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As untouched as the turn signal in an Asian woman’s car

The title of the post probably makes absolutely no sense to you, but once you see it in context I’m sure you’ll understand it. Some of you may even chuckle about it. However, I’m not sure it’s the laughter that I would find offensive. Most-likely, it is the fact that people still have the perception that it’s funny because it is rooted in truth. Before I get to explaining this further, let me take you back about 40 years. Let me share with you a tv commercial from the 1960’s about a baby that wants to eat some glape jerr-o. Again, you probably don’t get what I just described, but after watching the video below you will:

Was it funny? Was it offensive? Are your feelings neutral about it? Know this…that tv commerical was shown in America and no one voiced any opinions on it. It was used as a means to sell more Jell-o. Since it obviously wouldn’t have helped sell more Jell-o to Chinese-Americans, why did it require Chinese representation? Was any of the context of the commercial really conducive to selling more Jell-o? I seriously can’t find any redeeming quality about this commercial other than to make a statement that western things, such as the spoon are superior to eastern things such as chopsticks. In addition, it makes it abundantly clear that Americans perceive Chinese people as not being able to pronounce English well, as evidenced by the use of some ridiculous (supposedly) Chinese broken English. Can you imagine people at work sharing a laugh about how the poor little Chinese baby should be so grateful that Americans are here to rescue them with a spoon so he so can enjoy some delicious American-made glape Jerr-o.

Sadly, this stereotyping is alive and well today. More saddening is that it is being streamed into the consciousness of our youth that are so impressionable by culture and media. Remember the title of this post? Still confused about it? Here’s a video clip that will clarify it for you:

I’m not sure if you’re a regular viewer of Family Guy, but know that many teens are. When I was a youth pastor at a Korean church I remember how the kids would talk about Family Guy episodes all the time–as I’m sure white, black, Chinese, Mexican and Indian teens did. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard teens talking about seeing a bad driver ahead of them only to speed up to come alongside them and confirm it was an Asian woman behind the wheel. Yes, they are learning about stereotypes that are rooted in generations past. Teens today wouldn’t even know such ridiculousness if it wasn’t regurgitated by us in the older generations. While past generations have been responsible for racial stereotyping and flat-out racist propaganda in media of all races and/or cultures, it seems like misuse of Asians seems to be the most-prevalent in America today.

What gets me is that I have met African-American people that enjoy eating watermelon or fried chicken (as do I), but if I tried to stereotype all African-American as having similar tastes it would be considered racist and in poor judgement. With that being the case, why is it okay then to perpetuate Asian stereotypes in the media today without repercussion?

We as Asian-Americans have been polite and indifferent far too long. We’ve been cast aside to the position of almost being voiceless. So much so, that when GM is known for having countless recalls on their vehicles it’s just business as usual, but when Toyota has a recall it makes global headlines and even Toyota executives have been required to travel from Japan to speak before the US Congress regarding a recent recall.

If any of this angers you, I don’t have any answers as to how to bring racial stereotyping and indifference towards Asian-Americans to an end. However, I do know that unless we speak up and let others know why it’s wrong to perpetuate stereotypes and how that in itself is racism, the perception will continue that it’s okay to do so. Why? Because, as we’ve shown in the past, we don’t mind. Reading a blog post from Eugene Cho last week and seeing how all of the conversations seem to have died down regarding the Deadly Viper episode (that started just 4 months ago!) has been a little discouraging to me. I feel as if we are sitting idly–being good little Asians–until the next flare up happens.

I don’t have any answers or ideas at this point, but I certainly am not looking forward to waiting for the next racially insensitive, stereotypical issue to arise. I feel we should be proactive and create an atmosphere of continuing dialog and awareness. Is the church a good place to engage American culture from a perspective of racial reconciliation and why we need to put an end to stereotyping? What will it take? How will it look? Can I have hope in my lifetime?


About Dave Ingland

4 responses to “As untouched as the turn signal in an Asian woman’s car

  1. DYdaktix

    Thanks for bringing this issue up. I wonder how the fact that Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, an Thai American being a producer, writer, and editor plays into the issue at hand.

  2. Katie Junghee Lee ⋅

    No, they are all a delusion;
    Their works are nothing;
    Their images are empty wind (Isaiah 41:29, NRSV)

    Invisibility and Commodity in media toward asian women reflect the reality that asian women do not own the media(Then who?) Invisibility from media has two level. First, what’s so ever we are not on the media. Second, we are phycially on the air but represent incorrectly. Some of us probably not good drivers. The problem is media sticks to these few images. Watch out… not only when we drive, but also you observe

  3. Non-Asian ⋅

    Asians are considerably more racist than most any ethnic group I can think of, I’ve spent enough time in Asia to have learned this lesson well. I suggest you do your homework before presenting your skewed observations as the whole truth.

    Koreans are nice people though, I tend to like them most.

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