By James Nguyen
It has been acknowledged that “whitewashing” films by Hollywood executives, perpetuates the long history of misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Asian Americans. Major newspaper coverage and magazine articles are other mediums that hinder the expression of true Asian American identities in America. In a study by David Oh and Madeleine Katz, they reveal that major newspaper coverage in America, continue to exacerbate negative stereotypes about Asian Americans and the perception that others believe to be fact. Oh and Katz wanted to study whether the size of Asian American population covered by newspaper influences the coverage of Asian Americans in newspaper articles. The study found that, although cities had a larger number of Asian American populations, newspapers have responded with increased stories and length, but not with increased quality of coverage. This unfair quality of representation of Asian Americans in newspaper is believed to be attributed to the newspaper fears of “Alienating European American readers”, which in turn distorts the genuine reporting and under representation of the Asian American community. The fact is that most journalists are disproportionately White Americans, and that journalists reproduce dominant cultural stereotypes in their stories, because their lack of personal experiences that call them to question existing dominant ideologies (Oh). Oh and Katz also explain that there is no statistic to back up the findings of the study, but they believe the increased stereotyping results from ignorance of racism and economic grounds.
Again, these are the same underlying reasoning for the underrepresentation of Asian Americans in all media outlets from film cinema to news coverage. In general, there are two types of cognitive biases that psychologists tend to refer to, one being “implicit attitude” and the other “implicit stereotyping”. An implicit attitude is a positive or negative association between a given object and a given evaluation category, an example would be, “I hate Asians for taking our jobs” or society likes White actors more than Asians” (Chong). Implicit stereotyping is associating a specific attribute to a group and is neither positive or negative in its evaluation. An example would be, “Asians use chopsticks” or Asians know kung fu” (Chong). Both cognitive biases are a way for people to perceive, process, and retain information about others that unconsciously influence their behaviors (Chong). The attitudes and stereotyping of Asian Americans portrayed in mainstream media from the past and present has a long-lasting effect on an audience, because the implicit bias is “often concealed and can conflict with a person’s conscious attitudes and intentional behavior without the person’s awareness (Chong). Negative biases continue to be a problem that plague Asian Americans, because often it is an underlying factor at how others perceive them. It is how others present and represent them in the news, television, and movies.
These stereotypes and attitudes towards Asian Americans will continue, unless there is proper representation for the minority group. It is an uphill battle with the lack of Asian American representation in high-level positions. Like the “glass ceiling” for women in America, the existence of a “bamboo ceiling” is true for Asian Americans where there looks are the disadvantages in the workplace environment. Unless there are significant changes in the perception of high level decision makers from newspaper and Hollywood executives, the ideologies of what the Asian American is, will continue to change at a deathly slow rate.
Chong, Christina Shu Jien. (2016) Where Are the Asians in Hollywood? Can §1981, TITLE VII, Colorblind Pitches, and Understanding Biases Break the Bamboo Ceiling? Asian Pacific American Law Journal, Vol. 21 Issue 1, 29-79.
Oh, David C. & Katz, Madeleine. (2009) Covering Asian America: A Content Analysis Examining Asian American Community Size and Its Relationship to Major Newspapers’ Coverage. Howard Journal of Communications, 222-241.