Perspective:Why We Need Asian-Americans

DJ Chuang has been posting an important series considering why we need Asian Americans to be Asian Americans. It is a conversation not only for Asian-Americans or Asian-American Christians, it is for all of us. Taking the time to deeply think about what our cultural expectations (and thus at times limitations) of Asian-Americans are, deconstructing the blanket assumptions and expectations of assimilation (on of the primary reasons for the Model Minority characterization of Asian-Americans), and rebuilding a cultural framework of “Asian American” is vital if we are to authentically and non-manipulativly allow the heritage and culture of Asian-Americans should help shape our nation and, for the Christian, our Churches and American Christianity.

In his first post DJ clarifies what he means and does not mean by “needing more Asian-Americans to be Asian-American.”

We’d do well to think through and have more robust conversations about what it means to be Asian Americans. We’d do well to allow the richness of our Asian American’ness to overflow and not hide it under a bushel.

First, a few disclaimers to minimize the knee-jerk reactions.

To say that we need this is not to say that every Asian American must be Asian American’ish. There is a whole spectrum of people in the Asian American mix. A growing percentage are bi-racial, with Asian and non-Asian ancestry. There are some that are politically very pro-Asian. There are some that are very assimilated into “mainstream America” and don’t have any interaction with an Asian American context. And that’s okay.

Being Asian American as an Asian American isn’t everything. To say that we need this is not to say that an Asian American is only Asian American. We are more than our ancestry, and in a multicultural society and global world, we do well to learn & grow in cross-cultural appreciation for the others.

Being Asian American doesn’t mean being only with Asian Americans. There’s a social dynamic connoted by phrases like “birds of a feather flock together.” Cliques stunt our personal development and limit our ultimate contribution to society and the world. Yet, to have no connection with Asian Americans, something is definitely lost there too.

Being Asian American doesn’t mean nothing. There seems to be a social pressure or default consciousness that to be American is to fit in with the majority. That’s where the institutional structures and power dynamics is to be found. To be a part of the system, you have to work within the system. To change the system would (most likely) take revolution. We’ve already had several of those in American history.

Being Asian American doesn’t mean representing all Asian Americans. To be Asian American doesn’t mean one has to be well-versed and represent all kinds of Asian Americans. It’d be a good first step to have some semblance of understanding of one’s roots. For me, that’s being Chinese American.

Catch up on this blog series by reading through these posts: