Thursday, January 31, 2008

Response to My America and Class Discussion

I think part of what surprised me the most about My America or Honk, If You Love Buddha was that during the documentary, I often found myself drawing parallels between my personal experiences and that of Renee Tajima-Pena’s. Like Tajima-Pena, I continuously struggle with what it means to be an “Asian American,” partially because I am a product of a biracial (Chinese and Caucasian) marriage. I often find myself torn between two worlds in which I don’t easily fit into either one and personally appreciated that Tajima-Pena’s documentary establishes that there is no one type of Asian. During her road trip, Tajima-Pena meets Asians from all walks of life—from the Louisiana Filipino sisters to her hero Paul Wong. Of all the characters Tajima-Pena spotlights, however, these Southern Filipino women intrigued me the most. I found it extremely interesting that they consider themselves to be white and are horrified at the idea that they could have been asked to attend “colored” schools. To me, although in retrospect I do not like/want to admit it, I do not seem them as white and instead see them as Asian. Thus, Tajima-Pena’s documentary proves that even Asian Americans like myself can hold certain stereotypes and incorrect perceptions of other Asian Americans. Although it is not necessarily our fault that these stereotypes internally exist, that does not mean that we should idly accept them. I believe that the first step in breaking down these false notions is to openly acknowledge and then address them.
In class today, we addressed some of the stereotypes held regarding Asians, which drew my attention to a topic I am covering in a different class. Our discussion made me think of articles I recently read for my Anthropology class, Violence and the Media, which focused on the brutal beating of Vincent Chin. In her 2002 article “A Slaying in 1982 Maintains Its Grip on Asian-Americans,” Lynette Clemetson writes that even 20 years after Chin’s death, Asian Americans still find themselves dealing with “persistent stereotypes, like the 'perpetual foreigner' with questionable allegiances or the 'model minority'” and how these stereotypes still affect the Asian American fight for equality in America in the present day (Clemetson). This causes me to wonder how far we have come as a country if after over 20 years the same issues that caused Chin’s death still directly affect us today. I hope we might get to address this horrific event sometime later in the course and consider what the impact (if any) it had on society and on future generations of Americans.

If you are interested in this article, here is the link:

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