New York Comic Con is the only non-explicitly Japan-focused convention I typically attend. In that respect, it gives me an opportunity to explore in greater detail the aspects of comics and media fandom that I normally prioritize less. This year, while I did my fair share of anime and manga-related activities—namely see Son Goku’s esteemed voice actress Nozawa Masako—my main takeaway from NYCC 2018 was that the shifting cultural landscape beneath the United States at this moment is of the utmost importance in comics and entertainment.
I went to many events during the convention, but the main stand-out was Super Asian America. A Q&A and discussion about Asian-Americans in comics, animation, and related media, the panel featured a bevy of guests: comics writer Marjorie Liu (Monstress), actor Ryan Potter (Hiro in Big Hero 6), comics writer Greg Pak (creator of Amadeus Cho), Kickstarter publishing’s Camilla Zhang, comics creator Nidhi Chanani, and host Mike Le. Much of the discussion was about the surprisingly good year that Asian-Americans have experienced in the entertainment industry between the successes of Crazy Rich Asians, To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved, and Searching. The main takeaway was that this is a good step, but that convincing the Hollywood machine that falling back on its old racist and conservative mindset for “safety” reasons is going to take a lot more. Moreover, the United States as it currently stands is a troubling place for non-white ethnic groups, and this fight extends to more than just movies and TV shows.
I’ve long struggled with an unfortunate truth: many Asians, especially from older generations, are extremely racist. Readers might be wondering what this has to do with New York Comic Con, but my view of my fellow Asian-Americans is not always charitable. It always saddens me to see a kind of “we Asians need to get ahead” mindset that seems to come at the expense of others, the kind of attitude that encourages ingratiating ourselves to white people and avoiding association with other ethnic groups. So for years, I’ve seen those struggles for better representation in Hollywood and such, and felt myself being a bit skeptical. “How many of these people are really thinking about equality and opportunities for all?” Now I realize I’ve been conflating more than a few things that should be considered separate yet loosely related.
It is true that many Asians living in the US have been racist, and have tried to emulate “white success” to some degree. It’s also true that the Asian communities often focus on themselves to almost a deleterious degree, ignoring the reality of the politics surrounding us. However, the fight for better representation of Asians and Asian-Americans on screens and pages big and small is itself a fight against the racism that lingers within our communities among fellow Asians. There are generations of stereotypes that Asians have to fight against, like being weak and ineffectual compared to rugged European folk (unless we’re doing martial arts), and the sooner we remove the seeming need to graft the problematic elements of white privilege onto our own identities, the sooner we can make all Asian-Americans feel like they don’t have to conform to others’ ideas of who we can be.
“many Asians, especially from older generations, are extremely racist”
I don’t think this is true. Racism implies a level of hatred. What I often see from the older generation of Asians is not hate but a frequent tendency to generalize what they see and experience. They tend to perpetuate stereotypes and that’s something my own family has done, but they never taught me to hate another group.
Older generations also tend to “go with the flow”. They don’t like to cause trouble if there’s a way to avoid it. This is where I think the “being weak and ineffectual” stereotype comes from. If you think about it this makes sense. Going against the Communist Party in China will bring trouble to your door real quick. It will not be good for you or your family. Just because you moved to the USA doesn’t mean you’ll change your attitude and become an activist overnight. More likely than not, you’ll continue to teach your kids that you can’t depend on anyone except your family.
As a Chinese-American myself, my parents always tried to warn me about certain people, so yeah. However, they seemed to almost always mention blacks or Latinos because of Chinese newspapers reporting on crimes against Chinese in NY.
They know that not every black/Latino person is terrible (they’ve gotten along with middle-class black people), but the media influence and also what happens to their friends gets to them sometimes. Even though I’ve been called racial slurs by other POCs and even robbed by black teens in high school, I know there are good and bad people on the other side.
I just feel that Asians are really the bottom of the barrel here compared to everyone else here despite being this “model minority” (an idea that I find disgusting).
On a side note, I wish we had a conversation about how being weak in certain cases isn’t a bad thing at all, but that’s another conversation for another day.
Replace “older generations” with “Asia” then maybe I’d agree. I feel Asian-Americans are not Asians in the sense that, well, they are Asian-Americans and they see race differently than people who are not affected by American life. Then calling those Asians racist makes sense in that context.
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