By: Srilekha Cherukuvada.
This is an article produced in partnership with Lune Magazine
Asian American- A racial division of people who immigrated from the Asian continent to America, including from China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, India, Malaysia, Persian countries, Turkey, and other countries in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asian Islands.
Asian American stereotypes have always been a problem in American society. Yes, I’m tired of hearing people say “Wow, you’re so smart,” without ever actually seeing me do anything, but I think I’m even more tired of people not recognizing that Asia includes more than just China, Korea, and Japan. I’ve clicked on five different websites to research more on racial stereotypes of Asian Americans, and none of them had anything to do with the Indian subcontinent. I’ve had to specifically type in “Indian Asian American Stereotypes”, or Pakistani, Nepali, or Bangladeshi Asian American Stereotypes. I think one of the biggest, broadest, and most prevalent Asian American stereotype today, often underlooked, is that when people hear Asian American, they just assume East Asian.
The other day, I went to my school’s annual Project Graduation fundraiser, Taste of Asia, where everyone could celebrate and experience Asian culture through performances, food, and cultural booths set up off to the sides. I went with my Chinese and Korean friend and it was a lot of fun until I started to notice a small rift between us during the Indian performances versus the Chinese and Korean ones. I knew all of the Indian songs the students had danced to, and they knew all of the Chinese and Korean ones, which is understandable as it’s part of our respective cultures. However, the way we treated each other while experiencing each other’s cultures seemed just a bit odd and awkward. East Asian cultures seemed so normal for them, but once we saw Persia and Turkey, they questioned why the booths were even there.
So I’m a little salty about that, but I love all Asian Americans (and all races, of course). Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Singaporean, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, I really don’t care. All of these people are people I associate with. We’re the same race, regardless of slight differences in where we live, what we eat, how we live, and what we look like. I have friends in my school who came from these places in Asia, and I absolutely adore them; they’re some of my bestest friends. Yet, sometimes, I feel this divide because we can feel the ethnic differences pulsing between us. This sort of feeling, a branding, almost, is like putting a french bulldog and a boston terrier together. It’s such a slight difference, but it’s there. And that’s why sometimes I feel closer with my Indian friends, and they feel closer with their East Asian friends.
And maybe it’s like that with other groups too. African Americans and Caucasians. Germans and French. Senegalese and Algerian. We all feel that slight difference between us. And that’s what causes stereotypes, in my opinion. That slight twinge that we don’t truly know our friends, so we gather into our own enclaves with others who are more similar to us. In high school, we have Indian populars, Indian nerds, Asian populars, Asian nerds, Asian jocks, Indian jocks, African jocks, African nerds, African populars, Caucasian populars, Caucasian nerds, Caucasian jocks, and many more. They’re our cliques. This not only plays into Asian American stereotypes, but also one that I’ve already discussed. We seperate Indians from Asians. In my school, and many others I’ve seen, whether in real life, or movies, most have seperated Indians into their own enclave, which helps further the distance from Indians being Asian American. Instead we become Indian Asian American.
In cliques, we also find a problem for East Asians. Because each East Asian group, like Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese, are not separated, people start mixing up the groups very easily. This can also cause some tensions because we all want to belong to a distinct recognizable group that people respect individually.
Anyways, back to cliques. These cliques are where stereotypes truly began in modern times. Before it might’ve began in slavery, or even when the Asian American Acts in California were passed and Asians were discriminated against and excluded because they were “stealing jobs.” But in the modern era, with high school, cliques are where everything starts and ends.
As a high school student and an Asian American, I’ve heard a substantial amount of stereotyping. A common one was how strict our parents would be, which mine aren’t at all. They would imagine our parents abusing us if we got any lower than a 100. ‘Asian failing’ became a thing. We have a huge amount of Asians in our school so all we really talk about was grades and school. And that plays into the next stereotypes. Our whole lives are not about grades and school and extracurricular activities. Surprise! Asians can express love too. I say “I love you” to my parents every night, contrary to popular belief. However, it’s extremely important for us to express our love to our families. We are not stone-cold people who only smile when we get a 100.
Cliques are evolving, however. More people are getting involved with human rights activism and inclusion. Nowadays, it’s all about inclusion. It’s all about making sure that people feel like they belong where they are and included in society, regardless of mental disabilities or sexuality. It doesn’t matter anymore what race you are. Interracial friendships and even romances have began in high school, showing significant advances for modern times. The clique system is becoming more rare to find in schools nowadays, which helps eliminate the sharp differences between brown and yellow skin. We see Asians as a collective group now and this helps have a more inclusive society, in which all Asians, Africans, Americans, South Americans, and Europeans can all live peacefully.
A stereotype more specific to Indian Americans is that people always think that India is a third world country, falling backwards in economic development. They think poverty, disease, war, starvation, castes, the Taj Mahal, Bollywood, and Hinduism, which is all there. However, that’s not what represents Indian Americans or India. We are strong and intelligent. We are capable of love and kindness, just as much as everyone else. We can be kind and honest. We are part of an Asian American community who can truly make a difference in the world, regardless of what stereotyping someone has in mind, what race or ethnic group we are, what we eat, what we look like, or how we live, just like everyone else.
“Brown Asians” are Asian too.
I’m Asian too.