by Carol Li
In his lecture on Thursday, Sept. 24, “Self, Story, and the Rise of Asian America,” Alex Tizon highlighted several ways he was socialized into viewing himself and the Asian-American identity as lesser. Asian-ness is typically thought of as a homogenous group of East Asians (Japanese, Chinese, Koreans), however, this pan-ethnic identity of Asian American counters this notion by highlighting a rather diverse group of people under this identity. Tizon also provided one window into the exploration of one’s racial identity and how this is crafted to become a factor of societal and self-perception.
The combination of the absence of Asian and Asian-American leads in the mass media with the presence of frequently defeated and subordinate Asians in the mass media led Tizon to carry feelings of inferiority. He described travelling to the Philippines just to stand upon the very grounds where native chief Lapu-Lapu of the Philippines prevailed over Ferdinand Magellan in battle. Tizon stated that this was one of the few places where “a person who looked like me prevailed over a person who looked like him.” Where there is currently a lack, accurate representation in the media would mitigate the assumption that Asian-Americans are all the same and have the same stories and experiences.
Tizon currently teaches journalism at the University of Oregon after 23 years in the field. He has reported on a great number of people and news events. His memoir “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self” has various awards and highlights a story about “race, ‘outsiderdom’, and rising out of the hole of ‘being lesser.’” Through his passion for journalism, Tizon was able to gain a perspective that equips him with the ability to see beyond himself as an individual and strive to serve others. With his closing remarks, Tizon encouraged his audience to look beyond the singular, dominant narratives that are imposed upon us while finding a sense of self-fulfillment in the act of serving others and being proud of who we are.
The stories of Asian-Americans and various Asian groups can shape similar experiences, such as orientalism, but they also face different challenges from one another and it is important to become aware of prevalent issues that Asian-Americans and the various groups within the community, face. While the population of Asian-Americans is around 18 million and growing, Asian-Americans still face great challenges that will not be solved by completely forgetting the existence of racial identities. I agree with Tizon that we should be allowed to break free from the confines of our imposed racialized boxes, however, I feel we must acknowledge and appreciate the resilience and perspectives of Asians/Asian-Americans as people of color in this country.