Friday, February 1, 2008

My America: Response

Like many of my classmates, I too was surprised by the two Filipino women who so unabashedly declared that they were white and had always been considered as such. It was such an interesting moment in the film, because I had just finished reading Galang's discussion of the history of racism Filipino people have encountered in this country and here were two women of Filipino descent claiming to never have been seen or considered themselves as anything but white. For me, it really reinforced the idea that there is no single or unified Asian American experience--an idea that seems to have been highlighted throughout the film as a whole, structured as it is as a series of interviews with Asian Americans from many different backgrounds with a diverse array of experiences.

That being said, I think that there were moments in the film where commonality could be seen in the experiences of Asian Americans from even the most dissimilar backgrounds. One thing I noticed, for instance, was the way several different people (including the Seoul Brothers and the recent Hmong immigrant) mentioned being called Chinese by ignorant white Americans not culturally sensitive enough to realize that China is just one nation in Asia. Not being of Asian descent myself, I had not realized how universal this experience seems to be for Asian Americans, even in this day and age. Moments like this in the film suggested that there are in fact some factors that unite Asian Americans, although many of these factors seemed to have more to do with the way Asian Americans have historically been treated as a group by white Americans than with cultural similarities.

Finally, and on an unrelated note, something that I got out of this film that I had not really been exposed to was a sense of the reality of what it meant to have put Japanese Americans in internment camps during WWII. Of course, I had heard about it growing up in history classes, and I had always found the idea of imprisoning American people in camps reprehensible, but something about hearing the Kochiyamas talk about how they met while he was a GI and she was living in an internment camp brought the reality of the internment camps home for me in a way it had never been before. I was horrified and I still can't help but wonder why this injustice has never received the attention in classrooms and in the mainstream media (at least in my experience) as slavery and the Holocaust and other atrocities have.

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