Paper 1 – Asian American History

Paper 1 – Asian American History

 MIT – Asian American Studies

What is Asian American? According to the U.S. Census, the definition of Asian American is an American who is of Asian descent. Meaning their heritage is from the Far East, India, or Southeast Asia. Many qualify for this, however. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Pacific Islanders, and other less recognized ethnics. There is speculation that Native Americans, Eskimo, and Hawaiians also qualify under the broad term of ‘Asian American’ due to their lineage and original origin. In America, Asians with a combination of at least one other race show for only 5.6% of the American population. (Wikipedia)

Eurasian and Afro-Asians, in my opinion, would qualify not as an American Asian but rather are their own, basing their place of birth as the defining factor. They are still Asian but are defined by their place of birth or residence. But an argument can be made for those born in Europe or Africa, that are of Asian descent, who then later move to another country. What nationality do they keep? This leads us to question what ethnicity is and how complicated it can become. It’s an easy answer when a person is the third generation living in the same area and never moves, but becomes gray once the variables change.

In Louisiana, there are many Asians, especially along the coastal areas. There are many biracial who have Asian ancestry. I didn’t realize it until after moving away, that Louisiana has many similarities with Asian culture and traditions that are not shared in other parts of the nation. For instance, the variety of foods, seafood is especially big in Louisiana; it’s also a big part of the menu in places such as Japan. Rice is also big in Cajun culture. There are also similarities in how you treat and speak to others. Louisiana is very polite; they have traditions and ways of handling situations that the rest of the country does not necessarily share. They avoid speaking ill to others and avoid conflict at all cost. They are very self-conscious over self-image and family honor. I found similar responses in Asian culture.

From personal accounts from relatives that live in China and Japan, there are several culture clashes between what Americans feel are normal behavior and what is acceptable in Asia. Between driving differences to personal space, the variation is wide. In American culture we have an unspoken (mostly) view of a personal bubble. We get extremely uncomfortable if this bubble is breached by those we don’t know, or know only casually. We don’t handle relative strangers in our faces or unusually close to us. But in Asian culture, due to the over population, it’s necessary and expected that you sardine yourself in next to the next person, even if there is plenty of room. This is extended in how easily they are willing to touch other people, which in America you can be sued for being too close and making someone else uncomfortable. Physical contact is not an offense in some Asian countries, unless it becomes extremely violent. You can see this behavior in Korean drama, in which a parent physically hits a child (either underaged child or adult), or a couple push and shove their spouse when upset. The lack of reaction from the individual being assaulted gives the impression that this is normal and to be tolerated as a part of the person’s outrage. And the expectation is that it will subside once they get it out of their system.

The driving laws in Japan are also very different, in that should you be in an accident you are more likely to be liable and jailed, even if you are the one hit by another vehicle. I don’t understand the logic behind this, but I have had it repeated by several people that live there, but they don’t seem to understand how it works out to be the injured person’s fault, either. Another oddity is public exposure; which is illegal in America, is common place in some Asian countries. Along this same line of thought, public defecation and urination is acceptable as long as you are under a certain age in China. It’s not uncommon for young children to go without a diaper and utilize the grassy areas along the sidewalks. And yet in America you can be fined for not taking care of your pet’s, in the ‘pooper scooper’ laws.

I wanted to go over some of the more negative and bazaar differences in the two cultures and how they can clash when one is brought into the other. So for Asians who move to America later on and who then raise their children, they must find it very difficult to hold onto their traditions. I can see the children being distant from the parents because of the American influence in viewing their behavior as odd and out of place. This is true, when compared to another culture but is perfectly normal in its own. I can see drifts and conflicts arising from this issue alone, on top of the normal adolescent conflicts that crop up no matter what culture you are in. But this is assuming the children are only first generation Americans. What happens when you are third or even fourth? Or when you share more than one ethnicity? It’s hard enough to identify one culture, much less multiple ones. I personally identify as ‘American’, with the assumption that it’s understood that I am a mix of several cultures due to immigration. Although some would argue that definition isn’t accurate since the only true Americans are Native Americans. But what happens if you are part Native American too?

In the end, the argument that Americans have their own culture now and feel the need and right to protect it. But they fail to remember that they were once immigrants fighting for their place in the American dream too. So what culture is right? Which culture gets to be dominant in the American view? Or should we accept that there is not one culture but multiple. Time will tell.

Wikipedia. ‘Asian American’. Web. Jul 31, 2013.

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