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"Do You Know Kung-Fu?" Some Misconceptions About Asians

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Dohn121 is a freelance writer who currently resides at the foothills of the Shawangunk Mountains of New York's famed Hudson Valley.


All throughout my life I’ve been stereotyped, albeit, in a positive manner, but stereotyped nonetheless for being Asian. Much of it has to do with giving a backhanded compliment, which is a form of subtle racism if you ask me. Heck, in some instances, I was stereotyped by other Asians!

One example of this is when meeting some folks for the first time (usually Caucasian Americans) who’ll say something to the effect of, “Oh! Your English is perfect!” In my mind, I’m thinking, "It better be. My parents’ taxes paid my teachers’ salaries to make damn sure I spoke proper English…Unlike my parents’ English." For the record, English is my second language. I came to America at a very young age. Another question I’ll get is, “Do you know Kung-Fu?” or “Do you know Karate?” My answer used to be, “No,” which was the truth, but nowadays and after hearing the same question so many times, my answer now is, “Do you want to find out?” At this point, I’d give the inquirer the squinty-eyed look (not difficult to do) and tighten my jaw muscles. It works every time.

Enough With the Stereotypes

So back to the reason why I wrote this article: I think that every race could do without being stereotyped, including the Asiatic race. We’re tired of the Bruce Lee and Mister Miyagi impressions, of “Wax on, wax off.” I mean, the shit is getting old! We’re tired of people asking us if we know Shaolin Kung Fu or Karate. I mean, I don’t go around asking white people if they play hockey!

So c’mon, people, let’s quell this thing once and for all! Let’s get rid of the Asian stereotyping. And how is it that we eradicate a stereotype? The answer is through education, my friend, and that’s exactly what I’ve set out to do by sharing this article with you, mainly based on my own personal experiences. With that said, I’d like to end this introduction with a retro Asian infomercial I remember: “No money down!!! You call now to order!!! Welcome to my seminar! Ahhhhh!!!” (Gong). So grab your chopsticks and enjoy!

If you don't know who this guy is, then there is something inherently wrong with you!

If you don't know who this guy is, then there is something inherently wrong with you!

Asians Know Martial Arts

I did take up Kung Fu with my brother once when we were kids, but after about two weeks he and I were tired of dancing around like a couple of butterflies with our teacher. It was during the time of “drive-in theater,” and at the height of Kung-Fu awareness and (what used to be) the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-1980s.

My brother walked up to our teacher and said, “Teacher? When can me and my little brother start beating the crap out of each other?” Our teacher laughed. “No. You must first learn form (a.k.a. dancing like a butterfly) and then I will teach you how to harness your Chi.” Well, after that, my brother and I decided to call it quits and so decided instead to take up Judo after school—the two of us were just too impatient to learn Kung-Fu. Judo was a lot of fun, as we got to beat each other up as many times as possible, without kicking or punching mind you. It's not like we're automatically black belts as soon as we hatch.

A Toyota AE86.  Drifting is an art form that was invented in Japan

A Toyota AE86. Drifting is an art form that was invented in Japan

Asians Suck at Driving

Speaking of my dad, he drives insanely faster than me and he’s now in his early seventies. I picked up a lot just from watching my dad over the years, including how to maneuver around traffic, but more importantly, how to drive defensively. And what my dad didn’t teach me, my eldest brother taught me the rest (I have two older brothers and sisters by the way and I haven't had an accident since I was 16). Speeding is a vice of mine that I’m still trying to rid myself of, but it’s not easy. However, a couple of speeding tickets should cure this particular problem. Keep in mind that if you think Asians are bad drivers, it was the Japanese that invented drifting, which is arguably the most difficult thing to do whilst inside of a car!

Abacus: The Asian Way to Calculate

Abacus: The Asian Way to Calculate

Asians Are Good at Math

I remember a time at work where a statistical analysis had to be performed for the previous quarter of the perennial year. The stuff was pretty intense. Three of the white shirt and tie lackeys were mulling over a similar report and couldn’t make out what the heck they were looking at as the supervisor was out for the day. All six eyes turned to me while I was minding my own business, as if to say: “Hey! You’re Asian…Figure this thing out!” I gave them once over and shook my head. “Forget it!” I said. “I barely passed my math requirements to graduate from college!”

For this reason, I’m a poor representation of a stereotypical Asian. I'm just glad that I enjoyed English and Politics while at school. So, if the math curve at your school or college was a bit screwed or skewed, don’t look at me. I was right there with you sweating bullets at crunch time! My dad stinks at math as well (unlike my mom), so thanks dad for the genes and for saving me from becoming a stereotype.

Asians All Own Certain Types of Businesses

Let's take a look at some businesses some stereotypical Asians are likely to own.

Asians Are Rich

Again, in accordance with my own experiences during my college years when I was practically kidnapped and brought to a strip joint (a.k.a a skin store) by my suite mates on my birthday, the "representatives" there flocked over to me more frequently than usual and inquired if I wanted a lap dance or not. One of my suite mates then asked me, "Why the hell do all of these girls make a beeline to you?" I smiled.

"I don't know...Maybe because I'm cute?" Laughter was heard.

"Bullshit," another one of my suitemates said. "It's because you're Asian. They think you're loaded."

Mind you, I was in upstate New York, in Plattsburgh and near the Canadian border and most of the clients at said strip joint were college students with disposable incomes. Okay, so maybe my cohorts had a point, but I went there with no money, yet got service with a smile. This misconception can be traced to the fact that, in general, Asians are very careful with their money as for the most part Asian immigrants, like most immigrants, come to America after having been raised impoverished. And if you think I'm rich, you must be hitting the sake pretty hard. I make about 14 cents an hour through Google Adsense while writing online content (I figured this out using the abacus you saw above).

Asians Are Really Smart

Okay, so if you've read my other writing, you know for a fact that this isn't true! If I was so damn smart, I'd be making a heck of a lot more money than I am (see my 14 cent per hour wage per Google). A few people over the years have asked me if this was indeed factual and I only responded with the fact that like in many cases, it's due to the upbringing of any family that will help or hinder the academic successes of each individual, not just Asian individuals.

Typically, Asians are brought up to believe that honor must be bestowed upon the family and that family is king. Each given family has a reputation to protect and excelling in business and academics is crucial to each. The expectations are just that much higher, so with that said, many Asians are "expected" to become successful and so, in essence, must try harder to overcome any and all obstacles.

Mah-Jong anyone?

Mah-Jong anyone?

Asians Love to Gamble

There might be some truth to this (and sadly, with all stereotypes) but don't make a generalization about it. While driving to and from home, I'll occasionally see the Chinese-owned coach buses that make daily round trips from Chinatown in New York City and Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun Casino. Gee, I wonder why? The truth is that gambling is indeed a part of many Asians cultures and was and is a part of their upbringing, but a vice no less. And there is a reason why every casino has a separate section for Asian-inspired gaming. The smartest Asians know not to gamble, just like with most people, as the house consequently always wins.


All Asians Are Buddhists

Although I wish this were the case, this stereotype on Asians just isn't true. There are many Asians out there in the world as China and India make up two-thirds of the world's population. There may be many Asians in the world and many Buddhists in the world, but consequently, there really isn't that many Asian Buddhists. Christianity and Islam are actually the world's largest religions so, in other words, the majority of the world's population is monotheistic.

In addition to this, Asians are not all pacifists either. Indians are thought to be a peaceful race, yet have nuclear capabilities in defense of their nation. The Bhagavad Gita is also a pro-war Hindu scripture and is by far one of the most popular writings in all the world. By the way, just about every country east of the Mediterranean is, in fact, Asian, despite what many may think!

Asian/Pacific Islander? Check!

More often than not, many people will ask me where Laos is after I tell them that I'm from Laos. My response? "It's between Vietnam and Thailand." And if they then go further to ask me where those countries are, I throw up my hands and walk away (which has only happened once). When I saw the episode of King of the Hill where the Hills' next door neighbors move in for the first time, I was absolutely floored. Please watch the clip as it's really funny.

So, in reference to the long-running series, I'll sometimes say the following:

"Do you know that show, King of the Hill?"

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Their neighbors...I'm from the same country."

Yes, We Do Like Rice, Captain Obvious...

Yes, We Do Like Rice, Captain Obvious...

Thanks For Reading...

Well, I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's my wish that you leave here with a better understanding of the Asian culture and that I dispelled some of the myths and misconceptions behind it. As with all myths and stereotypes, I think that yes, there is some truth that lies within each, but I don't believe that any of us should make any broad generalizations about any and all of them. To do so would be irresponsible on our part.

No, not all of us cook with woks.  It's only used in Chinese cuisine for the most part and no, I don't own one!

No, not all of us cook with woks. It's only used in Chinese cuisine for the most part and no, I don't own one!

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.