This entry is a continuation of yesterday’s blog.
One workshop I attended was very fascinating. It was titled “Being Multiracial, Multiethnic, Multilingual: Asian-descent in the Age of Obama.” I loved the speaker, Dr. Teresa Williams-Leon, who happens to be Japanese-Caucasian. She was engaging, energetic, and charismatic. She was there to discuss her research in multiethnic groups, such as whether different classes of half-Asians associate with one particular half or not. However, multi-___ research reveals the dynamic intricacies of life. Coming out is not a clean break; people are subject to social pressures and numerous influences.
A proper definition of stereotype is a distortion of reality, resulting in preconceived (often exaggerated) notions. According to Dr. Teresa’s research, multiracial people are influenced by class, parents, phenotype, country, gender, etc… Interestingly, she found that there is a tendency to be closer to positive stereotypes. For instance, in Asian-Hispanics, there is a shift to lean towards the Latino side based on physical appearances and some more negative stereotypes linked to Asians. However, with age, there is greater flexibility and longitudinal progression in identity development and acceptance; there’s less of a “stuck” feeling. There is more opening up to previous identities.
Thus, we have parameters when we interact with people. We have expectations and naturally fall victim to generating stereotypes. And yet, when we get to know people, we learn about the individual. Clearly, we cannot just simply assume and be right all the time.
Of course, we touched upon just a few major Asian stereotypical features: technologically superior (think Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda, Samsung, Nokia, Japanese toilets!, Chinese electric fly swatter, Taiwan’s MRT subway that beats NYC rat-infested lines, etc…), trustworthy, passive, modest, hard-working, money-making (DLB-Doctor-Lawyer-Business alliance), etc…
To finish up, we looked at multi-ethnic famous people. For instance, Barack Obama himself is African-Caucasian. AND, he is as close to an Asian president as America has seen, since his step-father originated from Indonesia. Then there are also Tiger Woods, Kimora Lee, the awesome Apolo Ohno, and the playboy husband Jon of Jon&Kate duo. Tiger Woods has viewed himself as unique as a “Caublasian,” with connections to variety of classes and cultures. Kimora looks like a really tall and tan Asian lady, but on television, she comes off as assimilating well with the hip-hop community; and yet, she does incorporate oriental themes in her fashion and names for her children. Clearly, racial identity is complicated and highly variable…
For me, I’m not multi-racial; I’m just another ABC who’s had multi-lingual skills. A fill-in-the blank exercise we had to try was this: Although I seem ___ people don’t know that I’m ___. Okay, this can be a fun activity to play on this blog.
1. Although I seem Chinese, people don’t know that I’m illiterate. That is, I can only speak and listen to Mandarin, but I never learned to read or write. As Dr. Yeung mentioned in her keynote speech, how can a person know so much about a language, and yet be illiterate. People have complimented on my developed Mandarin, with a few funny pronunciation differences that’s more due to my parents’ backgrounds. But, I cannot read or write, except for my name (eh, what’s the use of that when I have a legal, English name). My mom has said, “What do you need reading and writing anyway? You’re in America, you need English!” Well, I’d like to travel and perhaps try working some time in Asia; it’s still my homeland, history-wise. I’ve had limited opportunities to visit and work in China or Taiwan or other Asian areas, but I’d like to incorporate some more time during my medical career. Hence, for the past 2 years of revitalizing my heritage, I’ve picked up more Mandarin via KTV (yes, I watch Jay Chou MVs to sharpen my reading), dramas, and news. Yes, funky alternative to Chinese school.
2. Although I seem Chinese, people don’t know that I’m also Taiwanese. It’s a touchy subject, it’s controversial, it’s sensitive. It’s become a political debate and alliance nightmare, nearly to the point of military threat a few years back. My mother’s Shanghainese, my father’s Taiwanese (with roots near Shanghai)… I joke with my friends, I might as well say I’m floating in the South China Sea somewhere. I’ve had influences from both ends. Just listen to me talk in Mandarin, and you will deem my speaking funny. Sometimes I sound ABC, other times I say words TW way or Shanghainese way. Each dialect is different around China/Taiwan/elsewhere, and native speakers pick up your ethnicity very easily.
My sister saw a commercial on Sino TV and it showed a bunch of Asian students preparing for those summer enrichment classes and acing the SATs. One kid said, “Next time on your application, check off other and write Taiwanese…” Yes, TW pride is sky high and it’s affecting me. If you look at my music choices and drama selections, you’ll see where my loyalties land =D