The Thoughts #13: #MyAAPIStory

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! I’m not really one to prescribe to these days/months of celebration, perhaps cynically so (yay, let’s celebrate the Earth for one day, yay, let’s be nice to our moms for one day of the year), though I guess awareness and celebration is important.

With that said, it does seem pertinent with recent news (Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Ghost in the Shell, Aloha, #OscarsSoWhite, and on the other side: Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken and Into the Badlands) as well as personal growth.

Naively, I was an ignorant little shit in high school (and, I guess, college). In many ways, I’m still naive. I was always very in-touch with being Asian American, though luckily, I grew up in a racially-diverse area; it never affected me (at least not explicitly and in a way I could quantify). In fact, I used to play up on my heritage…doing accents, being intentionally stereotypical, and generally doing stuff that would make Now-Me cringe.

Media representation is important, people, I cannot stress this enough. It took me this long to even realize this.

My first taste of white washing (or as far back as my mind can recall) was The Last Airbender movie. I remember being incensed, though probably not for a nuanced reason. I was just mad because the movie wasn’t accurate to the source material. Deep inside, there was probably anger about representation as well, but I probably didn’t realize it then.

Later, I learned what yellowface was thanks to the Cloud Atlas film, though I didn’t care as much back then because I was just mad one of my favorite books had such a shitty adaptation (though, I probably should’ve expected this).

This was the extent of my anger, and I went along my merry way, ignorant and un-woke (asleep? un-awakened?).

All of this is kind of new to me. I’ve had an awakening last year (or was it 2014?) about the world (however, this post exclusively will deal with Asian American struggles), and while it has turned me into a Cynical Debbie Downer, I also feel much more informed. It’s the price I’m willing to pay.

To be honest, I have a long way to go; I’m sure this post is not well-articulated (though better than when I try to explain in person).

To be honest, sometimes I don’t know how to feel…or how I’m supposed to feel. It makes me feel disingenuous at times, but I do flip-flop. Am I really angry and insulted? Or do I just think I should feel angry and insulted?

To be honest, I can be hypocritical in my attempts to better myself. I focus on issues that affect me (this is normal, I assume), yet ignore (read: don’t vocalize and fight for) issues that don’t affect me personally.

But in spite of all this, I am trying to be A Better Person.

It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair because I’m idealistic in nature and I feel it’s overwhelmingly impossible to fix everything wrong with the world. It’s confusing to be so angry and woke, yet try to foster a calm, meditative state.

I’ve become so acutely aware of Asian American and POC representation, America’s history steeped in prejudice, White Savior Complex (and other endless racist tropes), the small implications of every little thing…and how everything becomes problematic, even you’re best friends. And I’m not saying drop everything problematic. I’ve been trying to embrace people’s moral and value differences, but damn, it’s hard. It’s hard to support things…it’s hard to remain optimistic for the future.

Will I still watch Iron Fist? Maybe, if only for (hopefully) their positive representation of Asians. Will I still watch Dr. Strange? I was going to until the screenwriter came out with his half-ass, really telling apology for Tilda Swinton. Did I laugh at Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s portrayal of Dong and yellowface of Titus and satire of the Asian American struggle? Yes, I’m still trying to reconcile this. Do I sometimes still do racist stuff that feeds into stereotypes? Unintentionally, but I’m becoming more aware. Do I accept microaggression? I try to point it out at opportune moments.

I do invite you, The Reader, to educate yourself and to engage in dialogue (please, I would love to talk to anyone about this topic and their position), though to be honest, my initial reaction may be getting noticeably upset (sorry, the topic throws me into a tizzy) and there will be heavy eye-rolling for any apologists. But I promise, I’ll try better to hear your voice, as I expect you to hear mine.

I’m not going to discuss Dr. Strange (etc.) here because I feel there are better reads out there on the Internet, and it will just feel like a rehash of the same valid arguments. Check out Angry Asian Man and Nerds of Color, as well as The Love Life of An Asian Guy and Racebending as a starting point.

Taking it to the next step, sit your ass down and take a look inward at your own prejudices, on a conscious and unconscious level. I know I have some ingrained prejudices I’m trying to unfurl and reshape. And then really ask yourself if this intolerance affects you in any way. When you discover the answer is “no”, go get yourself a donut because you deserve it.

I ask that everyone just remember to try and spread goodwill and acceptance (tolerance, in the least); embrace your differences and the diversity in the world. Just…make the world a better place. It’s really not that hard.

My identity as a Vietnamese American does not define me, but it is a piece of me. Moving forward, I hope to inspire Novel Thought in others, sparking a reevaluation of how they perceive Asian Americans, through me. One can only hope for a better tomorrow for posterity’s sake.

Follow me on Twitter (sidebar) to peek random posts this month about #MyAAPIStory, and share your own! This is the part where I’m not sure if this post said anything at all or if I was just rambling without really telling my story. And this is the part where I say fuck it and hit “publish” anyway. I’m gonna go back to finding everything with POC I can support. Peace!


~ by Btab on 2 May 2016.

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