3.14.2007

Being Asian, Period

In the last few months, pop culture has heard from both Yul Kwon and Paul Lee about how they wanted to represent an Asianness that diverged from the usual nerdy or "FOB"-by stereotypes. And while I appreciated the sentiment, and felt they both conducted themselves admirably in terms of representing Asian America, I'm a little nervous about how reactionary we've become as Asian Americans insofar as our desire to distance ourselves from long-engrained stereotypes.

In other words, instead of having to be defined by what we're not, why not also seek to define ourselves by what we are as well? I'm not necessarily saying this is where Yul and Paul could've done better, but in general it's not much better to let mainstream America go from thinking all Asians are nerds or "FOBs" to thinking that some are actually hunky and smooth. It needs to be seen that the Asian presence in America is far, far richer, that people can recognize that Asians can and do excel in sports and politics and business and art, that we care about issues of race and religion and poverty and education, even that some of us are in fact on the nerdier side or speak with an accent but that makes us no less Asian or American.

Please don't misunderstand these words as hating on two guys who are upstanding and who made the most of their moment in the spotlight. And if you want to read into my words an insecurity that they're just too sexy for me, you'd probably be right. I'm just saying that while it's good to be aware of negative labels that get slapped on us and to seek to broaden peoples' perspectives past those labels, it's even better for us as Asian Americans as a whole to keep on being ourselves, in all the complexity and diversity that entails.
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