Sunday, October 23, 2011

Asian American Bias

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Asian American Bias

There’s a reoccurring image of Asian Americans in the media that stands out among the rest of the population. For instance, they are thought of as being quiet, hard working, successful, and family orientated. Even images of Asian females that predominate in the media paint pictures of small petite women. For the most part these observations are true and are rather obvious in the majority of Asian Americans. One possible explanation for this behavior is westernization, the influence of American culture on the Asian cultures. As a result of westernization, Asian American images appear to be glossy on the surface, however, underneath there are negative implications on their mental/physical health.

Westernization has affected many cultures not just Asian cultures. In addition, it doesn’t even have to be here in the United States where westernization takes place, its spreading around the world. Nevertheless, here in the United States its wrath is much stronger. Second generation children of Filipino immigrants face hard struggles with the battle ground between two cultures. On the one side their parents are trying to instill their culture, values, and national identity. On the other side the high tide of American culture is constantly bombarding these second generation children with opposing ideals and values. Being torn between cultures can take its toll on these Filipino children and cause feelings of stress and alienation.

Filipinos have been referred to as a “model minority” and for a good reason. They have a high educational attainment, a high level of labor force participation, a high percentage of working as professionals, and the lowest rate of poverty in the United States and in California. More than likely westernization is responsible for this. Immigrant individuals want to adapt and establish themselves in this western society. Working across cultural boundaries isn’t easy and would require these people to work harder to become successful.

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In Diane Wolfs’ article “Family Secrets Transnational Struggles Among Children of Filipino Immigrants,” she interviewed 1 undergraduates at UC Davis. When she asked them what it meant to be Filipino, the majority responded that it was their strong sense of family. One student said “For me, being Filipino, I guess its is basically the family,” another “To me, being Filipino means having strong family ties.” The responses are all pretty much the same as these two students’. It’s only obvious how strong family influence would be on Filipino children.

When it comes to education Filipinos don’t take it lightly. The interviewed UC Davis students expressed their experiences with their college career in conjunction with their families. They push their children to excel in school and be the best that they can. Sometimes they push too hard. Anything lower than a letter grade of an “A” was often times not acceptable. Wolf says “some parents were more concerned with grades and achievement than their Childs well-being” (Wolf 5). As if that wasn’t enough, most of the undergraduates that were interviewed pursuing majors that their families chose for them. This type of parental treatment can have negative consequences on the metal health of their children.

Ok Filipino parents push their children to the maximum so that they do well in school and assimilate into the western culture. These kids have some of the highest GPA’s and academic standings in their schools so what’s the big deal? What kinds of mental health problems can they have? Studies have shown that Filipino students had high numbers of suicidal consideration. Even more disturbing is that a high percentage actually made attempts on their life. They had some of the lowest depression and self-esteem scores. Filipino ideology seems to prevent these students from talking about their problems because it would bring shame to their family. As a result they would alienate themselves from their families. In the end these bottled up emotions can lead to explosive results.

It’s not only in the areas of education where westernization has wreaked its harmful wrath, but in Asian American women’s bodies it has too. Asian American women are trying fit into the image of “the petite skinny Asian girl” which most of them are, but in the process is creating an upwelling of eating disorders among them. Anorexia and bulimia were once termed “white girls’ diseases,” but now it’s encroaching upon other races.

In the article “Starving in Silence Eating and Body Image Disorders Plague Young Asian and Asian American women,” by Eunice Park, he interviews a women affected by an eating disorder. 1 year old Susan expresses some of her reasons for her obsession by saying “Guys are always saying ‘Yeah, those Asian girls are so petite and skinny.’ The truth is, we are trying to fill a stereo-type of the older Asian generation, that of our petite 100-pound mothers with size 5 feet. We grow up in American, where everything is bigger. There’s no surprise that we, too, are physically bigger.” Susan was anorexic for a year and once 80 pounds, which is very low for a person who is 5’5; unfortunately she later lapsed in to bulimia. Her diminishing health is a result of her trying to adapt to western standards. There are many other like Susan who suffer from these disorders and its sad that the Asian ideology of silence prevents them from receiving treatment.

The Asian American image in western culture looks great on the surface; hard working individuals, who look great, and are exceptionally studious. In one were to look past these superficial images, they would see that there’s a lot more to their situation. There are strong negative implications that foster these images and threaten their health. As with the second generation Filipino students, they face large amounts of mental distress. Sure they perform well in school but their families give them no other options and sometimes are more concerned with their performance then their well-being. Asian women are also facing deteriorating health due to the fact that they are trying to blend into western society. Eating disorders are on the rise among Asian Americans and there needs to more of an effort to educate them. Although their images appear ideal on the surface, westernization has catalyzed the negative implications that lurk beneath.

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