This post is inspired by a paper for a my Race, Gender, and Media class where I wrote on a self reflection where how I view myself changed because of a certain exposure to the media. The stuff I ended up with was very interesting to me because I never really realized how I felt or thought about myself until I started to look back into myself. I would suggest you all do the same and maybe even write about it. I promise you will not look at you life the same ever again. Anyways, without further adieu
(I just Googled how to spell this), here’s the post:
To be honest, I have always tried to shy away from talking about race or ethnicity. I believe there is more to me than the fact that I was born and raised in Taiwan. Please don’t get me wrong, I do understand and accept my roots and upbringings, but there are times where it feels like that is all I am. This kind of self-reflection and examination didn’t start until I came to the United States to pursue an education 7 years ago.
“If you ever forget the fact that you are Asian, someone else will remind you.” I forgot where I read this quote, but it really speaks to me. Going from being the majority of the population to the minority was a slow yet dramatic change in my lifestyle, and I will attempt to explain what I mean with the following paragraphs. In Young Adolescents in Television Culture by Fisherkeller, published in 1997, he explains that young people learn their social goals and what they want in their future lives through personal and physical interactions while they learn how to act on those dreams and hopes through television (Fisherkeller, J. (1997). Everyday learning about identities among young adolescents in television culture. 28, 485). By his definition, my social goals and my strategies to reach these goals all changed when I started my high school education in a small boarding school in the suburbs of Chicago. I knew I wanted to be famous, and I really believed I could, too. In elementary school, I was in the choir, in the orchestra, and on the dance team. I was determined to be famous and to make a lot of money. My goals became really short term oriented, however, when I realized there were more immediate problems. The first one was the language barrier.
I struggled a lot when I got here, and it was the kind of experience you would not really understand until you’ve gone through it yourself. I realized that language was something I needed to improve dramatically and very fast in order to be a part of the crowd, but why did I ever want to be a part of the crowd? Was it because I was not confident enough? Was it because I was not content with myself or with my social status as a F.O.B.? Looking back at myself, I now know that it was because I wanted to be White. Being White means more than just your skin color – it comes with social status, privileges, and most importantly, in my opinion, less negative first impression from others.
America has a wonderful entertainment industry ranging from world-famous Hollywood stars to singers that dominate music charts even on the other side of the planet. Watching shows like Friends, Gossip Girl, and Desperate Housewives where the cast is mainly, if not all, White while trying to learn English, I became obsessed with this “White” image. It seemed as though hanging out at a coffee shop, being catty with your peers, and getting dramatic with your life became a “White thing” whereas if you’re Asian, for example, you’re a supporting character in the back with a line or two every now and then. Remember when I said all I ever wanted was to become famous? This is when I started becoming obsessing over being White because, in my mind, that meant I would finally be able to get the spotlight.
I have grown out of the obsession, fortunately, but my experiences still raise an important question concerning our media exposure. We all know that entertainers of color are very under represented. When there is one famous Latino, Black, or Asian entertainer, he suddenly becomes the token for that race. For example, Ken Jeong and PSY were the most recent and most interesting entertainers I have been compared to. Just in case you’re wondering who Ken Jeong is, he is Mr. Chow in The Hangover trilogy. Honestly, asking me to reenact Ken Jeong’s “so long, gay boys” in the movie The Hangover is very racist and unpleasant. Talking to me about PSY’s Gangnam Style is all cool and fun until questions about the lyrics and asking to dance the famous horse dance. It is very insensitive considering I’m from Taiwan, not South Korea.
At the same time, however, I do not want to become too politically correct and too ready to jump out and call people racist evey chance I get. I understand that, for someone who is not exposed to other cultures too frequently, talking to me about Gangnam Style is probably the closest to “knowing” my background, and it could be a conversation starter. Usually, I just go with the flow because I was there myself. When I first came to the United States, I had such a difficult time distinguishing White people – especially the blonde girls – apart from each other. Separating Asians apart was, on the other hand, a simple task, and I have almost always been correct on guessing their ethnicity as well. I understand how difficult it must be for those who grew up without having been exposed to Asian ethnicities to “not be racist” and be able to distinguish our cultures, ethnicities, and sometimes even names. I will defeat the purpose of trying to raise awareness of race and ethnicity issues if I make others too uncomfortable to talk about it.
I believe that with the world getting smaller metaphorically, people with different races and ethnicities are becoming physically closer to each other. We often criticize others and ourselves too harshly on the topics that interest and are important to us that we forget to recognize our accomplishments and achievements. I can honestly say that, despite some of the issues addressed previously, America is still doing better in terms of racial and gender movements than most other places. The difference is the dialogue – in America, issues like race and gender are publicly discussed through various media channels unlike some other places where even provoking such a thought could result in severe punishment. Education is key, and we can all contribute to a greater cause of race and gender equality by simply having an open conversation.