The lack of Asian representation in media can negatively affect AAPI youth as it would be a lack of proper acknowledgment for their culture, struggles, and identity. The limited representation that is usually seen is also often inaccurate and whitewashed. For instance, as with most minority representation, Asian people in the media are presented in a very tokenized manner. Characters tend to be one-dimensional and contribute to common stereotypes. This can be seen with the “strict Asian parent” and the “nerdy Asian kid” depictions, which perpetuates the Model Minority Myth and is nowhere near accurate depictions of a heritage that is beyond diverse. The neglect towards Asian Americans in the media feeds into the deep rooted societal hate and aggression towards the AAPI community.
Westernization in Television:
In Hollywood, replacing actors of characters that are meant to be Asian with White actors is nothing new. Recent examples of this include Scarlett Johanson in “Ghost in A Shell” and Natalie Portman in “Annihilation.” Growing up and seeing little to no Asian representation and what little Asian roles being played by White people exacerbates the problem of neglected AAPI stories.
For a young Asian child, it also pushes the eurocentric beauty standard by alluding that Asian features aren’t pretty enough to be put on the big screen, sending the signal that Asians aren’t welcome in the film or beauty industry. Altogether, it harms Asian children's perception of themselves and a lot of the time makes them wish to be White.
In History Classes:
The pattern of anti-Asian rhetoric and sentiment in American history is not discussed enough. When it is discussed, it is framed in a whitewashed manner—sugarcoating the extreme xenophobia that exists in the past and present. American history classes prioritize teaching students about the Japanese attack on pearl harbor, yet fail to cover the devastating effects of the Japanese internment camps. This glazed-over perspective of history is inflicted onto the Asian youth, who then end up feeling a level of shame about their home countries and their culture.
Some other incidents that are not regularly discussed in history classes include:
- People v. Hall: in 1854, the California Supreme Court reinforced racism against Asian immigrants by ruling that people of Asian descent could not testify against a White person in court. In the case of People v. Hall, George Hall shot and killed Chinese immigrant Ling Sing. The testimony of witnesses was rejected simply because they were Asian.
- Chinese massacre of 1871: Following the murder of a White man caught in the crossfire of rival Chinese groups, more than 500 White and Hispanic rioters surrounded and attacked Los Angeles’ small Chinese community. At least 17 Chinese men and boys were lynched. They were hung across several downtown sites. Eight of the rioters were eventually convicted of manslaughter, but their convictions were overturned. No one else was punished.
- Ku Klux Klan terrorizing Vietnamese communities in late 1970s: At the end of the Vietnam War, the United States resettled many Vietnamese fleeing the communists. In Texas, many of those immigrants took up shrimping and eventually began to dominate the industry. This prompted Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam and his members to patrol the waters and set boats owned by Vietnamese people on fire.
- 9/11-inspired hatred: Hate crimes spiked against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, which espcially targeted those of South Asian descent. Only four days after the attacks, aircraft mechanic Frank Silva Roque murdered Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American whom Roque mistook to be Muslim.
How to embrace Asian culture and combat whitewashing as an Asian youth
An important way to protect your mental health is talking to someone about your wellbeing and emotions. It can help you sort out your feelings and thoughts, making you more aware of those emotions. Sometimes, talking to a loved one or professional will provide different perspectives on situations. However, if it is difficult to talk to a loved one about your emotions because of how heavily stigmatized mental health is, there are a plethora of organizations that provide services to help with mental health: therapy, counseling, etc.
Re-educate yourself on the reality that make up American history
- Minor feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
- The Making of Asian America: a histroy
- No-No Boy
- Teach yourself to recognize harmful stereotypes and reject them
Support good Asian representation in media
- Fresh off the Boat
- Wong Fu Productions - Asian-American filmmaking group, can be found on Youtube
- Crazy Rich Asians
- The Farewell
- Asian Boss Girls
- Contribute towards creating an environment and safe space for Asian youth to appreciate their culture and explore their identity.