American Born Chinese – 美國土生華人

May 11, 2007

The “Asianization” of American Culture

Filed under: Media — americanbornchinese @ 10:29 pm

(My evaluation of contemporary culture/society)

I originally took this from my Blogger since this was written a while back and I would like to post it here too because of its relevancy.

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The aspects of Asian culture are starting to emerge and become readily apparent in American society today. Various cultural elements ranging from food to movies play a vital role in the mainstream, shaping the way that Asian Americans regard themselves and the way that other cultures regard them as well. From the incorporation of Japanese animation into multimedia and film-making to using Asian American celebrities in commercials to sell a product of the latest technology, the Asian culture is beginning to blend into what is considered “hip” and popular in the American culture. Besides that, there is a multiple of other aspects of Asian culture that have been accepted into the mainstream.

In this present day, Asian Americans are considered the “model minority” group by stereotype, meaning that the group has been more successful than the majority racial population by socioeconomic standards, which attribute to different factors such as family income, academic performance and education, and low crime rate. They also hold the reputation of high prestige as an ethnic group that is more superior in the areas of achievement and success than other groups by their determination and hard work, much like the Jewish Americans to whom they are regarded as parallel to. Much of this integration of cultural aspects and a sense of ethnic pride have boosted the ego of many Asians as they warmly welcome their gradual acceptance into society, believing that this process of assimilation can promote greater familiarity and understanding of their own history and racial background.

However, with regard to the overall success rate of Asians by the concept of a “model minority” group and their incorporation of elements into the mainstream culture, there are those who also perceive the “Asianization” of American culture in a broader sense, considering the possibility that Asian Americans still remain the targets of prejudice and racial discrimination in many ways. For instance, Asians may generally be regarded as “nerds” or “geeks” due to their demonstration of high academic achievement in the overall population of university/high school students. Though this common stereotype praises their academic standing among the majority racial population, it secludes them from those who are considered “normal” or “cool” and denounces their status immediately on the spot. In movies, Asians are portrayed as wearing large glasses because their vision has suffered due to the straining of the eyes in reading too many textbooks. Then they are looked on as the smart, school-loving, work-oriented teachers’ pets whose primary goal in life is to attend an ivy-league university such as Harvard or Princeton, graduate with a doctorate degree in mathematics, law, engineering, business, or liberal arts, and possibly emerge as an entrepreneur in the business world. Secondly, there is the issue of cultural aspects being absorbed into that of the American society where martial arts films, such as the recently released “Kung Fu Hustle” or the popular Jackie Chan movies (now being made into the cartoon TV series, “Jackie Chan Adventures” on Kids’ WB), promote the assumption among many that Asians, particularly Chinese, are constantly occupied with or normally engage in this type of defense art.

Much debate and controversy exist today about whether Asian Americans are equally represented as the Anglo-Saxons. To this day, many of the interracial relations have improved not just between these two particular ethnic groups, but in the overall scheme of things among different groups as well. However, one may argue that though this may be true, there is a deficiency in meeting up to this standard of equal representation. Major television networks and movie productions have mostly employed an overwhelming number of White actors and actresses to fill the primary roles of their shows/plays and have rarely employed members of ethnic minorities who may have the necessary skills/talent to perform equally as well or better. Also, there is an expectation of Asians to act or appear a certain way when being featured on a movie screen in an American movie, whether it is to exaggerate an Asian accent or to learn martial arts/kung fu. Consequently, others may have adopted these assumptions into their mind and will therefore regard Asians as having the tendency to behave the same way in real life as in a movie. This is the issue of conforming to America’s expectations that are attributed to stereotypes not necessarily in accordance with actuality. In order to get a clear image of what the Asian American culture is really about, one must look past the superficiality of these stereotypes and reveal our culture in its authentic state based on what is truly acceptable to us.

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About “American Born Chinese” blog

Filed under: Assimilation — americanbornchinese @ 9:35 pm

Welcome to my American Born Chinese (ABC) blog! I decided to start this journal because, just like many other ABCs, we have dealt with the constant issue of cultural assimilation in the United States. Many of us are second-generation Chinese U.S. citizens having had first-generational parents who immigrated here from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 loosened its grip on enforced policies regarding immigration from East Asia. 

The term “American Born Chinese” is commonly coined with the acrynom “ABC” just as “BBC” is a term for British Born Chinese and “CBC” for Canadian Born Chinese. Often, overseas Chinese labeled with these terms are regarded as individuals who are removed from their own culture as not having adequate understanding of Chinese traditions/customs and values and also not being able to speak the native tongue (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.) very proficiently, much less read and write in the language. For ABCs particularly, the Chinese population living on the coastal regions of the U.S. have a greater tendency to attain a stronger connection to the Chinese culture and influence due to the continual immigration of Chinese to these areas, thus, leading to the expanding populations of Chinese communities in states such as California and New York.

Assimilation into the mainstream culture is often the typical commonality prevalent among Asians or any other ethnic groups that have been born and raised in the U.S. for the majority (if not all) of their lives. Therefore, many have blended into the societal values and culture of the “host” country, and some have been viewed as seemingly having denied their heritage identity as a result. The derogatory terminology “banana,” and “Twinkie” are the common characteristics that reflect the “white-washed” tendencies of these ABCs – yellow on the outside, yet white on the inside.

The term “cultural assimilation,” as defined by Wikipedia, is “is an intense process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group, typically immigrants, or other minority groups, are “absorbed” into an established, generally larger community. This presumes a loss of many characteristics which make the newcomers different.” (Source)

Personally, I have been born into a family in which my parents both immigrated with their own families from Hong Kong in the 1960’s and attended high school and college in the U.S. I was born in San Francisco, California and have lived in this state for the entirety of my life without ever stepping foot in my native homeland. Growing up, I attended American-English school without having been sent to Chinese school when I was younger, so I didn’t start learning how to read/write Chinese until my Freshman year in college when I took a course in Mandarin Chinese. So what makes you so interested in Chinese culture? you might ask…

Well, to tell you the truth, it might be a number of factors. It may be the fact that I took a course called “Chinese American Personality” during the first college semester of my Sophomore year and that perhaps elevated my interests in discovering my heritage roots. It may also be the fact that I’ve befriended a number of Asian born friends in college who indirectly taught me the importance of realizing my own cultural background as Chinese, and that is my ethnic identity. Or it may even perhaps be the fact that I live in a urban enclave with a large Chinese community and that may have a lot of influence as well.

Through postings in this journal and the rambling of my thoughts, I hope to not only bridge the existing gaps between Eastern and Western cultures, but establish a consciousness of the importance of realizing one’s own cultural identity – whether you may be Asian, Caucasian, Middle-Eastern, African, Latin…or whatever! In this particular blog, I will touch up on a variety of categories and aspects within both U.S. and Chinese cultures – including entertainment, food, news, the Chinese language, Eastern/Western lifestyles, and much more!

This blog will ultimately reflect the journey of this ABC in the cultural exploration of her Asian American and Chinese identity. Stay tuned for future postings!

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