This reminds me of a lot of the prejudice within the Asian community against Asians. I grew up not wanting to speak Chinese and not wanting to be like a lot of the Chinese international students who just flashed money like it was nobody’s business. My family was a poor immigrant family and we moved as often as most military families depending on where my dad’s work was, so we struggled a lot, but growing up as a Chinese-American, the last thing I wanted to be associated with was toxic parts of Chinese culture like saving face. I still hold those prejudices against my own race, although it was because I was inundated with Chinese values that I still to this day regard as toxic.
A lot of Chinese people embrace the “model minority” myth. A lot of older generation Chinese people are racist against anyone who isn’t Chinese — Indian, Black, Japanese, Koreans, Mexicans. The prejudice is especially pronounced against the Japanese, and I guess I can understand it because half of my grandparents’ relatives got killed by the Japanese during World War II, but I definitely strived to be separate from this sense of Chinese supremacy. 中国 literally means “Middle Kingdom”, and I don’t really vibe with that extreme sense of ethnocentrism that I’ve experienced and observed.
Media depictions probably didn’t help either. The only Asian man I really saw on TV was Jackie Chan. Jet Li in a couple too. I wonder how Rush Hour would age and be interpreted by the Twitterverse in 2020 — probably not well at all, but when I was a kid, it was my favorite movie.
I’m used to being asked “do you know karate?” and the students when they first met me said “be careful of Mr. Fan or he’ll karate kick you”. I don’t know karate at all.
Anyways, thanks for this thought-provoking piece!