Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Xanga Generation

In which I will ramble along about some ideas that I've been ruminating about, citing things of dubious academic content, and which are largely anecdotal in nature.

It's often been a complaint among Asian Americans that our community is a difficult one to organize, because, uh, we don't really have a culture. However, I've read a couple articles in the last year that correspond to my general feeling that this is slowly changing. To be fair both of these guys are about 10 years older than me, and are therefore out of this cultural movement, if we can really even call it that.
"APA: So you're pretty positive that there will be an Asian American audience that will be identifiable within the next generation or so?

SK: I think it's happening now. I'm very positive. I was in New York and I realized [there are] these 13 to 16 year old girls and boys. It's the Fast and the Furious demographic: they want something that's quick – a popcorn movie, a summer action flick. But they see a character that speaks English, and they can identify with him, because he’s American. It just happens [that he’s] this Korean American guy in Tokyo. They like that. They want to see their faces without the kung fu, without the accent, without the emasculation, without and the asexual characterization; and you realize with these girls, they want their idol – they want their Johnny Depp. And you know they're going to go to college, they’re going to be educated, and they’re going to be the ones who are buying the tickets. Because it's not about being Korean American or Chinese or Vietnamese or Japanese. It's just Americans that happen to be Asian. I think it's changing. I felt that. "

From Asia Pacific Arts' interview with Sung Kang

"I think the Asian American community right now is in the midst of defining itself. For a while I think we were all trying to be white. Then there was a period of time when we were trying to be black. And now we're finally coming up with something that's truly our own."

At Bishop O'Dowd, where he's in his ninth year of teaching, Yang says, "I see the difference in my students and how I was. They're much more aware of Asian culture. And they're much more proud. They wear their skin with a comfort that I didn't have."

From The San Francisco Chronicle's interview with Gene Yang

Both of these comments sort of stuck with me, as putting into words, this feeling. One time, my sister and I were hanging out in the University District, and we walked past this car. Then we both sort of paused, and said at the same time, "That's an Asian car." How did we know? Well it was a souped up navy blue Acura with tinted windows and giant shiny rims. But more importantly, why were we able to both define it so definitively as an Asian car? Clearly we were picking up on cues, which we weren't even really aware of ourselves. Although memory has definitely colored how I view the experience, the certainty I had at that moment hasn't really gone away. It was an Asian car.

To me, the ability to identify something as Asian meant something. The accusation that is often leveled at our community, which I subscribe to in some part, is that we are indistinguishable from white people, in the things that count, consumer habits, political preferences etc., and are therefore ignored politically, while also being allowed into the white man's club.

However, at the same time, a lot of these canonical Asian American narratives of growing up as the only Asian kid in a sea of whiteness, I've never really related to. As much as it's become the dominant myth, and I'm sure there are lots of Asian Americans who have had those experiences, it's not mine. I grew up in areas with a healthy Asian American population. I've always had Asian American friends, and while there are definitely times when I felt estranged and still feel estranged from the Asian American community, it's always been there.

I also do feel like, younger Asian Americans are coming together, rather unconsciously. For example, Xanga. I mean really, how did the Xanga become the Asian American Live Journal? Does anyone really know how that happened? And yet it did. And it functions (functioned? I'm old and therefore out of touch with today's youth) as a community of sorts. An annoying community sometimes, but at the same time, a largely Asian American community nonetheless.

You know, if I keep writing this, it will become ridiculously long and Justin will kill me for clogging up his inbox when he's writing a thesis. I'll continue these "thoughts" (i.e. ravings) in another post.


exangelena said...

Actually, I was in the U District a few months ago and I heard the roar of an engine. I looked up and saw ... a bright red Honda prelude and an Asian guy in the front seat with am 80 lb cute little Asian girl riding shotgun.
This post deserves something more profound, but I have an organic chemistry midterm tomorrow and I'm going a little crazy.

Laurel said...

I see Asian cars all the time and I think of you and smile.

Also some of my best friends are Asian. I know it's not really related but I've wanted to say that for a long time to see if I can get a rise out of you.

lovelesscynic said...

you get a look over my non-existent glasses (well, I'm not wearing them right now). And that's all you're getting.