Being a Japanese American means having a long history of struggle for your ethnical identity and being often misunderstood. It is not a secret that since World War II Japanese Americans experienced prejudice and even suppressions. For quite a long time the attitude to Japanese Americans was more than cool. “The stereotypes of Japanese Americans as sly, tricky and treacherous were replaced by stereotypes industrious, hard working and successful” (Maki, Kitano, Berthold; 1999; p. 83). From being enemies we turned into the so called “model minority”.
I often meet people, who understand this stereotype too literally and think that while Japanese are hard-working they do not have any sense of humor or do not like to have fun. That is not true. People of my nationality like to socialize not less than others and as well as the representatives of other ethnicities we depend on communication with others. Human beings are social beings and working communities are not enough to satisfy the need in usual communication each person has.
Sometimes such attitude to your nationality can be really annoying as people exaggerate the character features they associate with your nation and do not even try to think about Japanese as about usual people. Still, my usual reaction on people, who treat me as a “model minority”, is understanding. Despite the fact that we live in a multicultural society, we still know the better part of information about other cultures and ethnicities from books, films, and newspapers. That is why I simply try to dispel the stereotypes people held about my ethnicity by personal example.
Another similar stereotype that often makes me smile is the stereotype that Japanese eat nothing but rice and fish and our breakfasts and dinners should include sushi. When I am asked why I do not eat rice or fish, I simply joke that I hate them. Japanese national cuisine should not be limited to sushi or dishes from rice and fish only as well as American cuisine should not be limited to hamburgers and Frenchmen do not always eat frog’s legs.
In tote, stereotyping negatively influences mutual understanding between the representatives of different nations. Still, there are some positives stereotypes that can be used to overcome the traditional negative ones and prejudice that they lead to. In case with Eastern cultures, to overcome prejudice that stereotypes create it is possible to use the family attitude stereotype.
Family relationships are valued in any world’s culture and the higher the importance of family for a nation the better. “Japanese Americans are viewed as “exceptionally law-abiding” and “strongly family oriented” in popular magazines” (Gudykunst; 2000; p. 142). This comes from the Eastern traditions where family is the closest people one may have and family relationships are viewed as the most important in the life of an individual.
The stereotypes that Japanese Americans are law-abiding people can also be used to create some bridge between the cultures. One of the problems that any government is afraid of is that immigrants may cause …
Posted by: Andrea Konkol