By Jasmine Nguyen, Co-Lifestyle Editor
“No let me guess, you’re Chinese? No, No wait, Taiwanese.” The person pauses before perking up a moment later. “No, you’re Korean.”
There’s an awkward pause of silence before I chime in with an, “I’m actually Vietnamese and Thai.”
“Oh well, I said Taiwanese, that’s close enough.”
Actually, you weren’t. You were about 1,403 miles off. But for the sake of social niceties, I’ll smile politely and excuse myself as this isn’t the only time this has happened in my 21 years of existence. Guessing my ethnicity happens often within the first few minutes of meeting a person. It’s like a game of charades. It’s pretty annoying as I watch them mentally shuffle through the giant continent of Asia hoping before choosing a country of origin that they hope sticks. Or worse, they think they’ve watched enough anime, eaten enough Pho or took enough Taekwondo in middle school to now be experts on the whole continent of Asia.
In many people’s minds, Asia is just an exotic homogeneous group of math geniuses and Kung Fu masters. Of course, some of those stereotypes have changed over the years, especially with the increasing popularity of films like “The Farewell,” “Parasite,” or “Crazy Rich Asians.” But for the most part, most Americans only have one image for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community: that we are the smartest and affluent of minorities–and also the ones with pale skin and small eyes.
Some argue that being seen as the minority group whose biggest enduring stereotype is being academically superior in math, science, and technology isn’t the worst that it can be. But, if you look closer you can see that the AAPI community is a diverse group of almost 30 different ethnicities. By pushing all these communities into the same box of the “Model Minority Myth” it becomes easy to ignore the issues that many people in these ethnicities face.
And while there are many similarities within the AAPI community such as the value of family, togetherness, and hard work, there are still significant differences that each ethnicity faces.
A Cambodian American is going to have a vastly different set of issues than a Japanese American. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that 19.9 percent of Cambodians in the United States are living in poverty and that only 14 percent of the population end up getting a bachelor’s degree.
Currently, at CSUDH AAPI students make up about 10.8 percent of the population. Unfortunately, the school doesn’t break down that figure into ethnicity, which furthers my point.
Many members of the community struggle with the issue as well.
Such as Kristin Dulog, an anthropology major, who said she has always had problems with the view that all Asians are alike.
“It’s hard enough to live as a second-generation American where I grew up with a clear disconnect with my Filipino heritage and culture,” Dulog said. “But it makes the whole process even worse when everyone else around me is telling me I have to be a type of way if I want to identify as Asian.”
Dulog said that when most people hear the word ‘Asian’ they tend to think of characteristics attributed to East Asia (ie; China, Japan, and Korea). And that people often tell her that she doesn’t fit (their imaginary) Asian checklist.
“[Normally it’s because] I’m not light-skinned or because I don’t have monolid eyes,” she said.
By pushing all of the AAPI community into one box, it undermines the vast cultures and history of so many different ethnicities. It’s annoying and rude to say that Thai people and Taiwanese people are the same. Everyone’s proud of their different cultural backgrounds and I think it’s the American way to learn about these differences, after all, this country’s a melting pot.