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Creating the Ripple Effect
in the asian-american community
by ji hyun lee

WHEN IT'S ALL OVER, questions come flying my way in all directions. Why did you stereotype Asian men? What about Asian parents? Isn't it an unfair representation of Korean mom's being so weak? Korean dads being too violent? It's another Joy Luck they dismissed. Asians being too this, stereotype that, why so, how come, where is, why did you, why not?

AT THAT TIME, I was devastated. In retrospect, it wasn't surprising to me that this occurred. I remember Amy Tan being similarly attacked inspite of the commercial and critical success of The Joy Luck Club. There have been many stabs directed at Asian artists making a name for them selves in the mainstream. So much so that, frankly I'm quite afraid to be in this business myself. Ladies and gentleman, it makes me want to just turn right around and go to law school.

RACISM, SEXISM, cannibalism and other forms of brutality exist today and we are all reeling from the blows. The unfortunate reality is that the oppressors are those in our own Asian-American community. We all complain about what the whites have done to us but let's be really, really honest with ourselves. What have they really done to us other than accept us into Ivy League schools, offered us a position in their firm, hospital, given us the loans to start our own dot-com business. Instead of drawing racial party lines and pointing fingers at other groups, let's address the problem that is in our own backyards. The real question we should be asking ourselves is-- what are we doing to each other?

OUR GENERATION has just become too educated, arrogant and competitive. Even in the business-world, cattiness between the different Asian groups is seeking to dominate and destroy our livelihood. This kind of rivalry and jealousy is what is preventing us from succeeding and has tragically been counter-productive in our growth. This is why unity among Asians is hard to achieve and unless we become proactive about coming together, it will be the eventual downfall of our communities. We must stop defining ourselves by the country of origin, but rather as a single ethnic group. Unless we can start coming together as one unit and start supporting one another's efforts, things are not likely change for any of us. Remember that success has a ripple effect and if we just allow for that one stone to be thrown in the pond the effect is going to be reflected on all of us. Create the ripple of support-this is key.

PROMINENT ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN ARTISTS

Anna May Wong

Read about ANNA MAY WONG - the first Asian Pacific American female movie star by clicking HERE.

Philip Ahn's common look on the show KUNG FU

Read about one of the pioneering Asian Pacific American actors - PHILIP AHN.

Bruce Lee Montage, click here for more info

BRUCE LEE - learn about a great Asian American male star by clicking HERE.

Jet Li

Discover the history of JET LI whose star is rising quickly by clicking HERE.

HOW DIFFERENT I would be today if I had received guidance from fellow Asian-American mentors…

ASIAN GROUPS complain about lack of representation but when an Asian actor is featured in a Hollywood blockbuster, those same groups are the ones complaining about it reflecting poorly on the community. Rick Yune was attacked for playing a character that is supposedly perpetuating a stereotype of an Asian male villain. Lucy Liu was attacked for similar reasons when she first appeared Ally McBeal. Look where she is today.

THESE ARTISTS never asked to be representing an entire race of people. They are simply pursuing their dreams. When anyone artist begins making some waves, the Asian community somehow always manages to find something to criticize, laying blame, pointing fingers from the sidelines. These people are artists who are beating all odds by being offered roles in major Hollywood films and making names for them selves, making the best-seller list. It is crucial for us not to punish the artist but instead support them wholeheartedly. They should not have to struggle against us. It's hard enough as it is. If we continue to demean and demolish the efforts Asian artists, we are demeaning ourselves. For without them, we are all invisible.

SO IF AT FIRST the character appears to be an Asian-male stereotype, negative portrayal of the Asian-American family, rehashing of the exotic sex-goddess syndrome-- stop and think. Are they truly depicting Asian-Americans as such or just harmful images we have come to expect? Be objective and think long and hard before taking out the whips to criticize and censure. I'm not saying Asian stereotypes don't exist. It's good to be aware and to speak up against them when it's appropriate. But what is detrimental to our growth is constantly trapping ourselves with the same old stereotypes from the past-- incessantly rehashing Pearl Harbor, Vietnam and Charlie Chan over and over again. We've got to put the past behind us in order to move forward with our future. We are all in this together.

AS I SEE IT, our current generation of Asian-Americans have worked and studied hard enough in this country to have built the reputation of being high achievers. Work with this reputation instead of the stereotypes.

THOSE ARTISTS who are making it need us more than ever, supporting and standing behind them. I need you more than ever. Without this support, the Hollywood conglomerate is going to continue to dismiss our culture from the media. Look what happened to All-American Girl? We bitched about it lacking authenticity until it left the network for good. In retrospect, it all seems so trivial now doesn't it? Wouldn't it have been great for the Asian community to have Margaret Cho's show take off, even with all its flaws, something is still so much better than nothing.

ASIAN ARTISTS have to walk before we can run. Actors playing villain roles will some day move on to playing romantic leads. I am confident of this. Asian directors, writers will catch up and soon we will have built a formidable community in Hollywood. But nothing, I mean nothing is going to happen if the backlash on every Asian artist continues. At least for now, some of us are trying to make a difference. Don't shoot us down for that.

YES FOLKS. The biggest hurdle holding us back is not white people, but ourselves. Let's take some responsibility. And remember this also-- our battle is with Hollywood, not the entire Caucasian race.

I ONCE ATTENDED an Asian conference at Harvard and heard a wonderful speech by a successful politician. He said something akin to this, "We need to remember the long and difficult ladder we climbed to get where we are. But the most important thing is not to pull that ladder up behind us."

LET'S HOLD with all our hands the ladder of success for all the struggling artists out there.


Click HERE to go to Part 1




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