What do we Think of When we Hear the Word Asia?

Updated: May 9, 2019

What do we think of when we hear the word Asia?

Written by: Jordan Bowles

Edited by: My Identity Mag Team

For a long time, outside countries and other cultures had a tendency to generalize the multiple #Asian countries and dependencies that inhabit our world and categorize them as one singular culture. If one were to compare and contrast American cultural history with the notion of seeing Asia as one singular culture, one would be susceptible to the “melting pot” mentality being applied here. In America, there used to be a cultural attitude that focused on assimilation and the notion of essentially denying one’s own cultural background to fundamentally align oneself to the dominant culture. There were noteworthy issues as the desire to be accepted into the dominant culture essentially marginalized those from cultures who could not assimilate based upon physical features or even language barriers.

2015 Pew Research

Asia, in itself, is a conglomerate of many beautiful nations, #cultures, and individuals who deserve to have their cultural identities recognized and respected. More often than not, when a person envisions Asia, they automatically equate it to Japan or China. In the same way that America shifted from a melting pot to a salad bowl mentality, the same cultural concept needs to be applied when talking about Asian cultures. In Vietnamese culture, for example, an important holiday for Vietnamese people is the #LunarNewYear. A preferred custom that is practiced during this holiday is giving and receiving “lucky money” or “Li xi.” As a part of tradition, cash is put inside a little red envelope and given to another individual; the envelope is red in color because red symbolizes good luck, happiness, and symbolizes warding off evil spirits in Vietnamese culture. Whoever receives the red envelope is not to open the envelope in front of the person who gave it to them, as it is considered rude; the person should merely thank them and wish them well.

A popular holiday celebrated in India, is the #Diwali Festival or The Festival Lights. This festivities lasts for 5 days and it is also celebrated in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia. This holiday is commemorated with families coming together to enjoy each other’s company in a multitude of ways. In this culture, the Diwali Festival is seen as a way of starting a new and many make offerings to their god and goddess Ganesha and Lakshmi in hopes of obtaining wealth and prosperity. Hindus celebrate Diwali differently based upon the region they are from. The Diwali Festival and the Lunar New Year share some commonalities in how they are celebrated. Both holidays represent fighting off evil spirits, celebrating triumph of inner light over ignorance, and are celebrated with a mixture of bright lights and fireworks. It is wonderful and amazing that two different holidays from two different Asian cultures can have some core similarities, but are celebrated in their own unique ways.

Minority groups have suffered many misrepresentations and offensive stereotypes by the hands of the hegemonic culture in terms of images and narratives played out on television, and this, of course, includes Asian culture. In the media, Asians are deemed to be one of the most underrepresented minority groups on television. While this has been a factor for quite some time, it is important to celebrate the progress that has been made in terms of celebrating Asian culture being pushed to the forefront. In 2018, director Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians was released into theaters. It has been 25 years since the movie The Joy Luck Club that Hollywood released an all-Asian cast. This was a groundbreaking phenomenon for Asian and Asian-American people, as it showcased the kind of talented individuals. It is also noteworthy that Indian #Bollywood films and TV shows are showing tremendous growth with streaming services in the United States. Representation is vitally important and Asian people are having the opportunity to share their stories, cultures, and backgrounds with the world from their perspective.

It is imperative that we recognize how to continue to push forward towards a future that respects and encompasses all minority cultures. Today, we see another example of this with well-renowned actress Sandra Oh, and the kind of esteem and popularity she has garnered with her current show, Killing Eve. Now, this is not to say that one Asian female on one popular syndicated show, or one hit box office movie in America are going to change the issues that I have just expounded on, but these are small representations of what the future looks like for Asian cultures. It tells us that Asian cultures are beautiful, should be represented in a positive light, and that Asian people are absolutely capable of thriving and achieving success, even measure up against the dominant culture. I implore you to educate yourself on the many beautiful Asian cultures that inhabit our world and correct those that still try to perpetuate the melting pot mentality when talking about Asian cultures.

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