Growing up Asian, there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding us. People tend to relate Asia with just a few countries and disregard the rest of them. A lot of people doubt that India is a part of Asia, and this is one thing that really baffles me. There are 48 countries in Asia, and all of us are an equal part of it. Every culture has their own history, mythology and heritage and by disregarding those cultures, people tend to erase the reality.
In India itself, there are more than 500+ dialects and languages spoken. Everyone has their own perspective and beliefs and that makes for such a wonderfully diverse nation. Similarly, there are 47 other countries in Asia and they all have their own history and culture. Now imagine not paying attention to that and thinking that Asia just consists of China and Japan. Imagine thinking that all Asians look alike.
There are stereotypes, such as, all Asians are inherently smart and in the STEM field — which is obviously not true. A lot of Asians are made fun of for their eyes and are called racial slurs. As a more specific example, not all Indians love eating spicy food nor do we travel around on animals and live in palaces. Bollywood is a part of — but not the whole — of Indian cinema, which consists of several thriving regional movie industries.
Moreover, Asians are grossly misrepresented in Western media — donning huge glasses and making them nerds, portraying them as the stupid “foreigner sidekick,” showing Indians as village people or not as educated. These are just a few of the many stereotypes which are projected on Asians.
One of the reasons for these stereotypes is the lack of diversity in mainstream media — which includes books and movies. This lack of diversity is not just in Western countries but within our own countries as well. This, on top of gross misrepresentation in media, subjects us to racism and stereotypes.
Speaking of my country, in India, there exists a lot of colorism and obsession with white skin. Even in our movies, brown skin is shown to depict someone from a lower standing. The obsession with white skin has led to “pretty’ and “beautiful” being associated with Western standards of beauty. The lack of diversity within our own country, mixed with the stereotypes in Western media, makes us unappreciative of our identity and ashamed of our culture and heritage.
Growing up as a teen, when our relatives are telling us to lose weight or apply creams to become fairer so that we can look beautiful, we tend to look for validation. When this validation is not available in mainstream media in the form of books or movies, it can lead to insecurity and deteriorating confidence. This stays with us for a long time and, in fact, shapes us as people.
This mixture of nonexistent diversity and harmful stereotypes can be very isolating. It creates an environment of doubt and shame. It can result in shortcomings, conflicts, and decreasing support within communities. Additionally, we feel underrepresented and have no proper role models to look up to.
I did not know I needed to read more diverse books until I saw a brown girl on the cover — and saw myself in it somewhere — and felt overjoyed. I did not know I needed to read more diverse books until I realized that I can pronounce all the names in the books, they sounded familiar to me, and I did not have to fear pronouncing them incorrectly. This changed my perspective on a lot of things, and I only wished that these books existed when I was an adolescent and teen. When Dimple Met Rishi was that book for me and I fangirled about it to everyone who would hear: “Look, an Indian girl with henna on her hands!!!”
Our cultures, heritages, and identities need to be respected and celebrated like everyone else’s. Diversity is an inherent reality of our lives, and thus, we need it to be accepted, promoted and rightfully represented. Currently, the concept of diversity still isn’t presented in a good way in mainstream media; although it is gaining more attention and more traction, a lot of people merely see it as a trend.
But. Diversity is not a trend; it’s an existing reality — that is finally, albeit slowly, being represented the way it should be. By calling it a “trend,” people are dismissing its importance into a fad, which is insulting, and it’s about time that this notion is dismissed.
What I am glad of is that another generation of people will not have to grow up feeling what we did. By promoting and supporting diverse books and POC authors and #ownvoices, you are helping so many people — children and adults alike — who need to read those books and see themselves and their experiences represented.
Even though there are a lot of books with good representation, we still have a long way to go, especially in terms of publishing houses supporting diverse and POC-authored books and it becoming as normal as publishing a book by a non-POC author. This is something I hope more and more people start realizing and supporting.
Augvocate for the Day
Krisha is an Indian blogger at Bookathon. She is an ardent reader, admirer and supporter of diverse and own voices books and authors.
This guest post is part of a month-long collaborative series called Augvocacy, which is shorthand for August with an advocacy. Essentially, this project aims to bring together like-minded individuals — be it bloggers, authors, or readers — in actively forwarding a particular advocacy. All contributors to this project are referred to as Augvocates — and each Augvocate will share their thoughts on my blog from the 1st day of August until the 28th. Find the rest of the Augvocacy 2019 posts here.
For this year, Augvocacy hopes to discuss and encourage the importance of amplifying Asian voices in books and in media. While this particular call brings attention to the oftentimes-ignored demand for more authentic Asian representation, it also aims to debunk the bigoted view that Asian cultures are a monolith and to shed light on the nuances of struggle, privilege, and identity within and across our own communities. Learn more about Augvocacy 2019 in this post.
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 What are your thoughts on Krisha’s post? Did any of her points resonate with you?
🌻 How have stereotypes and white/cis/abled-dominated media affected your life and how you see yourself?
🌻 When was the first time you saw yourself in books or in media?