It’s Not All Martial Arts and A Bowl of Rice

I do find myself a bit perplexed, really, that when I want to write about the current affairs portion of this page (as so I’ve put in my bio and explained in my first post), it is usually in response to certain events that have struck a nerve inside of me and probably registered a certain amount of worry in me about who I am, about my identity. My first piece on this so-called current affairs topic is when I wrote about my perspective and thoughts on being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim country following the attack on my fellow Christians in Sigi late last year. This time I find myself writing about myself as an Asian after the horrendous attack that occurred just a few days ago where several people of Asian descent were murdered at three Atlanta-area massage parlor. I think we can all agree that this is a hate-crime, something fueled by racism. It’s appalling. But how do we address this as Asians, who have been living under a huge amount of derogation and marginalization?

Image taken from https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/reports-of-anti-asian-hate-crimes-are-surging-in-canada-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-1.5351481

Obviously, I can’t write about what it feels like to be an Asian living and trying to be a member of society in a foreign land. I don’t have the experience of a diaspora or an immigrant moving out of the homeland trying to seek an opportunity in another country. Therefore it’s not in my place to write about it since I have no experience or connection on what that feels like. What I can write about is my own observations and thoughts about what it’s like being Asian. The things an Asian would have to face when facing the world and its explicitly Western underpinnings.

Being Asian means that there would still be a portion of the world that still considers the “classic diaspora and immigrant” like the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino as what Asians are. It’s the constant informing that there are so many Asians from every nomenclature of the points of the compass. Establishing that a brown-skinned person is also Asian, that being Asian doesn’t mean that we all have slanted eyes and a lisp on our speech. It’s also about recognizing that no Asians are alike in the sense of identity. Neighboring nations might have one or more silver linings and common denominators, but things can be so different. Something that outsiders often didn’t really get. One of the easiest examples is when you learn why curry is called curry. Another might be the myriad of stereotypes and misconceptions about Asians, which I will try to delve into later in this writing.

Being Asian means that there will be fetishization, usually from the Western world. For women, notably of Eastern and, to a certain extent, Southeast origins, this problem is far worse. As an example, Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociology professor at Biola University, told the NPR (https://www.npr.org/2021/03/19/979336512/for-asian-american-women-misogyny-and-racism-are-inseparable-sociologist-says) that Asian women are too often hypersexualized and fetishized, especially in the US where Asian women are often depicted as “submissive, servile, exotic lotuses, temptresses,” and like in the movie Full Metal Jacket, “prostitute.” Apparently, the sort of Asian fetishization occurred and was felt by none other than Jackie Chan. I was digging myself into The Graham Norton Show Youtube channel and saw an interview between the host and Jackie Chan. Although he said it with a smiling face, he was annoyed that whenever people saw him, they would say his name and then proceed to do some form of martial art kind of movement. I laughed for a bit then realized how big and annoying of a problem it is. The fetishization isn’t just about Asians as people. There is also a fetishization that Asia, typically Southeast, is a tropical getaway and a cheap place for foreigners to stay and do whatever they want without regarding local customs and cultural practices. Westerners know Bali but a lot of them don’t know it’s part of Indonesia.

Being Asian means that there is a LOT of stereotypes that will be placed upon us. The classic ones are that Asians are good at math or Asians are bad drivers. As I have mentioned in the third paragraph, the classic stereotype includes that all Asians look the same. There are other stereotypes, either given to us but foreigners or ones we give to fellow Asians. Things like Asians eat dogs, Indians always have their marriage arranged, Chinese are money-oriented shopkeepers and stingy, Koreans all have plastic surgery, Japanese likes hentai because the Americans nuke them twice, and the list is still so long. The last sentence was quite uncomfortable to write because I too had some of these thoughts until I learned more and more about the world. The thing with stereotyping is some may stem from facts, but we all know that usually most of them fall flat to what’s really going on underneath.

Being Asian means that racism is a part of our lives. It comes from the Western world and also from within (I’m looking at you, East Asians). Whitewashing seems like a common feature in the movie industry (by that I mean Hollywood) as if Asians can’t play Asians in Asian stories, except in a few movies where it is helmed by Asian directors and/or producers. There are many racial slurs attached to Asians like Chink, Coolie, Brownie, Paki, Dink, and even some that are attached by fellow Asians to other Asians like Huana, Chinki, Malaun, and Jakun. Being Asian also means that somehow we are being put in an involuntary battle with other races to see who has had the most struggle and acts of racism put on us. Somehow, this battle is fought often with the Black community. Why this is the condition is something beyond my understanding. What we don’t have as Asians is a unifying thing against racism, I think. Black Lives Matter encompasses every Black life and the struggles they endure. Stop Asian Hate? Even amongst each other we still do a spot of Asian hate.

Being Asian means constantly being undermined, underappreciated, under fire. Being Asian also means being proud of our identity, trying to strip away colonialist influences, and figuring out a way to rise above the challenges. It’s about displaying that resilience that is often affiliated with being Asian. It’s also about finding a way to unite and see beyond our differences as Asians. It’s difficult, but maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the try. I might sound optimistic, but why always be cynical of the world? Hell, maybe we just need a Black Panther of our own.

Thank you for reading, trust no one, and see you in the next post.

Bachelor's degree in International Relations from Universitas Indonesia. Football. Cars. Pop culture. Current affairs. Personal rants. Random thoughts.