Sunday, March 18, 2007

Raise your hand if you're Asian!

Here's a little blog that I forgot to post two weeks ago - it's pretty similar to Lucas' from the other day. Enjoy!

What exactly constitutes what race you are? What about nationality? Ethnicity? The film, Mississippi Masala, presents these question in a variety of scenarios. Mina for instance is juxtaposed with Demitrius. She was born in Africa, but her heritage is asian and she is currently living in the United States. He, on the other hand was born and raised in Mississippi and, though he has never been there, his family traces back to africa. In spite of where they origins, Mina is viewed as Indian and Demitrius, African. Based on appearances, people categorize them in to races that do not necessarily fit their true profile. Neither has actually visited the place where they are presumably from. What it all comes down to is a mix up of the words “race,” “nationality,” and “ethnicity.”
The term “race” stems from biological roots and according to the OED, which has about 120 definitions, it is “One of the great divisions of mankind, having certain physical peculiarities in common.” Nationality on the other hand is defined as, “National origin or identity; (Law) the status of being a citizen or subject of a particular state; the legal relationship between a citizen and his or her state, usually involving obligations of support and protection,” and ethnicity as, “Pertaining to race; peculiar to a race or nation […] Also, pertaining to or having common racial, cultural, religious, or linguistic characteristics, esp. designating a racial or other group within a larger system.” Both are admittedly related to race, but still different from race. What is even more interesting is the note written in small print after the definition of race, “The term is often used imprecisely; even among anthropologists there is no generally accepted classification or terminology.” Even the OED has notices that people do not agree on racial stereotypes. That the term is used “imprecisely” discredits it further. Therefore, should race be given any value at all? Is there really a clear way, that everyone can agree upon, to define a person’s race?
Naturally, biology can answer many race questions, but genetics merely tell where you came from. They cannot explain why a person adheres to certain aspects of their culture. Race cannot be simply limited to “physical peculiarities” as the OED implies. If it were, people like myself – half asian, euro-mutt and native american – would have a considerable amount of difficulty describing our race. Luckily, there is the wonderful world wide web.
I went to Google on a whim and entered the words “how asian are you?” Needless to say, the results numbered about a bazillion. What was even more interesting was that, when I began taking the tests, my results varied from 98% asian to 2%. Quantifying race obviously is not the answer. Ultimately, I ended up exactly where I began, trying to distinguish race from nationality and ethnicity.

The following is one of the Google results from my “How Asian are You?” query. Feel free to take the test and see how asian you really are. (even if you are white, you may still be more asian than me!)

"Are you asian in the first place?
Were you born in an asian country?
Do YoU tYpE lIkE tHiS aLoT?
Do you eat rice almost every single day?
Can you use chopsticks?
Have you taken chinese/korean, etc school as a kid?
Can you speak an asian language?
Do you spike/highlight your hair?
Do you have an "azn crew"?
Do you get at least a 3.0 gpa?
Are you or were you once a fob?
Have you designed a website before?
Do you know the song "got rice?"
Have you dated/want to date Asian girls/boys?
Do your sns/email have the words: AzN, gurl, boy, sweet, cute, hot, dragon, babe, angel, lil, princess, kp , oO, Oo, etc?
Is your last name Park, lee/li, ma,vo, chang, wang, wong, kim, chow,phan
Do you take off your shoes before entering someone's house?
You have both an asian and an english name?
Do you watch/read anime?
Do you listen to techno?
Do you listen to asian music?
Have you watched asian movies?
Can you raveDo you drink pearl milk tea or bubble tea?
Do you play counterstrike, starcraft, warcraft, diablo, etc?
Are you a master at DDR?
Do you play the violin/piano?
Do your parents beat you if you get bad grades?
Are you going/taking any honors classes?
Do you/your parents drive an asian made car?
Are you a very good artist?
Do you speak ur asian language w/ your friends?
Do your relatives own a restaurant/market in an azn community?
Do you slurp soup?
Have you visited your home country at least twice?
Does your house smell like incense once in awhile?
Do you have/had glasses or braces?
Do you like to read?
Do you NOT have an allowance?
Have you eaten dim sum/dumplings before?
Are your parents fobs?
Do you have tons of cousins/siblings/uncles/aunts, etc?
Can you twirl a pencil between your fingers?
Have you ever solved a rubik's cube?
Do you read manga?
Is the mall your hang out place?
Do you think you're short?
Do you/your parents save ketchup packets/napkins, etc from restaurants for later use?
Do you have AzN PrIdE?
Now add up all your [yes] answers and multiply by 2. That's how Asian you are."

Also, the Quizzilla Asian test idicated that I am
“Gangsta Asian --- You're a lil rough around the edges, and mainly chill with people only in your clique. You most likely smoke something, or have smoked something, and you date only other gangsta asians or members of your 'black gang'. You've most probably dyed your hair once or twice before, but nothing too wild. Also, you have excessive "Azn Pryde" and disdain those who don't have any.*Best Asian Match: Gangsta Asians usually, Raver Asians, and very rarely Twinkie Asians
Just thought that was really funny.

All definitions are from the following website:

Asian quiz is from:

1 comment:

Lucas said...

How shocking, Amanda, that we should have similar ideas.
I feel like this inability to pin down exactly what race/ethnicity/nationality is and isn't is a major obstacle for any study in this field. All I've been able to determine is that is it so subjective and seems to defy any quantification.
I mean, with only slight modifications, the "Asian quiz" could apply to any number of ethnicities/races (see, even I am unsure which word to use now!).
It raises the question, are we doing ourselves a disservice by focusing so intently on trying to understand race and ethnicity in any macro- form? Would we be better off to just deal with people on a case by case basis (is it even possible?)?