(Note from the Editor: AsAmNews is a forum for diverse view points in the Asian American community. You are encouraged to leave your comments and even submit a blog offering an opposing viewpoint. Recently Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said Indian Americans should assimilate into American society. This is one Asian Americans view of that.).
They call us “chink,” “gook,” “towel head,” “Jackie Chan,” “Bruce Lee,” “eggroll,” “ching chong Kung Fu master,” “brownie.” They laugh at our culture, and humiliate our people, yet when they see an Asian sister, they claim they love our culture, and they turn into these sanctimonious kind-hearted people.
Asians who live in Western nations have all experienced racism and have endured the disparate treatment that comes with not only being a minority, but a “foreigner.” In the U.S., Asians are the perpetual foreigner and the… Hang on, wait a minute, hold up, rewind and pause! Calling a group of people “foreigner,” assumes that there is an indigenous presence in the country receiving them. Last time I checked, white people in America are NOT indigenous to the U.S., nor are they indigenous to any country outside of the European continent. So why are ethnic minorities considered the only foreigners? Technically white Americans don’t belong here either. So my question to the Asian American community is this: Why do you conform to “American culture?” Do you not realize this perpetuates our own oppression and reaffirms white hegemony?
Throughout the Asian American community as well as the international Asian community, including our homelands, there is a misconception that America naturally belongs to white Americans, who originate from Europe. For the most part, this egregious assumption is left unchallenged and allows a false reality to perpetuate. There is a popular saying that goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This quote encourages foreigners to follow the culture of those countries in which they are a visitor. However, in regards to the U.S., is it really fair to follow a culture that is inherently Western Europeans–especially that of England–in a country that once belonged to the Native Americans before they were massacred by white European settlers?
To paint an image that gives the tiniest bit of semblance of American history, imagine if a group of white Western people invaded your home, then replicated the inhumane egregious acts of the early European settlers to your family members. This includes rape, torture, murder, slavery, and other atrocities. They then legally seized your property and claimed it as their own and relocated what’s left of your family to the backyard. Oh and by the way, to add insult to injury, they only give you 1/10 of their newly acquired yard. Where’s the police in all of this? The police just shot you in the knee for asking. Enjoy your new life.
Let’s continue this example and say that your new landlords forced your children to attend a boarding school for about five years to learn their language, norms, and all other aspects of their culture. After five years your children finally return home and not only are they unable to communicate with you, they find your culture unappealing and insignificant. Your children, the heirs to your history, culture, and identity, are now lost and to retrieve them has become a close to impossible task. In order to eradicate the very essence of Native Americans, white Americans and white Canadians forced Native children into Indian boarding schools to indoctrinate them into becoming Westerners. This was an effective strategy that destroyed Native culture and severed ties with their roots. Our education system today in America, emulates many characteristics of the Indian boarding schools and it’s frightening to think what will become of us in the future if this doesn’t change soon.
The majority of white Americans expect all immigrants to conform to the “American culture” when in fact there is no indigenous/native “American culture” that is practiced in mainstream America. The only indigenous/native culture is the Native American cultures which has been obliterated through genocide and cultural genocide.
When I ask the question “why do Asians have to assimilate to the dominant white culture to get an ounce of respect, especially in the media?” the answer always tends to be along the lines of “well if you go to China or Korea you have to follow their culture!” And I say to this, no sh*t Sherlock! That’s their country they belong there. Koreans have lived in that region since before the stone ages. So of course it would make sense to follow their culture in their natural homeland. White people stole this country through murder, rape, torture, enslavement and other diabolical horrendous acts. When you say we must follow their culture, technically we’re following an evolved bastardized form of Western European culture especially that of England, as mentioned before. (Ask yourselves which historical people are street signs named after and in what language?) By saying that people must follow the dominant white culture, we minimize the painful history of Native Americans and their experience and also deem them as invisible and insignificant. To conform to the Western culture is to perpetuate white hegemony and our own oppression. We shouldn’t have to follow a 238 year old evolved “Western European” purported “American culture” just to be accepted in this country. We should promote multiculturalism and be Asian. Power to my Asian brothers and sisters!
(About the author: Sung Kim is a recent graduate of DePaul University pursuing his doctorate in sociology)