Many people, not just Ryan, justify stereotypes by falling into the trap that “they are based in some truth.” Therefore, why be offended by them? Ryan, a Japanese/Hawaiian American, was aware that this opinion would gain some backlash, especially from fellow Asian Americans, me included. He knows that people use stereotypes as a form of racism, but instead of getting angry, like he used to get, he finds it better to laugh at them because, “they are true, right?”
Wrong. I was shocked when I learned that stereotypes weren’t based in truth. But after a thought provoking course I took last spring (I know this sounds pretentious as fuck, but just hear me out), we learned that stereotypes are not based in any truth. This lie is just used to continue giving racial stereotypes some reliability, but in reality, all stereotypes are lies told by a dominant group in order to trivialize the minority. This is so that the racial minority, for instance, is seen as lesser, more basic/simple, and less threatening to the ruling class/race. It’s to instill fear, but also to instill hate. “They’re not like us, it’s just fact.” Not a stereotype created by a select few to maintain their position in power.
For instance, stereotypes of white people are few. Some stereotypes however are that white people are rich and greedy, or white trash and uneducated, greedy/land stealing, and racist. But just because a select few people are that way, just because that’s THEIR truth, doesn’t make it the truth for the group, therefore, yes it’s based in someone’s truth, but that doesn’t mean everyone is like that. And because everyone is not like that, stereotypes are not true. For instance, just because one white person is good at math, doesn’t mean the entire white population is good at math. But why is it that just because a white person meets one or two Asian American people that happen to be good at math, they can automatically assume, all Asians are good at math, and make it “based in truth?” It’s because white people are the majority and Asian Americans are the minority. There’s not enough racial mixing in the U.S. to see Asian Americans as individually as we see white people. The cold calculating and robotic stereotype of Asian people helps white Americans see them as an undifferentiated mass, in order to dehumanize them and see them as less than. They use stereotypes “based in truth” to justify their own racism and power, because you can’t argue with facts, right?
White people are seen as individuals, in the U.S., because of our constant exposure to them. They’re always visible, and the racial minorities are the tokens because there’s only two or three of them in every TV show, movie, advertisement, news station, etc. Therefore, we take those few people’s truths, as the truth for the entire minority, which leads to believing that stereotypes themselves, are true. That’s why we need more TV shows about Asian Americans besides Fresh off the Boat. How else, are we going to see a diverse range of Asian Americans?
Lastly, to just quickly highlight another point, there is no such thing as reverse racism. Yes, white people can experience, ignorance, bigotry, etc. but never institutionalized racism, at least in the U.S. White people can experience poverty, the unfairness of life, being stereotyped as racist. But being called racist or seeing color isn’t racism. Racism is the in “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.” And, “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” AKA: The belief that racial stereotypes are “true.” If you believe stereotypes about a minority race are true, then you believe “races” exist too. When in reality, they’re a social construct, but that’s another story. What I’m trying to say here is this, there’s no such thing as reverse racism, but there can be racism within one race, or between races. Such as racism against black people by Asian Americans, or racism against Asian Americans by black people – Chris Rock, I’m looking at you. Please stop perpetuating the idea that racial stereotypes are "true" when in reality, they’re just part of a bigger social construct, we like to call race.
23 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.