Volume 96, Issue 92
Tuesday, March 25, 2003

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A very Mongolian Christmas

Re: "Buying and selling the Asian identity," Mar. 20

To the Editor:

I was interested to read the article, because I've noticed a lot of Asian culture throughout North America. Coming from an Asian background, I found it strange and interesting that Canadians found Chinese characters, Buddhism, martial arts, Japanese prints, etc. so fascinating and exotic, because, well, they weren't exotic to me. I guess it's true that [in Asia], where I come from, people were really into [western culture], or to be exact, American movies and beauty, and English.

I've had the advantage of witnessing some side effects of the popularity of foreign cultures in a society as well. Although it may [create] interest and open-mindedness to a foreign culture, it also creates stereotypes and prejudiced assumptions.

Many Asians think every North American person is sex-crazy and that Canada and the United States have little differences. And not all Asians do martial arts, nor are Chinese and Japanese culture the only type of culture in East Asia. Also, one is likely to adapt an [incorrect] feature of the other culture, because it has been altered by the (sometimes ignorant) mainstream views.

Once I saw a lady in line at a bank, wearing an elaborate T-shirt with huge patterns of geisha prints and Hokusai waves, with the Chinese characters [Merry Christmas], and choked back a laugh. Your T-shirt doesn't necessarily have to make sense, just don't walk around with a tattoo that means [Mongolian whore] on your shoulder.

I agree with Professor [Carole] Farber that the popularity of Asian culture is not an expression of the Asian self, so, it's not the real thing you're seeing. Don't trust that manufactured image, and if you really are interested, seriously try to learn the other culture. Western students are smart enough, right?

Hye Shin Kim
MIT II

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