On being brown and Asian

This is a topic that’s been swirling round my head that’s never been properly anchored down to a page. Part of me thinks that I might be the only person who thinks this. But I also know that there are seven billion people (and counting) in this world, so I’m probably not on my own. I’ll sum it up in one sentence to start us off:

I relate more to the term ‘brown’ than I do ‘Asian’.

Make no mistake, I am both brown and Asian (South East Asian peeps, where you at?). I am incredibly proud of who I am—of my ethnicity, my background, and everything else in between. But sometimes there comes a time where I’ll see people that are meant to represent me and others like me, but no matter how hard I try, I just cannot relate. So I’ll sit down and speculate over these things and wonder why they’re so.

I do have some theories as to why I think of myself this way, the topmost one being that it’s merely a result of living in a whitewashed world. I’ve been exposed to it so much that I can’t help but think in such a whitewashed way. There is no denying that, despite being the biggest group of people that makes up the world population, Asians are severely underrepresented in Western media (I say Western because it’s the most widespread). And when they do show up, what we’ll see will most likely be East Asians—in other words, ‘Asian’ Asian. The kind of Asian that immediately comes to mind whenever the word is heard. The kind of Asian I’m not—and find difficulty connecting with.

But when I hear ‘brown’, nothing in particular comes to mind. Brown is an umbrella term to me, and therefore cannot be tied down to anything quite as ‘specific’ as ‘Asian’.

Maybe I’m being weird, but hear me out.

Stereotypes also come into play with this, be it when it comes to Hollywood movies or even just people’s thoughts and words in daily life. People love labelling Asians as the ‘model minority’. I am currently living in a town—and country—where the majority of the population is white. The most common thing I’ve heard anyone say goes along the line of ‘we’re the more hardworking, intelligent, talented, etc. race of the bunch, therefore we have a higher rate of success than any other.’ Some have told me this in a joking manner while others less so. Personally, I don’t see myself as such (again, not a testament to my self-worth and confidence) and I’ve also thick enough of a skin to not be affected by this as much as I used to anymore. But that’s besides the point. They’re stereotypes all the same, and therefore will have damaging effects no matter how you say it. In fact, you don’t even have to say anything at all. Your behaviour and reactions to said stereotypes say a lot more than your words ever will. And while I won’t sit you down and run through all—if not most—of these attributes (because, frankly, we’ll be here forever. However, if you do want to read up on it, I’ll say that this is a good article to start with), I will say this:

Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough for representation. But in this day and age, no one should really really be doing that. Representation should encompass everyone, not just specific people who fulfil a diversity quota. Frankly, it’s insulting that we still have to fight this much to see ourselves in the mainstream media and it needs to be changed ASAP.

If you’ve made it this far into my post, then thank you for reading. This is something that’s been on my mind for a really long time and I’ve only had the time to properly put it into words. Let me know what you think in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post.

Until next time,


3 Comments Add yours

  1. MJ Cobra says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really enjoy reads like this, and your writing is condense and straight to the point – I think you’re improving!

    I’ve been thinking about representation in media, and I’m glad to see certain steps taken, even if tiny (like the Star Wars film casting a black actor and a woman as leads). However, Asians do not get much, if any, representation, and I’m glad the public is calling the media out. I read a great post about the Ghost in Shell (Japanese movie series) remake whitewashing, especially with its lead role going to Scarlett Johansson. Netflix is releasing a live action Death Note (Japanese anime series) series with a white cast too. The only offset is that there’s a landmark from Seattle, Washington, meaning that the show perhaps takes place in the US, but… this still raises eyebrows.

    I hope you write more posts about these kind of topics. Thank you again for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dev. says:

      Thanks MJ! Your words really mean a lot to me 😀
      Yeah there are just so many whitewashing controversies all involving Asian erasure lately, it’s heartbreaking. It’s like no one’s learned from the past or even from incidents from a couple of years back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. MJ Cobra says:

        It’ll definitely take time, but younger generations are becoming more aware, and older generations are giving it thought. Still, it’s sometimes easy to forget that discrimination does still exist… it’s quiet but present. Thanks for speaking out!

        Liked by 1 person

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