Addressing Common Asian Stereotypes

Random post addressing common “Asian” (East Asian, sorry Indian/Pakistani brothers) stereotypes, inspired by browsing Quora.

At the end of day, all misconceptions are a result of the lack of oneself’s willingness to learn and to educate him/herself. I find that most Westerners who have spent time in Asia do not display any assumptive ignorances at all, because they’ve seen things and understood things with their own eyes.

Now, where do we even begin…

  1. Yes, we have “squinty” eyes, because of the epicanthic fold that is present in most East Asian/Mongoloid populations, likely evolved many millennia ago to protect the tear ducts against the brutal Siberian winds.
  2. Yes, we are “yellow”, sort of — this is due to a layer of subcutaneous fat present under our skin. Again, like #1, this is a result of evolution for East Asian populations, likely for keeping warm in the Siberian climate when humans first migrated from Mesopotamia to East Asia.
  3. No, we are not all “good at math”. Most of us in America probably are, because our parents raised us to be focused on school and academic subjects. This is a result of cultural upbringing, due to the social and economic competitiveness in countries like China and South Korea, and the resulting cultural attitude to strive for education and self development. On top of that, you will find that most Asians in the West are from educated or business-oriented families, hence the children are likely to be educated and academically-oriented. In Mainland China for example, there are just as many farmers/people of peasantry backgrounds who are illiterate and cannot process complex mathematical equations… no different from backwater Americans or Aussies. However, there was an interesting point noted by American author Malcolm Gladwell in his super interesting book “Outliers”, stating that, due to the unique linguistic nature of the Chinese language, simple digits (1–10) are counted with one syllable, versus the often-two-syllable numbers of the Romantic and Anglo languages. He postulated that this may provide an advantage for Chinese people to quickly process simple maths or be able to memorize more digits.
  4. Yes, we eat “weird” food like animal organs, insects, etc. But actually eating things like insects is no longer common in most Asian cities. Moreover, it is actually very common to eat animal organs like stomach/heart/liver in many European and African cuisines (German, Polish, other Slavic, most of Sub-Saharan Africa, etc.) — don’t blame us, these organs are highly nutritious and came in handy in times of scarcity.
  5. Yes, a lot of of Asians turn red when drinking alcohol. Again, this is biology and science. Supposedly, somewhere between 50–60% of East Asian populations have a mutation in the gene responsible for aldehyde dehydrogenase production. Aldehyde dehydrogenase is responsible for processing acetaldehyde, the mildly toxic metabolite of ethanol, into acetic acid, which is harmless and water-soluble and can be disposed of by the body. A lack of aldehyde dehydrogenase results in the accumulation of acetaldehyde in the body, which causes allergy-like reactions such as flushing or red rashes on the face, neck, torso, etc.
  6. Yes, almost everything that you use on a daily basis are made in China. No, not everything made in China is bad quality. The nature of business is, you get what you pay for. If you are buying a “made in China” plastic tool for $1 from the dollar store, then yes you can expect shitty quality. If you are buying a “made in China” but “designed by Apple in California” iPhone for $1,200, then yes you can expect excellent quality. As a matter of fact, even most Western luxury brands have major parts of their supply chain in China, processing raw materials or else. Yes, even your top Italian and French luxury ware have a little bit of “made in China” in them. In the future maybe you will see more “made in Vietnam” or “made in Indonesia” as increasing labour costs in China start pricing some products out, but for now, China has all of the manufacturing know-how and infrastructure, and will continue to dominate global manufacturing for the near future.

I’m keeping things simple and PG here so that’s all for now. For dealing with less PG stereotypes you can refer to one of my other posts here. Remember that everything with humans is either nature or nurture, so any “weird” thing you see about a group of people is likely due to evolution or cultural influence. Wouldn’t it be cool though if more people started reading about things and said “Asians have yellow skin because of a layer of subcutaneous fat” rather than “yo why are Asians yellow”? Less dead brain cells for everyone, woohoo!

What other ones should I address? Comment below.

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