Cultural identity is becoming an issue for Asian-Americans. Some are at a loss of who they are and cannot figure out who they should be. This article explains some of the major problems that influence on cultural identity.
One factor is that people would always ask “Are you Chinese?” That would be the first thing they would say and even if you say no, they would still group you along with Chinese people. Eric Liu, who was a White House speech writer, thinks that this factor damages Asian-American identities. In the article, Liu “stresses that there is no single set of “Asian” foods, philosophies, or traditions (Liu interview). This tends to result in “benign neglect” (Liu lecture). America may not realize that they are contributing to a more serious problem by simply grouping together all Asian-Americans.”(Dr. Ryan) This kind of grouping can also be harmful. One example is the Vincent Chin case. Back in 1982, Vincent was a Chinese-American who got beaten to death with baseball bats by two white males. The reason for this act; they thought he was Japanese.
Another factor is interracial dating. The article states that “the ratio of white males married to Asian females to Asian males married to white females in the United States is 3.3:1. For second and later generation Asian-Americans, the ratio is 1.7:1. However, for first-generation Asian-Americans, the ratio is 4.8:1 and if you take Indian-Americans out of the equation, leaving Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Filipino, this ratio jumps to a shocking 7:1 (Tanaka 0.1).” (Dr. Ryan) This is surprising on how common interracial marriages can be. This kind of difference can cause cultural identity problems. Interviews were conducted and Asian-American females considered Asian men as “scrawny.” They also commented that a white female dating an Asian male is “dating down,” while an Asian female dating a white male is “dating up.” Another cause for the significant difference is the expected role of the female and male. In a typical Asian male/female relationship, the female works hard to make the male happy. However, in a white male and Asian female relationship, the female “are given the opportunity to grow and become stronger as individuals, making this relationship like “moving a level up.” (Dr. Ryan)
Another factor is the influence made throughout childhood. Children can be influenced by the environment at home. Children’s views and attitudes on their nationality are often formed within their preschool years. In the article, it shares stories from a variety of students of different races on how their culture was stressed within their household. One student is a Taiwanese-American and her household does not stress much since her parents are well adapted to the American society. Another student is Clara Voon, who is 3/4 Chinese and 1/4 Malaysian and her parents does emphasize her culture within the household; however, she does not pay too much attention because she is already influenced by American culture. Jung Hyun is a Korean-American and her mother stressed her immensely on how important her culture is. Her mother says, “Don’t lose your language”, so Jung Hyun speaks Korean with her mother. However, her younger sister Yoon is not proud of her culture; therefore, she commits her time to Japanese studies instead. Even though some students get a chance to learn about their culture, many other students do not have the opportunity to learn about their culture.
The last factor is the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, Asian and Asian-Americans are under-represented in the world of music. “Increasing the number of Asian-Americans in positions of role-models frequently found in the entertainment industry has the potential to give Asian-American children a chance to identify with someone like themselves that’s famous.” (Dr. Ryan) Featuring more Asian artists into the world of music would help other Asian-Americans identify themselves; however, there are not many Asian artists in order to help solve this problem. Luckily, there are some who try to fix this problem. Steve Wei, who is a Taiwanese-American, formed a band with two others, Scott Jung and Chris Wang, which was called Mountain Brothers. Wei believes that “Asian-Americans need to make this move into the entertainment industry.” (Dr. Ryan) Other contributors who want to get Asian-Americans out into the entertainment industry are Andy Kawanami and Nelson Wong. They formed AArising Records, whose purpose was to reveal the talents of Asian-Americans. Wong states, “”Our goal is to diversify the APA (Asian-Pacific-American) images out there. The more images you have out there the less chance that someone will be able to stereotype Asian Pacific Americans as being a certain way.” (Dr. Ryan)
Reading this article, I made many connections within my own life. With the Chinese calling reference, I hate being asked “Are you Chinese?” I don’t know why exactly, but maybe it was to the point where I was asked that question so often that I just got tired of it. Another connection is the emphasis of culture within my household. My parents are strict when it comes to our Korean culture. They even sent my brother and me to a Korean summer school to learn Korean since we forgot how to read and speak Korean as we got older. I was also picked on when I was younger because I looked different. There were times when I was little when I did not like being Asian because it caused me to get picked on so often and it messed up with self-esteem and made me feel insecure. As a Korean-American, I question myself at times am I really Korean?
These factors help people see the struggles Asian-Americans go through for their cultural identity. With little kids, they often get picked on for being different, which forms a sense of fear of being different and develop of sense of insecurity. Families should emphasize their children on how important their culture is at an early age, so that they do not disregard it. Asian-Americans and other minorities should figure out who they are, so that they can go on with their lives and not question who they are.