Friday, December 27, 2002

Comments, Links

This is a little note to let Charlie Chan's Revenge know that I enjoy reading their weblog and that I'm still thinking about the Angry Asian thing, and I'll try to post something semi-intelligent soon. Also, I watched a small TV show on a local channel tonight called Y-source (no webpage?) that featured Bobby Lee, a comedian of Korean heritage. Reminded me of an NPR discussion a few weeks ago where they interviewed comics about race issues, because they are less afraid and more able to approach the subject. Anyway, funny guy, good show. Just another reason why I need a TiVO.

This winter vacation, my brother is down from Berkeley. He is an afictionado of the internet and general programming for the Mac, immersed in the liberal web culture, besides being influenced by the Bay Area thing. My parents, on the other hand, are former missionaries, conservatives of European stock and getting settled into their old age. The contrast between their views and my brother's opinions have made for some heated discussions. Thankfully, I'm an experienced mediator so they haven't turned into RL flame-fests quite yet. If I sound hedgy and try to think things out on paper, now you know why.

I think I figured out what is bothering me about today's CCR post:

I think we need to give [Buddhism and other eastern religions] the respect they deserve. This should not be a eurocentric world.

On the surface these two statements appear similar. But I propose that the second is overly general and misleading. I agree that Buddhism and her geographical counterparts are not treated seriously by many Americans, and that they should be given respect for their good qualities. However, should a person of European descent not live in a eurocentric world? Is that asking them to lose their culture? Part of what makes Amerca great is the abundance of different cultures that co-exists, individually unique. What the author likely meant is that the media should not be so eurocentric. This begs the question, who is responsible for media? Does the media have a responsibility to its audience beyond the people who contribute to it? And how are the Asian Americans involved in the media working to represent their cultures in the industry?

If I were going to try to write an "Angry Euro Rant", it would revolve around the rest of the world seeing white USA as some sort of blank, default culture, devoid of substance, that needs to be filled in with something like a universal aggregate of all the other cultures. This idea is, in fact, demeaning to other cultures in that, by supposing that the USA has the default culture, we maintain that the other cultures are cute anomalies to be preserved in museums. It's also demeaning to European American culture, because it assumes that anybody can become white by singing Christmas carols or making apple pie, but Asian Americans (especially those dudes who post rants about white guys who date Asian) often cannot accept a white person interested in their own culture, be it through the more friendly female-folk.

OK, so much thinking may have lead me to figure out why the Angry Asian Thing bothers me. European American culture (by which I mean "white American culture", which has a worse connotation) has a certain bravura that tends to push out other cultures; hence white casts on prime-time TV shows, and other things that Angry Asians tend to point out. I would argue that this bravura is not unique to European American culture; it exists in all people, most often taking the form of cultural pride, a commendable quality that serves to preserve a culture and give individuals a sense of identity. However at times this pride is corrupted and is detrimental to a pluro-cultural (is that a word?) society. As a believer in positive reinforcement and the Puritan work ethic, I believe that proper way of dealing with the lack of minority representation and related problems is not to whine and complain. Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but it also gives people a headache. Rather, the solution lies in creating positive images of other cultures and educating the ignorant about these positive images. As American citizens, Asian-Americans need to participate in the media, and civic and economic spheres, not as meek model minorities, but as proud and hard-working representatives of their respective cultures.

Two notes:

  • Note that this opinion, as stated above, is informed by a bias towards positive reinforcement and personal responsibility. I was brought up to dislike whiners, and that the greatness of the USA was built on hard work and the sweat of everyman's brow. Supporters of the welfare state and the "humans are stupid" philosophy, as well as sworn pessimists, will undoubtedly disagree.
  • I'm surprised at how often the theme of education comes up in my discussion of issues lately. Call me a utopian, but I believe that dispelling ignorance is a major part of reaching a harmonious state, and most of the problems in the world today (and yesterday!) come from false understanding and/or lack of understanding that could be avoided through education. I applaud other cultures for their high appreciation of educators, and I wish that American culture would adopt this value.

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