In social psychology, a stereotype is any thought widely adopted about specific types of individuals. In other words, stereotypes generalize people instead of seeing them as unique individuals. Asians have been stereotyped since forever. Whether it is in movies, TV shows or real life, it just doesn’t seem to end. Time and again Asians have been vocal about being misunderstood and generalized. To further throw light on this topic, here are 12 Asian stereotypes that simply aren’t true.
1. All Asians parents are tough.
Most people think that Asian parents go around the house beating their children with broomsticks, bamboo sticks, or whatever item that comes in their hand. They may come across as strict but that is only because they do not want us to derail from the right path and want the best for us.
Also, traditions play a big role in this as well. As part of Asian culture, children are taught from a young age that it is all about hard work and dedication to get to the top. Due to this, parents put emphasis on education and grades and advice their children to study well to do well in life. This does not mean that they are dominating or controlling us every single time! We are liberal and yet we are connected to our roots.
2. We are nerds and we wear glasses.
Well, guess what, not all of us have poor eyesight and are in every math and science club out there. Not every Asian is interested in math and science. Just like any other individual, Asian students have other subject interests too. In fact, there are many who opt for options other than engineering, architecture or medicine because they are discovering where their true interests lie and not shying away from discussing this with their parents.
And this doesn’t only happen in day to day life but in TV shows and movies too. Asians are always roped in for roles that require them to be smart, nerdy or even sport a thick accent. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody did a wonderful job in breaking this stereotype. It might even be the only show out there which features a dumb Asian and a smart blonde!
3. Asia means China, Korea, and Japan.
Asians have been generalized enough in this category. Being an Asian does not mean we are from China, Korea or Japan. There are 48 different countries on the continent of Asia, some of them being Turkey, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Israel, Jordan, etc.
Also, the population of Asians in the world is 60% of the total population. How can anyone assume that all of these people belong to just three of these countries?
4. We only eat rice and noodles.
Asians do eat a lot of carbohydrates and rice and noodles are a major portion of the diet. But not all dishes are made up of these two items. There are other carb sources for us too, such as yams, sweet potatoes, bread, etc.
What people don’t understand is that rice or noodles are just one component of many meals. We should think of rice and noodles as a slice of pizza, and the other slices being dishes such as vegetables, soup, steamed egg, etc. There are even meals that do not consist of these two items. For example, Japanese sashimi, takoyaki(octopus cakes) or Malaysia’s satay.
5. All Asians have small eyes or monolids
Let’s get something straight: how can the worlds largest and most populated continent have all the inhabitants with small eyes? Just like other people who aren’t Asian, there are many different types of eyes found in Asia as well. Asian eyes can be characterized by many different features like roundness, monolids, double eyelid, deep folded lids, etc.
Mostly east Asian countries like Japan, China, Taiwan, HongKong and south-east Asian countries like Singapore, Timor have a fair amount of population that are born with monolids. But if you travel up South, monolids can be pretty rare. In fact, double eyelids are very common in counties like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc. The conclusion here is that not all of us have small eyes.
6. Karate is in our genes.
While the earliest evidence of martial arts is difficult to track, Chinese martial arts date back to about 4000 years. While a majority of south-east Asians choose to practice martial arts as a form of defense, not every Asian has it in their blood.
Also, there are many other martial arts as well, like Muay Thai (Thailand), Judo (Japan), Hwa Rang Do (Korea), Kalarippayattu (India), Buno (Philippines), etc. The point here is that Asians know martial arts because it may be part of their curriculum, it is part of their tradition or just because it is their personal choice. Let us not assume every single Asian knows it, even though you might be at an advantage if your friends assume that you know it!
7. Driving? Asians, please stay away!
“You have small eyes, I think you cant see the road well”?
“You sure you can drive? You are Asian!”
How often is it that you have been victims of these lines? This stereotype may be present because of a different driving culture in Asia. Some Asian countries may not have lane driving or many road signs. Also, Asians have been known to have an aggressive nature (due to heavy traffic and population) when it comes to driving, and there is a lot of use of horns in Asia.
How can just an Asian be a bad driver? Any human can be a bad driver, right? People tend to see the times when we skip a sign or make a mistake but overlook every time we do drive properly. Where is the justice? To provide you with more factual information, a study was conducted and it showed no significant difference as to who got into more accidents when comparing blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics in the U.S. Take that.
8. Yellow skin? Surely an Asian.
Calling Asians yellow may have deeper meanings than just the skin color. It emphasizes how we are thought to be ‘different from others’ and highlights us as foreign (even if we got that US citizenship). Racist, isn’t it?
Even though Asian people range from being dark brown (near black) to light tan (near white), non-Asians have invented labels that are used without regard to the actual color of individuals. These color labels at times do not even relate to the concerned ethnicity.
9. We all marry in the same community.
There are countries in Asia where arranged marriage is still a thing, but that doesn’t mean we stick to our community only! We have the freedom to interact with other people too!
Also, interracial marriages are becoming pretty common amongst Asian- Americans. This helps people to understand more about the other persons’ culture and tradition. It is also fun to try to learn a new language! Although it can be agreed that not all Asian countries are open-minded about interracial marriages, there has been a noticeable change in this trend, so let’s keep our hopes up.
10. Do you know how to speak English properly?
Just because we are not native speakers of English, it doesn’t mean we cant ace it! There are many Asians who are born in English-speaking countries like the USA or the UK and speak English just as fluently.
Also, when Native speakers of English visit some country in Asia, do the locals expect them to learn their language? The answer is no. It is because they understand that learning a new language isn’t a walk in the park. But when we do take the effort to learn English and actually ace it, please don’t mock us.
11. Facial expressions? Whats that!
We have seen many instances where Hollywood directors have refused to cast Asians because they think that we are less expressive than our white counterparts. This statement caused a lot of outrage, and Asians bombarded social media, proving the statement completely wrong. The hashtag #ExpressiveAsians was thus born and it quickly took off. There were a plethora of emotions on display.
This is actually a pretty serious topic because there is very little representation of Asians in the entertainment industry. There are many novels, animes or shows that have Asians as main characters. But when these are remade in Hollywood, the main character will most likely be white. How about you let the Asians shine for once and let them do their thing?
12. You are related to everyone.
If you have a conversation with a non-Asian and they ask you where you are from, run away! Chances are if you reply back with the name of your country, they will probably take out their phone and show a person who is from your country and ask you if you know them. Even though we like a big, happy family and get-togethers, we don’t know each and every person from our country and we are certainly not related!
And God forbid if you are Chinese and have the cliched surname Lee. How many times have people asked you if Bruce Lee is your ancestor? Do give us an insight into your experience.
On social media platform, there has been a lot of awareness about how these stereotypes aren’t true. There are many pages educating people about how diverse Asian culture is. On Twitter, a hashtag called #praisintheasian has been garnering a lot of attention lately because it dismisses Asian stereotypes. There are many ‘annoyed Asian’ pages that remind us to be aware of how diverse Asia is. One day, hopefully, these stereotypes will come to an end and we shall have a good laugh about it.