“I love interacting with Asian people. They’re so wise, knowledgeable, polite.”
This was said by a white female identifying student behind me on the bus going home from the D.C. cherry blossom trip. The essentialization of East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean – but mainly Japanese in this case) cultures is nothing new or remarkable. But what is remarkable is the amount of non Asian people from my school who like going to Japanese festivals to cosplay and take in Japanese culture (food, ancient customs, modern customs, dress, etc.). they do it to appreciate the culture. And I like to think the Japanese American Association of D.C. has the upper hand on them. They reap the economic benefits of white people’s naiveté. But I still can’t help but get angry at comments like those. I’m sure they don’t mean harm by it, but pigeonholing an entire country (Japan in this case) is really dehumanizing. I know it’s supposed to be a compliment, but it’s a complete stereotype and lie about Japanese people. Japanese people and culture isn’t there for your enjoyment. It’s there so you can learn and respect it, and see it in it’s own light. Not to constantly compare it to your own culture. And it’s not there for you to romanticize it and boil down complex individuals to being all polite and gracious. I’m sure some Japanese people are, and I’m aware that honorifics and politeness is a big part of Japanese culture, but know that before you think those individuals are just born that way, or that they’re all that way. The model minority myth is a lie, it appears to be a positive stereotype but in reality, it’s just as harmful as negative stereotypes because it pits minorities against each other. Because Asian people are seen as “the good ones” their experiences of racism seem fake or unimportant to other minorities. Rather than bonding over shared experiences and fighting white privilege, Asian people are seen as being closer to white and therefore, better. This ignores their own microaggressions and racism in their history. So please, before you speak, think!
23 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.