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7 Assumptions We Need to Stop Making About Asian Americans

United States
by Julia Kitlinski-Hong Sep 12, 2016

1. We all grew up with Tiger Moms and Dads.

With the popular book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it can be easy to think that most Asian American parents are raising their children with endless lists of rules and ideals. The truth is that every family is different and there are many Asian American parents who encourage their children’s artistic abilities and not just their scholarly endeavors.

A major contributing factor for a more traditional upbringing is if the parents were immigrants to the U.S. or had parents who were immigrants. Culturally, first or second generation parents tend to be more influenced by their country’s traditions and expectations and thus are stricter than parents whose family has been here for several generations.

2. That we are all the same.

Asian Americans are a diverse group and include those who have ancestors from Southeast, East and South Asia. There are more than 20 countries in Asia that fall under this umbrella term, and thus cannot be easily lumped together.

More often than not, the term Asian American is associated with Chinese, Japanese or another group from East Asia, when it actually includes individuals from Southern and Southeastern Asia as well. Indian Americans from Southern Asia, as well as Indonesian Americans from Southeastern Asia are two examples of groups that also fit into this identification. Asian Americans define a demographic that originates from a whole continent, not just a specific region.

3. That we do not speak our minds.

One of the main misconceptions of Asian Americans is the idea that they are the “model minority” and therefore are docile. This is simply not true, since according to the 2012 presidential election, Obama won 73 percent of the Asian American vote, which outnumbered the amount of both Hispanic votes at 71 percent and female votes at 55 percent. This high level of participation shows that Asian Americans are not afraid to ask for change, whether it’s political, social or personal.

4. That we all excel at math or science.

The image of the Asian American nerd is something that has been fueled by popular culture but is far from the truth. Still many of us are viewed with this preconceived ideal. To counter this misconception, there are many Asian Americans who excel in arts and literature like writer Amy Tan who wrote the best-selling novel The Joy Luck Club or Norah Jones who is half-Indian and is a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter.

5. We are all good at martial arts.

In Hollywood, movies with Asian actors like Jackie Chan or Lucy Liu only perpetuate the stereotype that Asians Americans have stealth and ninja-like reflexes built into their DNA. In reality, it takes years upon years of training and discipline to obtain a high level in any form of martial arts whether it’s kung-fu or karate. Asians Americans are often associated with martial arts, but we excel in many other sports including speed skating and basketball as Apolo Anton Ohno and Jeremy Lin have proved quite well.

6. That we are all bad drivers.

When the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash-landed in the San Francisco International Airport last year, there were insensitive comments made about how the Korean Pilot crashed because he was Asian. Viewing someone with a certain lens based solely on their race only perpetuates the stereotype because you have already bought into the assumption.

In a study done by The Canadian Press, it was proved that immigrant drivers (with high percentages from China and India) were 40-50 percent less likely to get into a bad accident compared to long-term residents. What’s ironic with this stereotype is that this is the one negative association for an otherwise “model minority.”

7. That they can speak another language.

Asian Americans are often thought to speak another Asian language fluently. Although a large percentage of Asian American families speak their native languages at home, there are also many families who speak only English with each other. English-only speaking households are especially common for those who have parents who are third or fourth generation and less likely to pass another language on to their children. In fact, there is often a language barrier between grandparents and their grandchildren in Asian American cultures as the later generations speak only English.

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