BY JAZLYN GRACE ONG
CANDLE PEN, OFFICIAL STUDENT PUBLICATION MAKATI HOPE CHRISTIAN SCHOOL ACADEMIC YEAR 2020-2021
(With minor editing, in accordance with The Manila Times style, the winning piece in the Best Column High School Level of the 2020 Campus Press Awards is reprinted here in its entirety, with permission from the author and the school. It was erroneously attributed to a different author from a different school in the Feb. 25, 2021 issue of The Manila Times, thus we are republishing the article with deepest apologies.)
DR. Anthony Youn, a world-renowned surgeon, wrote an article about his encounter with a Korean teenager who wanted to get double eyelids and a sharper nose. He also talked about how the majority of cosmetic procedures done on Asians is about making them look as Caucasian as possible. I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t have a moment in my life where I prayed to God about getting a sharper nose. But it’s disturbing that looking Caucasian is the definition of beauty. All of these stem from normalized racism against Asians and the lack of Asian representation in Western media.
There’s no denying that discrimination against Asians has always existed, people pulling back their eyes to mock our Oriental features or saying ching-chong, but the current pandemic has fueled it even more. According to a study, Asian Americans are more likely than any other group to be called slurs since the coronavirus pandemic.
Racism against Asians did not increase; it just got louder as the virus made it more “excusable.” But the reason why racism against Asians is more tolerated than any other group is that Asians don’t generally speak out about it, they just let it slide. Regardless, it still can be damaging to their self-esteem, especially that Asians are mocked for their unique facial features and are being called “chinky eyes.”
People of color (POC) in general don’t get representation in Western media. They usually do the bare minimum and cast mixed POC. Not to mention, they always portray Asians as the nerd, maid or other stereotypes. Asians rarely become the “school crush” or that “hot chick” or even the main character unless the entire cast is Asian or it’s culturally relevant. Considering the influence Western pop culture has on society, this can have drastic effects on Asians and other people off-color; we see that today when minority groups dream of having a “mixed baby.”
On the contrary, Asian representation is improving as films like “To All The Boys I Loved Before” casts Asians (and minorities) as the main characters, but what changed the game was when K-pop came to rise. K-pop finally gave the spotlight to Asians and is one of the biggest sources of Asian representation. Still, we have a long way to go.
It’s a big slap in the face that people find Asian features undesirable, but it’s even worse when you realize that the fox eye trend exists. It’s where non-Asian people would use make-up or even pull back their eyes to make their eyes to resemble the stereotypical Asian eyes. The worst part is that this trend was popularized by Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, two non-Asian models, and not because they “appreciate Asian eyes.”
But at least we all know Asian eyes are beautiful enough to be replicated. So, just remember that your Asian features are unique and beautiful. Looking Asian doesn’t make you any less beautiful. It took me a long time to come to terms with myself about it, but I eventually did. What can help is to expose yourself with media that features Asians in a positive light. I, myself, stopped being insecure about being Asian when I followed luxury brands. They featured beautiful Asian models, and it finally made me realize that Asians are as pretty as any other group.
It’s quite sad that public perception has devalued minorities, especially Asians. But as more platforms such as Tiktok, where people around the world can showcase their culture and differences, increase, the negative stigma against Asians can decline. I firmly believe that our generation can lead to a future where people see colors and respect each other for it.
We have to remember that whatever race or color we have, the Lord has created us according to His image and that we have a purpose on why we are here on earth.