Sunday, May 07, 2006


Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

I'm posting this rare in-between-weeks post because I need your help.

In honor of this month's federally allotted slot for celebration of our community's vast and varied heritage of history, culture and tradition, I'm writing a column examining the meaning of the term "Asian."

As recently as 40 years ago, it was an almost nonsensical word--at least when applied to identity rather than geography. After all, people in the continent of Asia didn't consider themselves "Asian"--they were Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai and so forth. And people of Asian ethnic heritage in the U.S. didn't consider themselves "Asian" either; when considered as a group at all, they were referred to collectively as "Oriental," with all the baggage that that term implies.

Over time, however, the term Asian has acquired meaning. Asian Americans have given it political, civic, and social meaning. The currents of pop culture, as they've sloshed across national and ethnic boundaries in Asia, have given it meaning--you can start to see traces of a hybrid sensibility, a common tribal identity, emerging among Asia's next generation.

So what I want to know is: What does Asian mean to *you*?

I'll incorporate some of the most interesting, most insightful, funniest, or most unique responses in the column--fully cited, of course (so please include your name and physical location, and a brief description of yourself--ethnicity, profession, and relevant interests would help).

I'm including some questions below, but think of them as guidelines--feel free to be freeform. (I may also follow up with emailed questions if you say something interesting and I want more detail or explanation from you.)

You can also point me to posts you write on your own blogs or sites, if you want to answer that way--I'll quote from and link to you. (Traffic good!) And please do feel free to forward and repost this wherever you like...just direct people to respond to no later than Tuesday, May 9, or to post comments here as a reply to this post.

Thanks so much in advance...I look forward to reading your replies!




Some questions--please answer as many or as few as you like, but answer as fully and as personally as you can!
  1. Do you think of yourself as Asian? Why or why not? Do your parents? When was the first time you referred to yourself as "Asian"?
  2. Stream of consciousness: What ideas immediately come to mind when you think of the word Asian?
  3. What does Asian taste like?
  4. What does Asian look like?
  5. What is Asian good at and bad at?
  6. What's the most Asian thing you've ever done? Who's the most Asian person you know? Why?
  7. Do you think you need to be born Asian to be Asian? If you're Asian, how do you feel when you see someone who's not Asian aspiring to be Asian--flattered, or embarrassed, both, or neither? If you're not Asian, are there times when you wish you were? Why?
  8. Forty years from now, do you think people will be using the term Asian? Why or why not?

Please email your thoughts to by no later than Tuesday, May 9 or post them in comments here...column will be published Thursday, May 11!


Blogger Jenn said...

Hey Instant Yang,

I blogged on this topic a little while ago:

Who I Am and Who We Be

Also, I wonder if you might be interested in participating in Blog for Asian American Heritage Month Day (May 31)

12:33 PM  

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