Asian American stereotypes broken down during Tuesday discussion


Discussion hosted to address negative Asian American stereotypes.

Liz Sparks and Liz Sparks

Negative Asian American stereotypes in popular culture were addressed during Tuesday night as part of the Inaugural Asian American Heritage Week.

The discussion was led by graduate student Christopher Valentino, who gave suggestions on how to combat these notions.

“People might think I’m a bad driver, that I don’t speak good English or that I run a laundry mat,” Valentino said.

Asians are “otherized” he said, they are always viewed as different.

The meeting began with Valentino asking everyone to break up into groups of three or four and write down any Asian American actors or characters that are popular in media.

The most common answers were: Jackie Chan, Bruce Li, Lucy Liu, Yao Ming and Mulan.

Valentino then asked everyone to list some of the characteristics of these people and characters.

He then went on to say some of these characteristics were actually stereotypes.

Valentino defined a stereotype as a commonly held belief, assumption of over simplification about a group or a type of people.

Stereotypes are learned from family, friends and media Valentino said. These stereotypes make it hard to view people as individuals.

One community member, Taneisha Scott, said the activities made her feel uncomfortable.

“They made me feel racist,” Scott said.

This was the point of some of these activities.

“It’s not racist to have these thoughts,” Valentino said. “But you have to ask yourself ‘Why am I thinking this way?’ and ‘How can I stop thinking that?’”

Valentino said one of the most important things to learn is that people can have conversations and ask people why they think that way.

“You can have those conversations,” Valentino said. “Create that dialogue and make it a safe space.”

Valentino talked about several common Asian American stereotypes.

Some included the perpetual foreigner, passive Asian, dragon lady, ninja and the nerd.

These stereotypes are present in all kinds of media from Charlie’s Angels to Up, from Pitch Perfect to The Last Airbender movie, he said.

There are also positive representations of Asian Americans rising in media today including Mindy Kaling, Harold and Kumar and Glenn from The Walking Dead.

Scott said she was excited to learn.

“I wanted to learn something I didn’t know,” Scott said. “It never hurts to learn about stereotypes. Most times when you hear about race it’s always black and white, but there are other cultures out there too.”

Faye Lam has been married to an Asian American man for many years and she said her goal is to become more proactive and to become more of an Asian American Ally.

“If you see an Asian American, don’t assume they are from another country,” Lam said. “It’s insulting.”

There will be another discussion about this topic Wednesday in the Ethnic Student Center in the Math Science Building room 318-B from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.