Friday, July 30, 2010

Please don't call me Oriental

The other day an old man made a comment to me that my oriental children were well mannered. I said thank you and tried not to let the oriental comment bother me. After all, he is from a different generation where oriental was the correct term to use for Asians. But it got me to thinking about the word and why it bothered me and I started doing some research and stumbled upon a forum with over 10 pages of back and forth on why it was insulting or why it was ridiculous. And the one comment that really upset me was when someone said "Oriental offensive? Since when did we let foreigners dictate how to use our language?"

It is a telling comment. Its roots based in the notion that Asians are foreigners. The term "oriental" comes from the "orient" which refers to the east. A term that was based on the Eurocentric belief that the Orient was a barbaric and exotic place east of Europe. It is why the word itself is considered derogatory, for it casts "orientals" as different, as foreigners. And when you think of yourself as American, being reminded that you are "foreign" hurts.

When I first started having conversations about race with my children, they would ask me if they should tell people they are Korean. I said no, you say you are American. "But I can't say that," my then 6 year old said. "They say I don't look American." I think as a parent, there are moments that just break your heart because you want to protect your children from the harsh realities of life and you find that you just can't.

The reality is that my kids, me, my sister, my husband - we are as far from being Korean as we are from being Egyptian or Russian. We might look like a Korean and pass for one on the streets of Seoul, but as soon as we open our mouths, our Americanism pours right out. Not just in what we say or how we say it. But in how we think, walk, laugh, carry ourselves, etc. For someone to say "You're not American because you don't look like one." Well then, you might as well strip us of our complete identity. It's like every time someone shouts out "Go back to your own country!" Something inside of us dies just a little bit.

This past spring, youngest came home from kindergarten deeply upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she explained that she was sitting at lunch with 2 of her friends H and M, who are both blond and blue-eyed. Two boys were sitting across from them and were commenting on how pretty H and M are, listing how pretty their eyes were and their long hair, etc. They then turned to youngest and began to comment on how ugly she was in comparison. Youngest was devastated. I was proud of her for standing up to them. Telling them to stop or she would move to another table. When they didn't stop, she made good on her threat and moved away. I was proud of her for taking a stand, but my heart broke for her. She asked me if she really was ugly because she didn't have blonde hair and blue eyes. "No," I said, "you are beautiful inside and out but some people just are blind and can't see a diamond shining so bright in front of them. But that's ok. It's their loss so don't even waste your time thinking about them."

Even in kindergarten, children learn to recognize differences and to comment on them. While I did call the school and had the teacher have the boys apologize to youngest, can we really blame children for deep rooted societal prejudices? They told youngest she was ugly because she was different. Her eyes were different, her cheeks were different, even the one asymmetric dimple she has was different. I told her different is good. I hope she remembers that and never lets this become insecurity.

Many people complain that we've become so PC that we can't say anything for fear of someone getting offended. To some extent, I agree with that and I don't ask for people to be so careful with their words. But ultimately it isn't the words that hurt but the intent behind them and sometimes the words themselves become synonymous with the intent. Calling someone oriental or making chinky eyes might not have been made with a racist intent, but the word and the action have become synonymous with an intent to be racist. So why use them? Yes we are different and I truly believe different is good. But when these differences are used as a way to stereotype people negatively, it becomes racism.

So please, don't call me oriental. I am no devious, slant-eyed, exotic foreigner that speaks cryptically of ancient Chinese secrets. That stereotype needs to die. Help me kill it once and for all.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

K-Pop Time!!

Ok it's that time of year where I decide to let you all in on a K-pop video cause I know you aren't getting your Korean pop music fix anywhere else. Ha!

Last year I brought you the Wonder Girls. This year I give the boys a chance to shine. Here's the biggest boy band you'll ever see - Super Junior, or SuJu. Biggest as in they have 10 boys of varying hotness in the band and they can all dance and sing.

So this is Bonamana, they're latest song. It has a good dance beat although it gets a little too electropoppy for me. But damn if it isn't fun watching these boys dance.

If the video is cut off on side, it's cause its HD. Just click on it and it'll take you to the Youtube page.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Hi guys! Sorry I've been such a bad blogger. It's hard to blog when all 3 aliens are home from school and are not in summer camp. What kind of stupidity is this, you ask? Yes, I was suckered into not sending them to camp by illogical arguments and the use of the sad eyes.

For some reason, Angus and youngest do not like summer camp. Too energetic, they claim. Lazy bums. Oldest is the only one a little bummed out about not going to camp but I've been filling their days with the pool, museums, zoos, movies, playdates, and popsicles. Between constantly entertaining them, feeding them, driving them, feeding them, breaking them up, feeding them, etc. - I barely have time for myself. And because the summer hours have them staying up later, they are cutting into my valuable writing time at night. This is all my excuse for being a bad blogger.

So lately they've been on a zombie drawing kick. If you've seen me on twitter, you've probably seen me uploading pictures of fat zombie, soccer zombie, and my favorite - the Hasidic Jew zombie. But I do think the best of the bunch was this one - Cinderzombie by Angus.

Angus tells me that before Cinderzombie became a zombie, she was a girl named Fred who was terribly ugly. That's why she had a beard. She had 2 beautiful sisters named Bob and Jerry and her mother was named Petunia. One day Fred made the biggest mistake in her life when she accidentally spilled mayo on Bob's shirt and Bob was so mad at Fred that Bob told Jerry and Jerry told Petunia and they were all so mad at Fred and made her do chores all day. One day there was a ball with a handsome prince named Prince Sally (I'm not making these names up - this is all from Angus). Bob told Fred she was too ugly to go to the ball. Which was true, but Fred thought Hey maybe the prince isn't so handsome. But then she saw a picture of Prince Sally and thought "Man is he cute!" So Fred thought again and just did chores and chores and chores and chores and chores...

Fred was crying on her staircase, if she even had one, and then Poof! the magic weasel named Weasel appeared. And Weasel was holding Fred on his lap but then Fred crushed Weasel since he was much smaller than Fred's butt. When Weasel could breathe again he said "I'll grant you any wish you want!" Fred said "I really want to go to the ball." And Weasel said "Uh, isn't there anything else?" Weasel slapped himself on the face and thought "Man this girl is hideous!" and wondered if he had enough magic to make her beautiful for the ball. But all Weasel could do was put her in a pretty dress, hairy legs, beard and everything.

Fred was so excited and went to the ball. At the ball, people fainted at how ugly Fred was but Fred didn't notice because she wanted to meet the prince. When she finally met Prince Sally, her approach chased away all the pretty girls who were hanging all around the prince. Prince Sally turned to Fred and said "Hey thanks a lot! You saved me from being bored to death! Do you want to dance?" The Prince and Fred spent the whole night dancing cause Fred's ugliness kept all the other girls away. But the Prince and Fred talked a lot because they had so much in common like their love of basketball and burping. And the Prince thought Fred was actually quite cute.

Then the clock struck midnight and Fred was going to run away, but then the zombie invasion occurred and everyone got turned into zombies. But Fred was quite happy to be a zombie because it turned out Fred was the prettiest zombie in the world.

The End.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tale of Iroh

I think most of you know how I feel about the new Last Airbender movie. Do I feel vindicated that it has one of the worst ratings with both critics and viewers alike? Hell yes! But the movie still did surprising well in the box office. Does that make me feel good? Hell no!

The thing is, I don't want this film to do well. I don't want Shamalama to make another Avatar film. Does that make me mean and vindictive? Well, I don't really care. Whitewashing is racist. The fact that the whitewashing was done by a minority director doesn't make it any less racist. It makes it just sad. And the fact that he rests his laurels on the fact that the movie has one of the most diverse casts of any Hollywood movie? Well sir, I hate to point out that you are still confirming the Hollywood idea that a minorities in main character roles cannot carry a film. And everytime someone says "Well it's anime and the eyes are definitely not Asian and Aang looks white and it's an American production..." I just want to punch them in the face and shove bamboo slivers under their nails. Guys - when the show opens, it uses Chinese characters in correlation with the themes of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. They use Asian sounding names. They wear Asian clothing. They live in houses with hanji or shoji - paper covered windows and doors. They use chopsticks when they eat. Need I go on?

But I'm tired of all this crap. Let's celebrate the original series which is an extraordinary animated series that will go down in history as one of the best ever created. Here is a clip from my favorite episode with my favorite character voiced by the fabulous Mako Iwamatsu who passed away after the second season. You don't need any backstory to be touched by this scene. And it makes me cry every time I watch it.

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