when I was a kid, I told my mom that I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. You know what she told me?
She said, “sure, but you’re going to have to do it in China. America won’t hire you if you’re Asian.”
And that was it for that dream.
Of course, that was just a phase - one of many, one I would’ve gotten over anyway. But what she said stuck to me. You’re going to have to act in China, because America doesn’t hire Asians.
And if there’s anything I learned over these years, it’s that she was right. Asian-Americans don’t get to see ourselves on screen. We don’t get to read about our deeds. And we get pissed. We complain, we shout, and people dismiss us because, oh, “the Japanese are okay with Ghost in the Shell”, and “I’ve heard that mainland Chinese are perfectly fine with Iron Fist.” Well, great for them. This isn’t about them.
This is about us. Asian-Americans. Asian-Canadians. Asian-Australians. Asian hyphen something. And the Asians in Asia don’t understand - because they can’t. They’re surrounded by media portrayals of them. They never have to fight for representation because it’s always there. They have no idea what it’s like to live in a country that sees you as other, and then to have to go back to your home country, to have your parents tell you “this is you, this is your culture, your heritage” and you look upon the faces of your family and you see nothing of yourself in them.
Asian-Americans are not the same as Asians who live in Asia. We live in a different culture. Our values, our beliefs, the experiences that shape our lives are separate.
We want to see ourselves in western media because it’s what we grew up with. It’s what surrounds us. Sure, we can watch K-dramas and anime and Chinese/Taiwanese/Japanese/whatever dramas, and a lot of us do, but it’s still not us.
We shouldn’t have to go watch Asian dramas just to see a part of us represented. We shouldn’t have to move to Asia just to be hired.
We deserve to represent, and be represented, as ourselves.