The various stereotypes about Asians are threating their ability to communicate with people properly because of prejudice. Furthermore, it may cause emotional trials and racial conflicts in academic life. What important more is that this kind of negative stereotypes limit students’ opportunities to express themselves in different spheres connected with academic purposes. Frequently this fact is not taken seriously by others and may be overlooked, but it still continues to be one of the biggest concerns of students who are representatives of Asian race.
Numerous articles have been written about many sides of stereotypes, their influence on different aspects of daily life such as academic life, employment, relationships in all its definitions: family, colleagues, classmates, friends, and etc. Conducted articles were written by different authors: authors from Far East, USA, even Europe, by those who used to study with Asians or by those who are Asians and used to study in another country with another dominating race. To analyze and approach the topic from all possible and objective perspectives, the literature review based on different recourses was done. Nazyrova, Sabirova (2001) dissertation suggest:
National (or ethnic) stereotypes are generalized, stable, emotionally-saturated images of ethnic groups and their specific characteristics that are formed in the historical practice of interethnic relations and regulate the perception and behaviour of people of different nationalities, also can be contradicted by direct contact with the member of the nationality.
In general, stereotypes, bias and prejudice may threat the life, how it is said in Steele & Aronson’s study (1995): “stereotype threat refers to being at risk of confirming, as a self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's social group. It is a psychological phenomenon that has negatively impact the performance of variety of groups “ . According to this the representative of the group who is under the pressure of stereotype is suffering a fear of confirming the stereotype, which can make the academic life even harder and can affect the performance in a bad way. In exactly my topic the academic performance is discussed, so other resources were used to define which of and how these stereotypes affect the academic life.
According to interview provided in Trytten D. research (2012), Asian students accept stereotypes about themselves from the very childhood and sometimes learn them from their parents. This implies that stereotypes about themselves are laid in their heads from the very beginning of their academic life.
“I: Are you always a good student? Are you always self-motivated?
P: Yeah, I try.
I: Where do you think you get that from?
P: I'm not sure. I think I just want to be a hard worker. Maybe it's because it's from my culture to work hard.... When I was studying in elementary school, I once came home with not a really good grade, not a super good grade... You know like Asian parents sometimes say, «Why don't you get a 100?", so I feel like I need to get a 100. Vietnamese, 2nd generation” .
This interview demonstrates that stereotypes about Asians are taking place not only in young generation, but also in elder generations, which leads to idea that these stereotypes have roots deep back in history. What I think myself is that probably the older generation only get to know about these stereotypes when they talk to representatives of other races. For example, when they study abroad or work for someone who is a representative of another race. To explain this phenomenon from a wider view, some other works were used.
According to The Communication Review (2015) in the US the political instruments and social life driving forces are media, who are cultural teachers to educate individuals how to survive and succeed in a dominant culture. By this author introduces his main statement that media is the biggest factor of influence and most of stereotypes are created through and using the media. According to the same author, in the 1970s when Bruce Lee was very popular showing his powerful stage performance as a muscular, strong, proud Chinese American man, was revolutionary, but he also caused another stereotypes about his race: The Kung Fu master. Unlike Lee, there are other Asian actors succeeded in performing as strong and powerful fighters, such as Jackie Chan or Jet Li, but they were mostly portrayed as having appeal or romantic. This gives roots for a stereotype about Asian male students being either non-attractive because of the ironical strength and power or a truly powerful and sexually attractive, without any in-between. Although physically powerful, so called Kung Fu masters paradoxically undermine Asian males’ attractiveness. The same happened to my friend from Japan who was doing his IB programme in an unpopular international school in Canada, where everyone thought it is necessary to mention his relation to Jackie Chan, and when he took basketball for his PE class, classmates were reminding him he better take taekwondo, which in my own opinion is his own business. Some of them were actually joking and making fun of it, but some of them were literally not aware that taekwondo is not something Asian children are taught from the day they learn how to walk. That can dramatically affect the academic life both in school and university, because such comments are considered to be a bullying, even though it is not that offensive how is it appear to be at first, it can touch male’s self-esteem related to his body structure. Especially if such things happen during the school life when the mental health of a person is easy to be affected, it may cause serious damage to the psychological self-acceptance and self-dissatisfaction.
What stereotypes consist of for the same topic of appearance for Asian females is that there are two types of Asian women in the media that stays for the same hypersexualization phenomena: The Lotus Blossom and the Dragon Lady, who often appear as characters in different video games. Both of them are charming, one of them is being seductive and manipulative, the other one is delicate and careful, which can fulfill the fantasy of an average European male. Again, no any in-between which can be assigned to any average Asian girl, so people actually expect Asian girls to be either manipulative and fearsome or shy and cute, but sexually attractive in both ways. This actually once happened to my close friend who is now doing her studies in Netherland. She started dating a boy who is European, and when his friends saw his girlfriend for the first time, they actually asked him if he is dating her just because she looks ‘cute in an Asian way’, which is a biased opinion about Asian girls. There was also guy who asked her personally if she trying to copy one of those Asian characters from popular MMORPG games. Nevertheless, according to stereotypes, Asian girls are much more popular than Asian males.
Another well-known stereotype is that Asians are good in studying. There is a fun joke came to my mind: “first days in Prague everyone thought I am going to do well in studies since I am Asian. That is how they met Kazakh for the first time” (means that he did not actually succeed in studying). Even though I am representative of Asian race myself, I have heard advices from my relatives (representatives of older generation who were brought up by a Soviet Union) that I better sit with Asians in the same group for group projects, so they would do the whole work instead of me. This stereotype takes root even more far than the stereotypes mentioned before. I think it is connected to the events of the past years, when China (as the biggest Asian country) witnessed a demographic boom, it was hard to find a job and you had to be very outstanding to get an offer, that is why a typical Chinese Asian had to show outstanding academic records. That made getting good grades and studying well a part of mentality, as well as hard work and giving more preference to it than to wasting the time. Some say other events from the past take place here, such as a rapid development of China (again, as the largest by population Asian country) due to the closed policy they had before. They basically were lagged behind the world and had to catch up with it, but the development went way too fast due to large number of factors. That is what made Asians look very smart in eyes of the rest of the world. A lot of my Asian friends who went to do their studies abroad (both full-time and exchange) face that kind of stereotype, when people try to go into the same group as them just because they actually believe having an Asian in your group would boost your GPA and help to improve the project without taking part in it. At this point, as it was in paragraph 4, they are also having a fear of not confirming the stereotype or otherwise confirming it, so people will continue to believe it and treat Asian biased with a prejudice.
Also, this is not really a stereotype, but for those are Europeans it is hard to recognize Asians’ nationality. Most of Europeans only think Asians exist in Japan, Korea and China. This may sound as nothing at the first glance, but as the time passes and the Asian student (who is not from these three listed countries) gets tired of explaining from where he is coming from and just agrees he is either Japanese, Korean or Chinese, it destroys the national identity. The cultural enhancement the student wanted to bring and to share with a passion in the beginning, vanishes with the amount of questions increasing.
It is fair to conclude all that was mention above can seriously affect and even damage an academic life of representatives of Asian race in all spheres: academic performance, communication, university life and etc. Stereotypes are related to different aspects such as appearance, academic records. Mostly, stereotypes are found to have a negative effect on life of those are affected in general, and the same can be said about stereotypes affecting the university life. A lot of students abroad who are not representatives of an Asian race are not aware that some of these stereotypes can actually turn out not to be true, which shows the tolerance and erudition level at some point, since such factors always depend on certain reasons, that were also mentioned and described briefly in the paragraphs above. To be honest, in high school I always dreamed of making a research paper based on this topic since I have heard a lot of stories of Asian students going through a lot just because of their racial indicator. Some of them find it really uncomfortable and even stressing being under a constant pressure of stereotypes and bias, but as some say ‘it is life and you should get used to the fact that nothing is going to be always perfect’. I also planned to get my degree in Italy before, so it was one of the biggest concerns when I was looking for a university in Europe. I suggest that majority of Asian students face the same problem as I did when applying for studies somewhere in Europe or America. In my honest opinion, stereotypes mostly make the life harder than easy, and they are coming from a really ancient time, thus in order to unroot them, everyone should first start from themselves and think about how they are biased about any certain social community/group. All the stereotypes basically come from lack of knowledge and of tolerance, which are one of the most dangerous weapons nowadays.
- Nazyrova L. S. (2001) “Особенности национальных стереотипов русских и казахов” (Features of Stereotypes for Kazakhs and Russians)
- Steele, C. M., & Aronson, J. (1995). Stereotype threat and the intellectual test performance of African Americans. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(5), 797–811.
- Trytten D. (2012) «Asians are Good at Math. What an Awful Stereotype»: The Model Minority Stereotype's Impact on Asian American Engineering Students
- Taylor & Francis Group, The Communication Review, 2015