Tuesday, June 05, 2007

So how about those Asians?

Man Asians sure are getting a lot of press coverage these days. In weird ways. I'm sure everyone has already heard about the two Stanford "students" already. Considering that they're both Asian American, it is kind of interesting to speculate about why they did what they did and how being Asian affects that. Particularly with Azia Kim, there might be all that family expectation which caused her to do it.

Azia Kim was similarly described as a "quiet Asian kid" much like other recent Asian American newsmakers. Whereas Elizabeth Okazaki was described as being loud and a nuisance, bringing herself to other people's attention. (Honestly she sounds like she needs some mental help.) And when people were asked about her, their comments really did reflect back the vibe of a quiet but forgettable Asian girl. There didn't seem to be much more in the comments than that she was a fairly nice girl and rather smart. The only thing missing is that her name isn't Grace Lee and as far as I know she doesn't play the violin. But does that have anything to do with anything? It's intriguing to think that it does. And the good old model minority myth is something us middle class Asians always like to pound our chests about. But at the same time I don't want to go there, because I'm just not sure if there is a connection.

I don't know what to think about this, honestly. Does their being Asian have anything to do with it? Does it have any influence on their behavior whatsoever? With Kim's story, I would argue that perhaps it does, at least some of the people who let her live in the building seemed to just sort of see her as the stereotype of the "quiet Asian girl" and let's be honest, how many people can tell them apart. But that's more of an effect on the people around her. Not so much on the girl, even if she (may or may not have) consciously exploited it. There are ways in which being invisible can have it's advantages. I know this myself from personal experience. (Actually Chang Rae Lee talks about this phenomenon in his book Native Speaker, but I'm nerding out here).

Anyway, does their ethnicity have anything to do with anything? It seems slightly less clear to me than Seung Hui Cho's ethnicity influencing his behavior (that would be a resounding NO, although I would argue that class may have played a role in the whole thing). Azia Kim did move into the Okada Asian American dorm. To me that says something, I'm not sure exactly what though.

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