(Mis)representation of Asian Americans on Media

As I was casually scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed early in the morning yesterday, I came across a short clip my friend shared. From there, everything simply went downhill.

The segment on “The O’Reilly Factor” by Fox News started off with Bill O’Reilly talking about how China was brought up by Trump twelve times in the first Presidential debate. In order to investigate this, he decided to send Watters to New York’s Chinatown to “sample political opinion”. I mean, that’s the only place that you can find Chinese people in New York, right?

Then, Watters began his series of interviews by asking two Asian American women if he needed to bow to say hello. I took a deep breath, then continued to watch. It was insane how Watters managed to fit a ridiculous amount of racist Asian stereotypes into a five-minute clip. For example, he then proceeded to ask a Chinese man if he knew karate, which is a martial art developed in Japan. A few seconds later, Watters was filmed trying to do some TaeKwonDo moves, which is another type of martial art that originated from Korea. Furthermore, there was a segment of him playing with nunchucks, which is a traditional Japanese weapon. All these representations of different Asian martial art highlight the fact that people like Watters are ignorant and have no clue about the differences between what is Chinese, Japanese, or Korean – all of which are categorized under the socially constructed group they call “Asian Americans”.

This brings us back to the sense of homogeneity and model minority myth when discussing Asian American cultures and identity. When individuals focus solely on certain cultures or generational conflicts, they tend to lose sight of all the other different dimensions that play a role in constructing the Asian American identity. This ultimately lead to the “aestheticizing commodification” of Asian American cultural differences that we discussed in class. Watters’ blatant ignorance of the differences between Chinese martial art, karate, TaeKwonDo, and nunchucks is equivalent to an open acknowledgement of his white masculine homogenization stance on Asian cultures and history. His report can be seen as a racist discourse that put all Asians under the same homogenous category and imply that Asians are all “alike” and conform to “types”, as Lowe explicitly explained in her article.

Opposite of what Watters showed in his video, Lowe expressed that what is referred to as “Asian America” is clearly a heterogeneous entity. In the text, she brought up the example of Chinatown in New York as “the very emblem of shifting demographics, languages, and populations”, defying the common misconception that Chinatown represents a fixed and homogenous culture. The boundaries and identities of Asian Americans are constantly shifting and it is important that the general public recognize that as Asian Americans, we are extremely different and diverse among ourselves. To give an example, at Northwestern University, I’ve definitely heard people talk about the “Asian squad” or the fact that “Asians always hang out in the library together”, placing all Asians in one, single category. Although it may be true that I have Asian friends – surprisingly, none of my friends are Taiwanese. This not only makes me the only Taiwanese girl in my “Asian” friend group, but also underlines the fact that inherent racist comments are still being made on a daily basis, even at such a prestigious university like Northwestern. These white homogenous views and the belief of their so-called “Asian American identity” undoubtedly blurs the lines between my Taiwanese American self and my Korean, Chinese, and Filipino American friends.

Therefore, congratulations, Fox News, on successfully belittling the Asian American community. Thank you for putting us further away from breaking the current hegemonic relationship between “dominant” and “minority” positions. Thank you for perpetuating the racist discourses that still exclude Asian Americans. Thank you for portraying white masculine hegemony on mass media instead of embracing heterogeneity, hybridity, or multiplicity. Thank you, especially Watters, for attempting to convey the misrepresentation that real, multi-dimensional diasporic experiences do not exist in the United States.

Nevertheless, in all seriousness, I want to conclude by emphasizing that the segment aired on Fox News not only tolerated but also perpetuated racism. Instead of being categorized as “politically passive and submissive” just because we are Asian (Espiritu), we must recognize the interdisciplinary nature and connectedness of race/ethnicity, gender, and class and demonstrate agency through means such as strategic essentialism in order to be seen and heard.

Watch the video here:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s