During quarantine, my family and I began watching Kim’s Convenience, a satire that focuses on a family of Korean immigrants who own a convenience store in Canada. The show documents the struggles of first-generation children living between two standards, while also showing the adversities of immigrant parents navigating through a new culture.
In one of the episodes, the Kims’ children, Jung and Janet, receive a visit from their cousin. Arriving with a big bow headband and a high pitched voice, their cousin appears to be a conglomerate of not just Korean, but multiple broadly Asian stereotypes.
At first, we found this episode quite amusing, laughing at the depiction of the mainstream Korean cousin and the exaggerated stereotypes she represented. But as I watched this episode, I began to question, why was I laughing? Was it because my friends who identify as Korean taught me about these stereotypical depictions, or was I engaging with the ignorant representation of Asian people in the media?
As a white male, it is important that I respect and continue to recognize the limitations of laughing at a show like Kim’s Convenience. After this moment, I began to establish my own “line,” the barrier that constitutes my limitations of perspective. This self-reflection narrowed me down to one question: what level of cultural familiarity do I need to recognize certain aspects of Asian culture?
With the global spread of COVID-19, my family and I have been watching news reports to educate ourselves about the current global community. During these reports, I have seen consistent moments where newscasters and reporters have found themselves out of bounds.
As COVID-19 has spread across the nation, racist sentiments towards Asian peoples have grown increasingly hostile. One of the targets for these racist comments has been the wet markets across Asia. Newscasters engaged in many on-air debates about their necessity, and how their worker’s lack of attention towards hygiene is a crucial reason as to why they should be shut down; but these markets offer an important role in local areas by offering fresh produce, helping to solve urban food insecurity, and providing a place for many social interactions.
The misleading knowledge from these newscasters has fueled inaccurate conversations about wet markets in Asia. But while we must discern prejudice and stereotypes from this discussion, we should also acknowledge how a basic understanding of one’s subject can change matters.
Rather than surfacing videos that were created three years ago, newscasters should focus on providing unbiased and verified statistics before they comment on some truths about wet markets. If newscasters had based their evidence in statistics, these conversations would foster an intellectual understanding of these issues.
When arguments stray away from their factual backgrounds, they fall into the traps of stereotypes and narrow-sighted ignorance. It is important to recognize when comments cross the line.
Have those difficult and awkward conversations. If we wish to see change in Deerfield, we must step out of our comfort zone. As teenagers, we are all determining the way that we move in the world and the impacts we hope to have. By writing this article, I hope to develop a greater understanding of how I see the world and the stereotypes within it.