Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Medium and reposted with permission.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I had a lot of friends from different backgrounds — many that were white, a few that were Asian, but none that were both, like me. I felt like I was the only one in the overlap of a Venn diagram, part of both circles but still different.
When someone mistakes you for another person, you feel confusion and wonder how there could be a mix-up. After being given an explanation like, “Oh, from the back you looked like them they have similar hair,” you politely say, “Oh, I get it,” and then move on, but still feel a tiny degree of residual bewilderment. As a Chinese female growing up and residing in a predominantly white area, this kind of interaction is not rare, in fact it has become routine.
The fact that I have more than a handful of interactions about being mixed up for another Asian person I could choose to write about is astounding. Disclaimer: most of the time these mix-ups are never done with malice or ill-intent, most people who make these types of comments have probably just never seen an abundant number of Asian people in a small state/area of the United States that generally lacks diversity. Thus, these people who have never lived in a diverse community inadvertently perpetuate the misconception that all Asian people look alike and/or are the same person. For me, it’s better to be mistaken for another person than to be the subject of the “All Asians are good at math” stereotype, because if that’s true then I’m a disappointment to my whole race.
Steve Aoki just dropped the music video for his smash hit collaboration with BTS, “Waste It On Me,” which features an all-Asian American cast. We got the chance to sit down with the Grammy-nominated DJ to talk about his experience working with BTS, the importance of Asian representation and more.
I just found out that there’s a movie coming out this summer with an all-Asian cast called “Crazy Rich Asians” and it’s making me very nervous. Is this supposed to be our “Black Panther” moment for stereotype-shattering Asian-American representation in mainstream media? OK, that’s probably an exaggeration. I’m happy we are even represented in the first place. But what if no one watches it? Does it prove once and for all that Asian-Americans are not bankable stars? What about the fact that studios have largely given up on romantic comedies because they don’t sell as well as superhero movies. Would anyone care for our excuse? What about this male lead from Malaysia, Henry Golding. He’s not technically Asian-American and I don’t want to put it all on him, but he might be the only Asian-looking romantic male lead we will ever get. If he’s not a big enough thirst trap, can Asian-American men ever be found physically attractive by American standards? I’m asking, uh, for my friends…How I became Asian-American
The media has given more attention to the lack of Asian-American representation in recent years thanks to movements like #HollywoodSoWhite and leaders like Aziz Ansari, Alan Yang and Constance Wu speaking out about the issue. However, I can’t help but feel like not much is going to change because “Asian-American” as an identity is not really a meaningful one.
It’s no secret that Asian males are constantly emasculated when it comes to mainstream media — they’re usually portrayed as nerds or martial artists at best.
Even when they do get lead roles like Jet Li in “Romeo Must Die” or Chow Yun-Fat in “The Replacement Killers”, they don’t get intimate with the lead actresses like white actors often do. Acclaimed Asian-American actor Aki Aleong once noted that after being in the business for 60 years, he had never kissed a girl onscreen.