Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Blindfold should be removed to see real Asia

By Li Yang (China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-19 09:37

Blindfold should be removed to see real Asia

24-karat-gold chocolate Oscars are displayed at the 88th Academy Awards Governors Ball Press Preview in Los Angeles, United States, on Feb. 18, 2016. The 88th Academy Awards ceremony will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 28. [Photo/Xinhua]

At the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb 28, host Chris Rock brought three Asian children dressed as "bankers" from PricewaterhouseCoopers on stage. "They sent us their most dedicated, accurate and hard-working representatives ...," he said. "If anybody's upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids."

The three children might not have expected their first (and possibly last) appearance at the American razzmatazz to be remembered as a joke by the audience, including Academy chief Dawn Hudson.

In her belated apology, only after receiving a joint complaint by 25 Asian American Academy members, Hudson wrote: "It pains us that any aspect of the show was considered offensive, and I apologize for any hurt the skits caused." She also said Oscar telecasts would be more culturally sensitive.

Hudson's conciliatory lines two weeks later show how far the "so white" Oscar is from true diversity that it claims to promote, and how far removed she is from feeling sorry for hurting "sensitive" Asians. Perhaps what pains her is that some people consider some aspects of the Oscar ceremony offensive.

Had not the 25 Asian American Academy members complained about the skit, the Oscar gala would have been another reinforcement of racial stereotype against Asians. The history of unfair treatment of Asians in the US may not be as long as the racist discrimination against blacks, but it is still long. Asian Americans, especially Indians and Chinese, make great efforts to gain higher studies and work hard to improve their lives.

New immigrants strive harder for a better life, and 2014 data show 66 percent of Asian Americans are new immigrants, markedly higher than the 8 percent whites, 8 percent blacks and 37 percent Hispanics. Not surprisingly, the number of Asian immigrants to the US jumped after World War II, a period when the social attitudes of Americans was being shaped.

This trend is expected to continue in the first half of this century, and a Pew Research Center study shows the percentage of Asians in the US' total population will rocket from 6 percent last year to 14 percent by 2065, more than the 13 percent blacks.

In the 1960s, during the peak of the civil rights movement, the whites labeled Asians "model citizens" to portray the US as an inclusive society. US immigration officials clear Asians for citizenship because they consider them hardworking, not because they treat them as equals.

Last month, Chinese American policeman Peter Liang was found guilty on five counts after "accidentally" shooting a black, whereas more than 100 white policemen have been declared innocent in similar cases over the years. The widespread protests by Asians that followed should remind the US government that Asians have become more conscious about their rights and how to protect them in their pursuit of fair treatment.

As for the child labor Chris Rock hinted at, the US media, if not the political and racial prejudice and pride sown in journalists' minds by American exclusivity, should take the main blame as they have been projecting a highly subjective image of Asian countries, especially China.

Ironically, child laborers used to be common in the textile factories and hosieries run by colonial capitalists from the West in the foreign concessions in China's coastal cities from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Today, migrant workers working for US-brand smartphone companies are in their best working age and no different from most young people in the US working to give a better life to their families and to realize their own dreams.

To some extent, Chris Rock, with his tasteless and offensive skits, can be seen as one of the victims of the US media's biased reports about Asian countries. Talking with some US citizens visiting China for the first time, I have realized their knowledge about the world's second-largest economy is trapped in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) period.

It's high time such people gave up their arrogance, removed their blindfold and discovered an open and fast-developing China and the real Asia.

The writer is a senior writer with China Daily.

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