Category Archives: Asia

Why is the US considered the West?

Let’s ignore for a second how archaic and lazy the East/West dichotomy is or how the definition of East/West changes across regions and individuals.

Traditionally, the “West” is Europe or cultural Europe, whatever that means. According to early eurocentric genius anthropologists, the “Orient”, or “East”, actually began at North Africa and goes into Asia. What makes the two largest and most diverse continents a monolith is beyond me, to be honest.

Now back to the US. To play devil’s advocate here for a second, there are indeed many reasons why the US or even Canada is “western”. We were former combined colonies of England, Spain, and France; and we speak dialects of their languages, but languages are a horrible indicator of national identity (although still better than ethnoracial features). Also, are South American countries considered “western”? Try googling ‘Alberto Fujimori’. What about African countries? In my travels, I’ve met Europeans who think that Americans also fly east to get to Asia. Now, of course we now know the world is round, and there are more than just two sides. So given purely cultural and demographic factors, doesn’t the US fit snugly in between “the East” and “the West”? Our west coast is much closer to East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Most of our food is a result of fusion of African, Asian, and European ingredients (we arguably popularized sushi with California rolls); nothing is truly American (except maybe corn).

I wonder… Perhaps “western” is a euphemism for “developed” or even for “white”? In that case, most of East Asia is just as, if not more, developed (have you seen some of these airports in Korea?).  Western Europeans usually consider themselves “western” which makes sense to me, even though Europe is totally different from North America. Moreover, I recently learned that cultural Russians (Ukrainians and Belorussians, etc.) believe that Europe is Europe and the US is the “West”. Many Eastern Europeans don’t even consider themselves “western”. Meanwhile, in East Asia they believe that anything outside the region is considered the “West”. China is extremely guilty of sinocentrism just as Europe is for eurocentrism. So where do we draw this imaginary line? The point of division is rather subjective.

Any differences between Europe and the US (or North/South America) are just dismissed as minor by some people, while differences between the US and Asia are because the other is too “western” or “eastern”. Can we just stick to calling ourselves American and stop labeling things and people as directions on a compass? At least stop prescribing to the notion that the US is somehow “western” because Europe feels the need to assert their legacy or because certain Americans can’t get out of their comfort zone to mingle with people on the other mystical side of the “East/West” dichotomy. Perhaps Asians want to group Europe together with North American and South America when, in reality, East Asia has more in common with the latter two continents.

Can we all agree that the US is both Eastern and Western, or it’s neither? And please discard the harmful rhetoric of “western media”; it’s almost impossible to define as a monolith either and rarely ever agrees on one view.

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Conversation of race

In light of recent events in the US, I want to reflect upon my experiences in Barcelona.
As Americans, we generally have a different idea of racism from the rest of the world. The reason for this is obvious: we’re a nation of immigrants, as Barack Obama puts it. I argue this because of the few other countries I’ve lived in and also because of immigrants I’ve met.
A handful of Europeans I’ve met say that Americans are of English descent, which I think is the most offensive to the white Americans. While it’s already established that there’s racial misconception of the US by foreigners, I was surprised to find that there’s self-racism, for lack of a better word.
As I have a habit of talking with owners of stores and restaurants, I’ve met one who stuck out as particularly racist. Nothing overly hateful but just going as far to say I’m not American because of my face. I remember watching Obama’s speech on my phone, and she comes to my table and sits across from me. In the most serious tone, she says to me,  “You’re not American okay.” What…?
I feel like outside the US (and maybe all of North and South America), it’s impossible to be accepted as a “minority”.
On a separate occasion, the restaurant owner says to my Japanese friend that she doesn’t look Japanese because her eyelids have a quality that make them pretty and it’s a trait Japanese don’t have. And for this reason and my skin color, she deems me Japanese. What…?
The irony is that most my ancestry originates from the same place as hers. Don’t you love it when people try to racially generalize the Americas?

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