Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breaking Through Labels

After reading “Speaking through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture through Textile Arts” by Ava McCall, I thought about how it never crossed my mind about who the Hmong people were and the rich culture and history that they have. In fact, it wasn’t until high school that I knew anything about Hmong people until I befriended a Hmong American person in one of my classes. This got me thinking about how many people of Asian descent get grouped into one overarching label of “Asian American”, when in reality, even within one ethnicity there are hundreds of different ethnic groups each with their own respective culture and background.

I can say from past experience that I have often been called Chinese and have been grouped with the Chinese American kids in elementary school to educate the class about how “we” celebrate Chinese New Year. In fact, throughout my four years in college, I can say that I’ve been called the “Asian girl” more than the “Filipino girl,” the “Asian American girl,” or just Jo Anne. The term Filipino itself is an all-encompassing term for the many ethnic minorities and hundreds of different languages spoken by the people of the Philippines. Moreover, there are many areas in the Philippines where people consider themselves a member of their region before a member of the all-encompassing ethnic identity – Kapangpangan first, Filipino second.

So wouldn't it be easier to do away with all the labels and just be known as who we are as an individual person? The stereotypes associated with each label would definitely disappear, but with each label, there is also an identity, a culture associated with each label that makes it more than just a label. But members of an assimilated, mainstream culture sadly do not see this culture and all that is seen is this label that is used to group people with others.

In an article by Lydia Lum, the 2000 Census listed 24 categories under the term of “Asian/Pacific Islander” yet on many other applications, such as those for college, the only box that is available to check is the “Asian/Pacific Islander” box. This definitely makes it problematic for all those who do not fit within this “model minority.” According to Lum, “all Asian Pacific Islander students remain scarce in higher education, experts say, despite studies showing worrisome disparities among subgroups in degree attainment, retention and family income.” Maybe if we just did away with the overarching umbrella term of “Asian American” and actually identified each person with their country of origin, the mainstream culture would see that Asian Americans are not all the same, and that there are actual issues associated with each individual ethnic identity.

Jo Anne Lasola
Post #4

Lum, Lydia. “A Deceiving Label?”

McCall, Ava. “Speaking Through Cloth: Teaching Hmong History and Culture Through Textile Art. The Social Studies.”

1 comment:

carolina said...

excellent write up. you're missing compact challenge update though. 3/3