Grand Lodge, the national organization of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, held the 2002 annual National Essay Contest on Saturday, March 2, 2002
Senior high school students of Chinese descent were invited to participate in this contest.
The National Essay Contest is one of the important programs of the Grand Lodge encouraging and developing our Chinese and Chinese American youth. The goal is to build leadership skills for these young community leaders of tomorrow by refining good English writing skills while demonstrating the ability to present clear, logical thinking on an issue of current national relevance. Applicants are expected to prepare and write a 500 word English theme within two hours on a topic given at the beginning of the contest. Judging is conducted by a national board of Judges organized by Grand Lodge. Top essays are evaluated for originality, clarity of thought and expression, and correctness of grammar and spelling.
ESSAY TOPIC: "One of the most powerful forces in American society today is the mass media, which include newspapers, popular music, movies, and television. Do you believe Asian Americans are depicted fairly in these mainstream media? Provide specific example to support your views."
National awards include
Locally, the Salinas Lodge is pleased to announce that Moniqe Jeong & Lucy Toan have been awarded National Certificate of Merit for their essay entries. They also received $100 awards. Below are their winning entry. along with Andrew Shing who came in third place locally.
9th place Nationally 1st place Locally
America is experiencing an "Asian Explosion." Asians and Non-Asians across the nation watch tv and listen to music that feature or mention Asian Americans. With all these Asians in the spotlight, one must stop and think: "Are these depictions of Asian Americans accurate?"
Korean comedienne Margaret Cho had a semi-autobiographical sitcom in the late 90's called "All American Girl." It was one of the first few shows with a predominantly Asian cast. Despite the fact it was short-lived, it revealed a pretty accurate account of the lives of many Asian Americans, and how they try to balance the traditions of their homeland and America and cope with the stereotypes of being Asian.
A more recent comedy is "Ally McBeal," which has a character known as the "Dragon Lady," Ling Woo. This character is the quintessential femme fatale, an independent woman who knows exactly what she wants, and is not afraid to take it. A more realistic tv personality is Lisa Ling, one of the hosts of "The View." She is a marvelous example of a strong Asian American woman; intelligent, assertive, and open-minded. Ling is a far cry from the stereotypical quiet and submissive Asian Woman, who balances her American attitude with Asian honor and filial piety.
Still, the Asian allure has a dark side. In one of his songs, P. Diddy, a popular Rapper, sings, "I have Asian women, who change my linen, but first I gotta hit 'em." This Rapper is boasting about sleeping with his Asian servants, which could send the message to rap fans Asian women are only capable of catering and submitting to others.
Another poor depiction of Asians comes from FOX's comedy sketch show, "Mad TV." In a fashion akin to a caucasian actor using "black face" an actress plays Ms. Swan, a Korean American hairdresser. This character, who barely opens her eyes and speaks in a manner which can hardly be interpreted as English, casts a dark image of how Asian Americans act. The popularity of Asian Americans in mass media is obvious and, for the most part, fair. However, the only time Asian Americans will truly achieve fair depictions ourselves is when we are not viewed as Asians, but as Americans.
12th place Nationally 2nd place Locally
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I have a dream..." These four words have embedded themselves into the history of our nation. Luther had the vision of equality for not only African Americans, but for the whole nation. In Luther's world, Whites, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos, etc. would all be treated equally. However, the dream of an equal world may seem like a Utopia to some rather than a vision of our society today. American mass media has captured the attention of Americans and often times Asian Americans are unfairly depicted. As a result, this misunderstood culture is portrayed as odd and often inferior. By continuing this unfair treatment, Asian Americans across the nation will continue to be seen as inferior beings.
Society today has attatched itself to the popular forms of mass media, such as newspapers, popular music, movies, and television. However our beloved media may be harming us rather than helping us. Television shows and movies often describe Asian Americans as know-nothing people who never speak or understand English. The stars of these shows are never Asian Americans. Instead, you find Asian Americans at the bottom of the social ladder. By creating a designated social class for Asian Americans in shows, society is creaing a tainted view of them for Americans. "Asian Americans are like this in movies so they must be like this in real life," is the false belief held by many Americans. The Asian Americans are inferior mentality is instilled into the people without them even knowing it.
Newspapers and news reports often add to the unfair treatment of Asian Americans as well. Movies and TV shows have already created a base for the unfair depiction of this race and when a newspaper comes out with a story of a negative act comitted by an Asian American, people everywhere automatically assume that this is an indication that all Asian Americans are similar and cannot be trusted. This false belief slowly incorporates itself into the actions of Americans causing them to not only think of Asian Americans as inferior beings but to treat them as inferiors as well.
Popular music may not appear as if it could cause damage to Asian Americans, but it is more powerful than people think. People oftentimes listen to songs that contain certain vulgar language but still like it because it has a nice tune. People may be singing songs that degrade Asian Americans but think nothing of it because it is "just a song". Brushing the danger of it aside as if it were nothing does not solve the situation.
Predjudice and unequality are often caused by lack of knowledge. Asian Americans are unfairly depicted because they are misunderstood. As a result society portrays them as inferiors. "They are different so we will treat them however we want." The language and culture is different from that of society's so they are automatically rejected. America is a melting pot of many cultures, and society should not be based on just one.
3rd place Locally
In today's society the media has a big influence on the way people think and feel. Because it is so influential it is important that we as Asian Americans are properly represented. Yet, apart from movies, I believe that the Asian culture has actually been forgotten by the media. Not many Asians have found money in the American music industry. The most coverage we get in the news is during the Lunar New Year. Asians mainly play minor roles in television series, but these roles are usually of Americanizes Asians and culture is not reflected at all. The Asians in movies are usually henchmen who know martial arts. But, overall I believe that what little exposure we do have, most of it is fine.
I believe that the reason why Asians aren't in the news as much is because nothing stands out. The Asian youth wants to assimilate so that they can be accepted, but in doing so they begin to lose their culture and some begin to lose pride in their heritage. If one looks at American History one can see that the Chinese are only remembered for their addition to the California culture and their part in the Transcontinental Railroad. Occasionally, the newspapers report cultural revivals by Asian communities like Chinese Schools run by volunteer parents to educate their children about their past. Asians need to be more involved in the overall communities instead of remaining within their own.
In movies, Asians play the antagonist most of the time. Of course, there are exceptions like "Rush Hour II" starring Jackie Chan. But even in this movie, the Chinese are mocked for their accents and for doing business in open air markets. I suppose that the reason for this antagonist view is that the hero in movies is usually caucasion. America is a country in which white people are the majority and it interests more people to see Rambo save the world rather than some Asian person. Yet, to be fair, in many Chinese movies the heroes are Chinese and the antagonist is foreign. So I believe race (not racism) is the reason behind the Asian Antagonist in movies.
The reason why Asians are depicted the way we are is due to the country we live in. Our lack of coverage in the news is due to our lack of involvement in the general communities. Most articles in the newspapers are about organizations that are fighting for certain rights or trying to help the environment. The cultural schools may be able to teach about the past, but they may not teach about how to incorporate their culture with the future. I believe that a few times we are depicted unfairly in movies, but I'm willing to overlook them because Išve accepted that this is how American movies are. So for me, it's not really a question of "how are Asians represented?", but of "how Much?" .