History of Asiaphiles

19 Feb

Asiaphiles and Asiophiles are both acceptable spellings for a person who is enamored of Asian Culture based on stereotypes of what it means to be “Asian” rather than actually knowing the culture.

When I was a kid, in my hometown, being Asian was a bad thing. I was teased for being Asian. I had sounds made at me because I was Asian. I was hated for getting good grades in class, etc. No one wanted to know me more than the color of my skin because I was Asian. This has changed in recent years where I’m encountering more Asiophiles that make rude comments to me, whistle at me when they would not do that in past years.

Those racist against Asians and Asiophiles are the same. They are no different. They both base their judgments on stereotypes, know very little about the culture and make quick judgments based on small facts, group Asians together, filter their experience of the other cultures often through their own cultural lens rather than trying to understand it from that culture’s point of view. Both of them also seem to have this idea that while I’m a Korean who has an interest in Cultural Anthropology, and been steeped in Asian cultures for years, that their mere two to three years of knowledge can beat mine, and when it can’t they feel insulted by my insinuation that I might know more than they do (then turn racist…).

I think it’s important to be able to recognize Asiophiles and support the people that say that they met an Asiophile automatically. Stalking exists still and ignoring the fact that a person is being followed because of their race is the same as squashing their feelings and saying its OK for them to be killed.

Where did it come from?
The real wave of Asiophilia I think one can tie greatly to the start of racism against Asians, which really started with the Chinese building the railroad in the mid to late 1800′s and then was recently exacerbated by the anti-Japanese feelings of World War II and then got mixed in with the Korean business model of the 1950′s to 2000.

The stereotypes of Asians being insular comes from the Chinese first, who often did not choose to learn English in the first generation, to the Japanese, who were beat in World War II. Since English is about accommodating and the superiority that was prevalent towards races at the time, quick judgments were made against those groups.

The subservient woman comes from a misunderstanding of the Japanese model and the idea that we, the United States of America, were more advanced than the kimono-wearing Japanese in the 1930-1940′s, which ties back to the Chinese racism (1800′s) because that elitism tied back to Manifest Destiny, and then back even further to the Puritans of the early 1600′s. (All racism is connected.)

The smart Asian man/woman comes from a misunderstanding of the Japanese educational system. (I do say Japanese over Chinese in this case.) And later was served more by ancient tales of Chinese emperors with smart philosophers coming to court. This may also have been fueled by the 1960′s attempt at enlightenment where many Asian artifacts, such as Hinduism, Taoism, etc came to the United States. (Art of War and Karma Sutra being classic examples.)

Lack of Penis size, can’t play sports, etc is probably an equation Americans have that “Short==no sports” which is really a taking of a stereotype of Japanese size, and trying to invert that against a racist African American model.

The “Chink” word. That’s Chinese slur that’s made for all Asians. The “Chee-Chong” that’s Chinese. The “Gook” that’s racist against Koreans. The eye game, racist against Japanese and Chinese, often tried to be applied to other Asian groups.

Now, how do you spot an Asiophile?

1. All countries are like Japan. They expect you to act what they think Japanese is.

Easy indicator: You do Karate because you’re Asian. Karate is Japanese, not Asian. It means empty fist. (Kara is empty. te is hand, or in this case fist). Taekwondo is Korean and Kungfu is Chinese… a person who is an Asiophile usually never sees this difference

You are a submissive woman. This is a taking from Japanese culture where men saw the kimono as a device of submission. Small steps and a Geisha face, put somewhere in an Osen-type setting with a woman greeting you at the door, this is what the men are thinking. It’s not true, but who cares.

2. Now why Japan and not Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, China or another country?
It’s because the most recent war was World War II. While the previous generation of the 1930′s hated Japanese enough to put them in a concentration camp, this resulted in this kind of misunderstanding being passed to the next generation and the generation after that. The stereotypes lived in the media for all that time (and still surface today). By the time the 1960′s came around, and all this information was coming in about Asia and getting sorely mixed up with previous stereotypes. This is when the first Anime boom happened. Astroboy, Kimba, the White Lion, Robotech and other Japanese animation came to the United states. This led to people being enamored of these cartoons which often didn’t show Japan as it was, but as Japanese wanted to idealize it. But since there was no filter for these cultural items, people became enamored of Japan through these animations.

At the same time Japan was gearing up their industries for their first economic boom in the 1980′s. Women’s rights came out during this period in Japan, but the US still thought of Japanese as wearing kimono and being submissive because there was no way to update. This is the time an American went to Japan and helped the Japanese auto industry, which later led two men from a nearby American factory go to a bar, get drunk, and beat a Chinese man to death because they thought he was Japanese.

These ideas persisted and by the 1990′s it was dying down until the next Anime boom which happened with the advent of the Internet. Thus all the previous stereotypes from the 1800′s, the 1930′s, 1960′s and 1980′s got fed into this new wave where people with no training on how to discern culture were being exposed to another culture’s media and equating it with all Asians.

No matter if someone is facing racism or philias against Asians, one has to realize that if you are or are not Japanese, you have to fight these stereotypes, but it’s easier to fight if you understand where they come from.

3. If you talk about basic culture of any Asian country, the person knows nothing about it. They may even pretend to want to know about it, but they are more interested in the stereotyping.

4. If you try to speak an Asian language, they assume it’s Japanese or Chinese. And if they do try to speak, it’s badly pronounced and in the wrong register. (Register is the cultural linguistic term for language everyone understands, but is only used by certain groups or only in a certain situation.)

How to guard against becoming an Asiophile.

1. A culture is made up of humans, just like you are. Not superior or inferior to yourself or others. Just different, not good or bad.
2. Withhold all judgment on culture until you know absolutely everything about that aspect of the culture.
3. Any stereotypes you learned about Asians in school. Ditch them.
4. Educate yourself on the cultures as much as possible. Education defeats racism most of the time. Don’t quit.
5. Always be willing to ask questions and listen (not hear, but listen) to the answer. Digest it and take it in, especially from those who come from that culture or who are highly educated on the subject.

Asiaphiles are hard to deal with. If you meet one, it’s best to try to get away from them if you’re Asian and if you are not Asian, it’s best not to let yourself be around them for long periods of time. Now if they are a family member, well, therapy might help….

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