My name is Ger Vang. I am a Hmong American student who attends the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and is currently taking this course on Asian American Pop Culture. I want to talk themes, as in key ideas and concepts that must be covered before we continue on to the much-anticipated conversations about Asian Americans in the media – popular media, that is.
A positively correlated relationship between prejudice and power leads to discrimination. Prejudice is judgment that is made before fully knowing and understanding the context of a situation. Power is related to privilege and can include class, gender, sexuality, citizenship, language, etc. Discrimination is an action that can be institutional and individual.
A systematic pattern of discrimination leads to oppression, which is the exertion of power over another group, based on supremacy – the idea that one group is more valuable than another based on phenotype, culture, sexual identity, class, etc. There are also different levels of oppression that includes, the personal, inter-personal, institutional, and cultural. Systems of Oppression (racism, sexism, ablism, etc.) have agents of oppression (i.e. law enforcement) that facilitates these different levels of oppression.
There is a 3-dimensional system in our society that determines what the dominant culture is. This system includes gender, race, and sexuality. Within the category of race, there are variations of colorism that shifts based on your ethnic or racial identity. There is one dominant culture in the United States of America, if you haven’t noticed. White, hetero-normative, cisgendered males embody this dominant culture in our society.
Not all oppression is equal and that should always be acknowledged. But, I want to stress that the importance of issues, when working toward solutions, should not be determined by how oppressive a situation is or always have been. It just circles back to subjugated group(s) enabling a form of oppression, fueled by the notion of supremacy, upon other oppressed group(s). Which groups suffered most, in this society, should not determine what issues are more significant. We are all suffering and every issue points back to the systems of oppression. Working together is our best way through this. Fighting one another for the spotlight is exactly what the powerful wants from us. It is also what keeps them in power. People have a lot of power, whether or not you believe it. There is strength in numbers.
Why are we talking about this? What does this have to do with Asian Americans in the media? Well, let me tell you – recently there has been a rise of Asian American actors with leading roles in popular media. ABC network presented the American audience with an all Asian-American sitcom, Fresh Off The Boat, which has received a wide range of attention from the Asian American communities. My interpretation of Eddie Huang’s intention was to not only to represent the Asian American community, but also to accurately present Asian Americans as real people living in the reality of this nation. Whether or not that worked out, we still have to wait and see.