Let’s admit it folks, Americans can be some of the most myopic and culturally inept people on the planet. We live in one of the most diverse countries in the world yet many know nothing about the rich cultures of the people on our doorsteps.
Take the famous Texan, Hank Hill, for example. He’s known for his beer belly and cultural incompetency. He is the cartoon personification of traditional America. He’s confused when he meets Khan, his Lao neighbor, for the first time.
Hank asks with a southern drawl. “Let me get this right, you’re not Chinese or Japanese? So what kind of Asian are you?”
“I’m Laotian.” replies Khan.
“What ocean is that?”
Khan raises his voice, “I’m LAOTIAN, from Laos.”
Hank, still confused, “….So are you Chinese or Japanese?”
Hollywood and media reinforces the idea that East Asians are the only ones that exist. For starters, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans aren’t the only Asian-Americans out there. They forget about the Jungle Asians – the Laotians, Cambodians, Vietnamese and Hmong Americans who come from Southeast Asia. There’s a big difference between Hollywood Asians (East Asia) and Jungle Asians (Southeast Asia). Here are a few stereotypical differences to further reinforce the false stereotypes.
- Hollywood Asians will fix your computer. Jungle Asians will steal your car radio.
- Hollywood Asians will tutor you in math. Jungle Asians will jump you after school.
- Hollywood Asians are terrible drivers. Jungle Asians drive exceptionally well, especially in stolen Honda’s.
- Hollywood Asians grew up playing the piano or violin. Jungle Asians grew up playing with their rubber flip-flops and empty soda cans.
- Hollywood Asians own and operate supermarkets and restaurants. Jungle Asians operate the meat departments and kitchens.
- Hollywood Asians love stinky tofu. Jungle Asians love chunks of pickled fermented fish.
- Hollywood Asians will most likely be your family doctor or lawyer. Jungle Asians will most likely be your patient or criminal.
- Hollywood Asians use Kung-Fu to kick ass and Tai-chi to exercise. Jungle Asians use nine millimeters to shoot from car windows.
- Hollywood Asians have awesome gang names like Flying Dragons or Triads. Jungle Asians have ridiculous ones like Tiny Raskals or Menace of Destruction.
It’s time for my Southeast Asian peeps to represent. What are some other cultural distinctives that make us who we are?