Friday, December 4, 2009

Investing in the Asian American Nation

Should Asian Americans sacrifice a bit of their cultural identity to come together, unite and speak as one Voice?  Should AAs invest in the Asian American nation for sake of advancing and empowering the community?

A guest writer for 8Asians by the name of Koji Steven Sakai wrote a piece I couldn't resist commenting on because it addressed the aforementioned that has always been controversial and countered by many AAs who still hold onto their heritage dearly and rightfully so. Here is an excerpt from the post,
Some would argue that this is just another example of Hollywood confusing and combining all Asian groups together. Japanese. Chinese. Korean. There is no difference. They are all the same. And maybe that’s exactly what they did. But I’m hoping that this is a sign of things to come. A time when Asians (and Asian Americans) can stop defining themselves by their country of origin but by the bigger and broader term, Asian. I’m probably giving too much credit to the makers of Ninja Assassin. But I believe that only by coming together can Asian (and Asian Americans) truly be a cultural and intellectual force on the world stage.
Its an interesting discussion and one that has been neglected for various reasons. A significant number of AAs vehemently reject this idea of having a "bigger and broader term, Asian". They often cite history as empirical evidence as grounds for arguing a slippery slope. WWII and The Korean War, for instance, gave White Americans an excuse to call anyone who was Asian a jap, nip or gook. Obviously, lumping Asians all together may create more opportunities for stereotyping and blatant racism.

But, isn't this inevitable?  I sure think so. As much as there are AAs who ridicule their Asian side such as Amy Tan, there are other AAs who forget they are American. They may be ethnically Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, Filipino, etc. but they are American by nationality. And being American means they should invest in the betterment of an American economical, social and political way of life. It's one thing to know your roots, but its another to have so much pride in your country of origin, or parents' country of origin for many of you, that you forget you are even an American to begin with. I pay income taxes in America, not in Korea.

Let's be honest.  When was the last time you saw a White girl and said to her, "What's your ethnic background?"  Or something like, "You know, you look mixed. Your face looks Swedish. Your tits look German. And your ass looks French."  Maybe not in so many words but you get the picture. Its like Chris Rock said, "We don't have time to be putting White people into categories."  And I doubt after a while non-AAs will continue to insure they are matching ethnic labels properly.

My last point refers to a comment I made to Koji's post,
It may be difficult to acknowledge, but there has been a lack of solidarity within the Asian community. As white is to Europe, yellow (or brown in some instances, LOL) is to Asia. Both regions are fragmented with an overwhelming number of different ethnicities, all culturally unique in their own right. Yet somehow, these factors did not stifle the progress of the White Americans as it did for the Asian Americans for one simple reason. European-Americans sacrificed much of their heritage in order to invest in this notion of "whiteness" and by doing so, they became the ideal standard of American society. This galvanization of European-Americans allowed them to be the sole beneficiary of this investment and drove faster assimilation. Throughout the course of US history they have leveraged and benefited from this notion of whiteness politically, economically and socially. For instance, running for congress or office, moving up the corporate ladder, qualifying for a sizable bank loan, obtaining lead roles in mainstream entertainment and placing White-American Male as alpha others as beta i.e. the imbalance of WM/AF pairings.

Of course, it also helps when you're the ethnic majority, but nonetheless its systemic impact has proven its significance repeatedly. Even African Americans have more of a cohesive voice than Asian Americans do, and they too came from many different countries in Africa.

Make no mistake. I'm not advocating that we follow similar practices of giving preferential treatment to someone based on them being Asian alone. This makes us no better than any other racist we complain about. The point I'm trying to get across is that everyone in the Asian community should let go some of this attachment to their ethnic-specific identity for the sake of advancing the Asian community as a whole - power in numbers.
I'm not proposing AAs completely reject their heritage.  I neither want to be washed up nor be clueless regarding my cultural roots.  Instead, AAs should have a community and strive to work together for a common cause of Progress and Asian American empowerment.


  1. "You know, you look mixed. Your face looks Swedish. Your tits look German. And your ass looks French."

    That cracked me up dude!

    Well if you look at all of the European immigrants from "The Gangs of New York" days through the 20th century, they amalgamated into this mutt mixture we call white American. There are still very distinct pockets of ethnic Euro-American communities in places like the East Coast, but for the most part, whites are mixed up. Some of them feel a sense of loss from being culturally disinherited and disconnected from their ancestral cultures, which is why whites are such big fans of Braveheart, The Departed, Far and Away, Gangs of New York, the Godfather, Good Fellas, Munich and Titanic. They're searching for their ethnic roots and want to identify with that, even though they're so far removed.

    I think this is what's happening with Asian Americans. It's already happened in Hawaii, where everybody is a mutt mixture of Asian ethnic groups. I can see it happening here in the Bay Area. Hell, I've dated Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipina, and Hapa.

    I find it to be BS when guys argue against IR dating because we're losing our ethnic communities, because there's plenty of these ethnic communities in Asia. Frankly, I welcome an amalgamated Asian American community.

  2. "They're searching for their ethnic roots and want to identify with that, even though they're so far removed."

    Yeah. I think this is why White people are always talking about taking Euro trips to get in touch with their roots. I'm sure at times they feel as though something is lacking from a cultural standpoint.

    I've noticed that bay area Asians are much more distinct than Asians I've met elsewhere. I feel like they've assimilated much better. This may be due to the abundance of high profile companies located in the area. Since corporate America is mainly white, AAs are immersed into a setting that aids the assimilation and amalgamation process.

    I welcome an amalgamated AA community as well. Mixed up AF are hot. I met a Hawaiian, Filpino, Mexican, Irish girl who resembled Jessica Alba. Damn I wish I took a picture with her.

  3. I think having a cultural, pan-Asian identity is the only thing that will keep us together. I think Koji might be a little late to the punch. I don't like the fact that he just uses East Asians as an example.

  4. My sentiments exactly.

    Even though James mentioned examples such as "The Godfather" and "Gangs of New York", I think Euro-Americans realized having a White American identity was their way of silently mobilizing as opposed to the 60s Black Nationalism movement which came off as threatening and almost militant (minus the White settlers slaughtering of Native Americans and ownership of slaves).

    That's why I like artists such as Rain because he is really uniting the entire Asian community through music. He is touring all over Asia. Even Jackie Chan came out to give him props at one of his concerts recently. Also, he has the Voice of a leader who wants to "open doors for more opportunities in Hollywood not only for myself but for other Asian actors". I don't see or hear much of that from other Asian actors today.

    Oh, and if any of you guys get the chance, you should check out George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness. How White People Profit from Identity Politics. My blog post theme, is an extrapolation from this. Its a bit long and wordy, but you'll truly come to understand 1) how white people empowered themselves 2) why blacks resent white Americans with a fervent passion 3) why I think its so crucial to have a broader Asian American identity.


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