Defining who is considered “Asian” may be a bit more complicated than one might think. The identity of the modern Asian is complex and commonly misunderstood, yet is increasingly vital in an individual’s conception of the world. The world is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and races and as the global population increases each second, individuals must educate themselves to grasp the values that make each person unique. Being Asian may boil down to multiple variables, including a person’s place of birth and ancestry. The most common definition of Asian is attributed to pure geography.
Dictionary.com defines “Asian” as ”a native of Asia.” So generally, one may assume an Asian to be an individual from the continent of Asia. This is a very broad definition as the world’s largest continent encapsulates 49 countries of varying cultures and religions.
“Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent with a population of 4.3 billion people. Located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres, Asia covers 8.7% of the Earth’s total surface area and comprises 30% of its land area. With approximately 4.3 billion people, it makes up 60% of the world’s current human population.” (World Population Statistics)
The continent is split up into six regions:
- North Asia – Russia
- East Asia – Japan, PR China, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia
- South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, bhutan, Maldives
- Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam
- West Asia (Middle East) – Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria
- Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan
Though individuals may originate from the continent of Asia, “Asian” may not be the most appropriate association. A Palestinian may not consider herself Asian, although Palestine is one of the continental Asian countries, but rather Middle Eastern. Each country must be considered for its unique characteristics and social sensitivities.
Place of Birth
In a world of first generation Asians across the world, the personal identification of an individual holds more weight. A woman born in the United States may have parents and ancestry from China, however she may better identify herself as an Asian-American, Chinese-American or American rather than Chinese.
Being Asian generalizes the cultures of 49 Asian countries, as well as the personal identification of those who identify with the Asian race. It is important to make this definition blatant because today’s society tends to ignorantly overlook the differentiation. To many, this may not be pertinent to understand, but in a society with so many merging cultures, generalization leads to ignorance, misunderstanding and ultimately to prejudice and racism.