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Conflict arises at times out of attempts by the oppressed groups to gain acceptance by the dominant culture, while preserving one's own cultural identity. Concordantly, conflict also arises when members of the oppressed groups rise to actively resist and challenge domination. In an article from USA Today, Delaney argues that urgent social issues such as crime and poverty within minority cultures are largely debated upon by the groups involved, with whites acting as spectators. Problems within minority communities are often attributed to internal dispositions and inherent characteristics of the minority population.
By ascribing to minority groups' dysfunctional pathology, dominant society reasserts dominance and justifies its lack of intervention. A reinterpretation of the famous slogan used to promote the status quo can wholly embody the prevalent attitudes of privileged America: "If it ain't White, don't fix it. I heard her scream, as he chased her down the hallway.
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I froze, with toothbrush in my hand and foam dripping from my lips, and tried to make out what was going on. It took me a moment to realize that my neighbors next door were fighting. Well, to be exact, the husband seemed to be beating up his wife. Being in proximity of the violence brought me back to a time when my knees would go weak and my heart pound in crazy rhythms whenever my parents fought.
It was always the same cycle, beginning with the violence, followed by the suffocating silence. During every deafening silence episodes, I always hid in my mother's closet so as to not get in harm's way. When I came to the United States at the age of ten, I experienced the isolation and silence associated with being an Asian American. Perhaps not wanting to exacerbate public hatred, many social problems within the Asian community are kept silent. Domestic violence is discussed behind closed doors amongst housewives, but never to the public.
Just as my reservedness and silence had earn me the title of "model student" in school, so did the silence of Asian Americans in giving birth to the stereotype of the "model minority. The model minority stereotype refers to a categorization of "positive" characteristics attributed to Asian Americans, including passivity, docility, and high academic achievements.
Contrary to popular belief that Asian Americans are highly successful individuals with no psychological nor social dysfunctions, many social problems exist within the community.
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The model minority stereotype effectively silences the Asian community from speaking out about these urgent social problems. The failure to see family violence and violence against women in the Asian community as serious social problems is a direct result of mental schemas derived out of notions of Asian docility. For decades Asian women suffered in silence, their pains went un-noticed even by their pale-skinned counterparts. In her discussion of family violence among immigrant women, Easteal notes that misconceptions and fears of being deported is a factor which prevents many Asian women from seeking help.
In addition, many of the Asian immigrant women are taught to fear and mistrust the criminal justice system, thus further limiting their options. A lack of public care facilities and women's shelters sensitive to the needs of Asian women acts as a deterrence from seeking help for Asian American victims of domestic violence Easteal, Stereotypes foster not only social separation but justify and perpetuate violence against members of the oppressed groups as well.
Asian femininity is constructed to be mysterious and hyper-sexual by the dominant White culture. The pornography industry cashes in on this social attitude and responds to the high demands for pornographic material depicting Asian women. Especially prominent are materials centering on bondage. In the extreme form of objectification a woman is reduced to merely a sexual object, thus justifying rape and sexual assault.
In reading and writing about incidences of hate crimes against Asian Americans, it then become a shared communal experience lived vicariously through the re-telling of the story: In , an eight year old Chinese girl North Carolina- two months after Penthouse featured pictures of Asian women in various poses of bondage and torture, including hanging bound from trees. The interconnections of gender and race continues tod ay to manifest itself in ways to exotify and objectify Asian women. My close friend of ten years is an aspiring actor struggling to make it in the film industry.
In her career so far as a novice actor, she has had to combat constantly the mainstream notions of Asian femininity. With much humor yet with a hint of resentment, she recounted over the telephone a particular photo shoot in which the make-up artists insisted on giving her the "exotic Asian look.
In an industry that thrives on projecting images of perfection, I imagine the profound impacts on her self-esteem and efficacy in being treated as the ethnic "other. The roots of the stereotypical notions of Asian femininity can be traced to the images constructed during World War II. In presenting a model of ideological racism expressed through mainstream media, Espiritu argues that Asian femininity was constructed as a response to the emerging feminist movement in the 60's.
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Asian women were portrayed in media as the epitome of ideal femininity. Having been ultra-sexualized, de-vocalized, and centralized to please and satisfy, these one-dimensional caricatures were both physically and sexually subservient to White men. Culturally and symbolically, these images serve to uphold the virility of White males, and cast off a categorizational depiction of the ideal femininity.
Intentional parings of White males with Asian females are routinely seen on television, symbolically conveying a cultural contestation in which White males impose their domination through the "undertaking" of ethnic females. As the war time propaganda against Asians intensified, there emerged damaging stereotypes and controlling images of Asians as a whole.
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The World War II propaganda breathed life into the racial stereotype of the yellow peril. This strategy effectively cast Asians as the abominable "other," thereby justifying racial discrimination and White domination. The construction of "other" served a socio-political purpose in legitimizing the interests of the dominant culture, as evidenced in the erratic shifts of stigmatization. A trend of shifting racial stereotypes and controlling images in accordance with the perceived "enemy" throughout American history functioned as a categorization of "other" on a national level.
While Japanese Americans were under attack from the World War II propaganda, the previously stigmatized Chinese Americans came to be regarded in a brand new light. Characterizations such as "hard-working peasants" were attributed to Chinese Americans, casting a dichotomous good and evil caricatures of Chinese and Japanese Americans, respectively. An integral part of war-time propaganda, and construction of ethnic "other" in general, includes the social construction of Asian American manhood.
I grew up being taught about the values of respect, reservedness, and resilience. Asian masculinity is subtle, conveyed through artistic expressions. The aggressive, tough notions of masculinity are regarded as unrefined and an indicator of poor education and lower class. When I came to the United States, my practice of concession in the classroom was seen as a sign of timidity.
My proper respect for elders and teachers was seen as an eagerness to please. My non-aggressive response and silent endurance of harassments was seen as a sign of weakness. The traditional Asian notions of masculinity instilled in me were perceived unfavorably in the American context. Ethnic minority manhood has always been constructed as deviant relative to the White male norm. Stereotypes, like the brutish sexuality of African Americans, systematically worked to White males' advantage in constituting White normalcy. The construction of Asian manhood served the same purpose.
However, Asian masculinity is broadcasted through a dualism of images depicting hyper-masculinity through Kung Fu movies, and asexuality through passive portrayals. Depictions of androgyny in Asian male set them off as neither men nor women. Asian men are never portrayed as masculine by the White notions of masculinity, but instead are portrayed as effeminate or homosexual. The only acceptable form of masculinity for Asian men is achieved through Kung Fu movies, which in itself separates Asian men as the exotic, outlandish "other.
The emerging popularity of Kung Fu movies gave rise to a slew of American adaptations in which White Kung Fu fighters save the day by stopping villainous Asian invaders in their mad crusade of overtaking the world. So once again the power hierarchy is restored and Asian masculinity is vilified and put in its place. Asian Americans experience a multitude of overt discrimination ranging from derogatory references in public, to more violent acts such as the above mentioned experienced by John Lee, a student from State University of New York.
Virtually all Asian Americans I know have experienced discrimination and racism of one sort or another in their lifetime as an "American. All forms of violence can be understood in the context of power inequalities and issues of control. Social construction of ethnic "other" delineates a model of social functioning based on hierarchies and unequal distribution of power. Dominant culture has always employed smoke screens such as diagnostic labels or political propaganda as forms of social control in addition to legitimizing discrimination.
While many of the prejudiced ideologies and racist images from times of war have withered; the seed of fear and hatred have been left unscathed, giving birth to an reincarnated chaparral of unseen institutional racism. The dominant society's fear now is not of questionable political allegiance as was during times of war, but rather the economic motives of the perceived technologically advanced Asian immigrants.
As an immigrant, I faced pressures both from the dominant culture to conform and the pressures to preserve my own culture. I struggled with the contrary notions of masculinity endorsed by the dominant White culture and the notions I was brought up to honor; that is the conflict facing young Asian Americans in our society.
The hierarchical structure of high school creates a dynamic of power imbalance, in which the disempowered seek to identify with their oppressor. As stressful as the demands for social conformity for native-born students, the additional cultural-identity conflict for immigrants creates the potential for extreme social deviance.
Stripped of self-confidence and sense of belonging, many Asian immigrants participates in gangs for affiliation and group identity. In my personal experience with several high school friends, the violence they exhibited came as a direct response to the alienation and overt racism they experienced as the "other. I can identify with the latter. Desperate for mainstream acceptance, but at the same time vigilant to cultural preservation; I resorted to living a double life. By keeping family and social life separate, I felt a false sense of fulfilling my responsibilities.
However, the opposing values and beliefs of the two worlds must invariably collide together and compete in a identity tug-of-war.
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