Thursday, September 23, 2021

Asian American stereotypes in Hollywood


One entertainment writer at Van Nuys High School in California, near Hollywood, says he has never seen adequate representation of Asian Americans in movies and on television, and that has reduced his ability to relate.

“Flipping through channels of white sitcom families made me feel different. It was a world I would always see, but that I could never relate to,” writes Terrence Lazo in The Mirror. “While I enjoyed media produced in Asian countries, I grew up in America, so I still felt removed from the Asian world. I simply grew up feeling excluded.”

Asian men, he writes, are often portrayed as less than manly, with the exception of martial arts experts, and Asian women as submissive sex objects.

The portrayal, he asserts, contributes to “gross behavior” in the real world, seen sometimes as bigotry toward Asian Americans.

“Many American-produced movies romanticize Asian culture,” he continues. “While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, many movies celebrate the culture but remove the spotlight from the people.”

In education, the same feelings of exclusion are often experienced by students of color who take standardized tests that include references only to White mainstream culture.

The exclusion of any references on standardized tests to Black or Hispanic culture, in fact, may prevent students of color from demonstrating how well they understand the content being tested and reduce both the reliability and validity of their scores.

On top of biased tests, teachers who are preparing their students often bring bias into their classrooms as well. As biased teachers cause feelings of exclusion among students of color, those students become more likely to disengage from the learning process and perpetuate—or even widen—the differences we see between White students and students of color.

“The process begins with a teacher who expects a student to succeed academically—this belief can shape a teacher’s behavior, such as what assignments are given, body language, and the time a teacher spends with a student,” New York University’s Steinhardt News quoted Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, assistant professor of international education, as saying about his 2017 study. “Students respond to these high expectations by internalizing them, which may boost their own academic expectations and performance.”

The reverse happens for students who have been victimized by racial prejudice. “Based on my analysis, teachers underestimating their students’ abilities actually causes students to have lower academic expectations of themselves, meaning that they expected they would complete less school. This was particularly harmful among Black students,” he said.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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