don’t be that person

…you’ll avoid a lot of trouble if you’re not.

Sorry to those who are already tired of it, but yes, I am using David So’s videos as examples again. But I’m only doing it because he makes some excellent points.

This time, I’ll be expanding on my latest post about Asian stereotypes.

What’s my problem this time? It’s that stereotypes, or more specifically Asian stereotypes, are turning people into fake geniuses!

What are fake geniuses? They’re people who need and want to know about everything (as it is to be human), but they can’t, because that’s just plain impossible, so they take shortcuts, they generalize and pretend from then on to understand the context of all things. My main issue is with those who pretend they know everything they need to know about Asians, and therefore do not bother to delve in any deeper.

But like how we found out that the source of Asian Stereotypes is lack of education and ignorance, we need to know also what creates these so-called “fake geniuses.” The answer? New Media. Or more specifically, online popularity.

Some online memes, personas, tags, and whatnot have more of an impact than others, not because they are more important than others, but simply because they are more universally understood or accepted among multiple communities. And as much as we hate it, we have to admit: generally the most popular opinion is acknowledged as true fact. 

But it’s so unfortunately true. The Internet is becoming a place of “cursory information,” where whenever we don’t know about something but don’t have the time to get into it, we search it up (hats off to Google and Wikipedia) and look for what is virtually a cliffnotes version of the real thing, where we can find the most basic knowledge of this new thing just so we can stay in the loop, never having known the original source.

New media has caused this mentality that we can get away with knowing the minimum of something (a community, a person, a TV show, etc.), that using tidbits of information we can create shortcuts into people’s worlds. (For example: as a Sherlock fan, when I found that other Sherlock fans liked Doctor Who, I learned the least I needed to know in order to understand the inside jokes that occasionally came up on my Dashboard.)

I’m a victim. We’re all victims, because we all want to look like we know what’s going on.

Stereotypes are the shortcuts into peoples lives. It’s easier to generalize, to put people into little boxes because it’s too much work to divide that box into sections, or take out a new box to fill…

Well guess what? It ain’t that much work. Especially if you happen to be putting your own friends and acquaintances in those boxes.

I realize that there is this temptation to take what is generally represented in life and apply it to everything else, so that you are no longer confused. But life is confusing, it’s complex, and that’s what makes it beautiful and worth living, so stereotyping will not help you catch up with the world. It’s not something you can just check off a list next to “know everything about Asian people… slanty eyes, Korean BBQ, noodles, yup that’s it.” You’re just going to run yourself into another hole.

I’m not saying you have to know every single thing about absolutely every Asian out there: I’m saying to be aware. I, personally, am very aware that it depends on circumstance, whether you encounter a person who is Asian often. But let’s be honest, Asians take up a majority of the world, and we’re dominating, so there’s a good chance you’ve met a couple by now. Yes, I’m speaking to non-Asians and us Asians, because it really goes every which way. (Everyone’s a little bit racist ♫)

I would like to say that I grew up very aware of my own race, since I was the minority (like, maybe one out of the twenty or so Asians in my elementary school), but I wasn’t, at all. I grew up in a fairly diverse city, in diverse classrooms, and I didn’t learn about prejudice until I started caring about grades. I knew about stereotypes from movies and media, but I wasn’t aware of negative connotation associated with them.

Growing up, my best friends have been Caucasian, half-African American, half-Chinese, and Korean. It was from my close friends and family that I learned what culture was, how the way they lived and who they were didn’t make them any less of a person, and it didn’t make them any easier to label. I learned that my culture was different from another person’s, that we can all grow up differently, we can go home to a different house, a different world… but we don’t have to let people remain ignorant about it.

We need to learn when and where to dig deeper, who in our lives is worth knowing about, and we need to decide not whether we value culture, but whether we value our friends. Culture is a part of who we are, and if we care for our friends in any way, then by default we care to know about the way they grew up, where they came from.

We are clearly limited by the people we know and the world’s we grow up, so I speak to the one’s who struggle to make clear to themselves or to others the importance of depth. Popular opinion masks depth, and it lets us think we can get away with knowing of an ethnicity rather than getting to its roots.

For me, it’s always been the little things. I can testify to being asked if I’m Korean, Japanese, or half-Caucasian simply based on my appearance. I’m never very offended by the suggestions but please, people, don’t guess unless I ask you to (which will be never, because how awkward is that guessing game).

Me being Asian shouldn’t stop me from connecting with anyone else, and me being Asian shouldn’t stop you from asking questions you think you already know the answers to (because newsflash, you probably don’t). Maybe I’m able to connect easily with other Asian Americans on things like food preferences and family values, but I’m sure as heck not going to understand where my Asian-American roommate comes from when she starts talking about the Hispanic neighborhood she grew up in, or my fried-Oreo-loving housemate from Georgia. And I’m going to get a completely different perspective from my other housemate from Taiwan, born, raised, and then made to move to Europe for premed training, forced to pick up Polish.

We’re all different, whether Asian or not, so please, don’t be a fake genius, and don’t even pretend you know all you need to know about someone based on how we look.

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One thought on “don’t be that person

  1. Pingback: a look back | Where Words Wander

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