Blah Blah Blog – Rants of Asian-Interest Bloggers

Gilmore Girls characters, from left to right, Lane Kim, Rory Gilmore and Mrs. Kim.

The Asian parent: Unemotional, stern, strict and never wanting anything but the best from a child. Take The Gilmore Girls TV sitcom for example. Mrs. Kim was a caring, yet cold mother to her daughter Lane, imposing upon her the highest quality of discipline and appropriate behavior enforced by religion. Lane, however grew up ingeniously hiding her secret love of underground music — under the floorboards of her room — achieving academic successes, but never seemingly reaching the expectations of Mrs. Kim. It’s that parental pressure that, stereotypically, most Asian parents inherently master. They set the bar high and when it seems just within reach, the bar is nudged up another ten feet.

Such notoriety of Asian parents has inspired UCLA professor Mitchell Chang to submit his op-ed to the UCLA Today faculty publication, concerned that this kind of parental push diminishes self initiative in Asian or Asian-American youth. Chang focused much of his write-up over the suggestions made by Yale University professor Amy Chua who published an essay in The Wall Street Journal, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” and even a book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chang explained Chua’s essay…

“Chua’s essay is considered controversial largely because it stresses a rigid parenting style based on tough love — the “Tiger Mother” — that goes against what she considers more typical “Western” styles that emphasize self-esteem and self-discovery. Parenting strategies aside, what has been overlooked is how this essay unintentionally undermines Asian American college applicants by perpetuating an erroneous stereotype.”

Essentially, Chang believes the stereotype of Asian parent tough love can and has hindered the chances of college acceptance for Asian and Asian-American applicants. Because high expectations and parental pressure are directly associated to Asian culture, generalizations are made that the kids, when out on their own at college, cannot be self-starters without the consistent push from a superior. Chua’s primary ideal actually set such style of parenting on a pedestal, tagging it with the “Tiger Mother” label. Such a fierce characterization, however sent wrinkles to Chang’s forehead. He said the Tiger Mother “can advance a one-dimensional view of Asian Americans that minimizes their achievements and overlooks their diversity.”

Another Wall Street Journal blogger, Ilyon Woo, wrote to break this characterization. “An Asian Father’s Gift: Permission to Fail” broke the “Tiger Mother” stereotype with Woo’s personal account of discovering success — and failure — with the life lessons of her parents. She explained both her mom and dad were extremely successful in all senses of the term, wealth, occupation and family, but they raised their daughter to understand that striving for the best and coming up short is not the end of the world. This realization helped her to stop obsessing on perfectionism, allowing her to find success with unstrained care. Sure, this is just one account, but it shows that the Tiger Mother cannot be generalized.

These blogs and insight lay out that, like any stereotypes, characteristics are far too often generalized for the Asian, Asian-American cultures. Each person and family is infinitely different from the next. But, when do you draw the line when making generalizations? Is the Tiger Mother OK to accept due to Asian culture? Will Asian and Asian-American college applicants continue to be discriminated? What do you say?

What’s the Difference? Asian v. Asian-American

View the video on Asian v. Asian-American, the International Student POV using Powerpoint.

What’s the Difference? Asian v. Asian-American

Being Asian, for countless other Asian-interest bloggers, is an umbrella term used to describe natives of countries located on the continent of Asia. Asian-Americans can be defined as immigrants originating from an Asian country, gaining citizenship in the United States or residing here for an extended period of time. To be quite cliché, yet covering an official definition, Merriam-Webster defines Asian as “relating to the continent of Asia or its people,” and Asian-American as an American of Asian descent.

For international students I spoke with this week, however, the question’s quite simple.

Zheng is originally from Malaysia and says the difference has to do with one’s understanding of American culture. Simply, Asians typically don’t know about the little luxuries of American life, like 24 hour Wal-Mart. Accents are a big tip-off for Zheng as well, because as a self-identified Asian, her pronunciation of English words are vastly different than most Asian-Americans who are “immersed in the culture.”

Shou makes it even simpler and reflects Merriam-Webster’s definition, too. He says you are Asian if you are from Asia. You should be from an Asian country to be Asian, he said, and if you are from the U.S., but your ancestors are from Asia, that makes you Asian-American. Simple geography for this guy.

It seems that clear definitions of the two terms are quite subjective. Sources create their ideas of being Asian versus Asian-American, drawing conclusions from personal experiences, cultural upbringing and exposure to each ethnic identification.

These are just a few outlooks in developing a full picture. Many more interviews should be done to better analyze how international students at MU view the differences in the two groups – but then again, would the individuality of each respondent be lost when generalizing their statements? Maybe it’s best to figure it out for yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know Asians and Asian-Americans. Befriend them. Get to know what makes them unique and paint your own picture of what qualities and characteristics set them apart. Overall, recognizing that there is a difference is enough to create curiosity to learn more.

Who is Considered Asian?

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.

Geography 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:

  1. North Asia – Russia
  2. East Asia – Japan, PR China, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia
  3. South Asia – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, bhutan, Maldives
  4. Southeast Asia – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam
  5. 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
  6. 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.

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