified the Asian-American identity can only have come from living and growing in America. Asian-Americans are totally different than people who live in and grew up in East Asia. So, in-effect calling them Asian is actually WRONG! Not just politically but literally!

So next time you want to ask your classmate or co-worker Paul Yu from the state of Mississippi if he ever learned Kung Fu or studied the Confucian classics, take some time and think for a second. Look at him as a fellow countryman. He may have a different heritage sure, and because of that likely had a different experience in his formative years but ask yourself this: You may think China when you look at Jeremy Lin but do you think Africa when you think Michael Jordan? How much sense does that actually make?

Join me next time when I'll talk about East-Asian Women and bullshit stereotypes!                              
Check out Angry Asian Man here:

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