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Stereotypes are no joke

Comedian Steve Harvey is being skewered for suggesting during his daytime show that Asian men are unattractive to white women, referencing a ridiculous book that was published by Asian World Press called “How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men.”  He then went on to make similar jokes about black women not dating Asians.

Now, this could have gone down as simply a joke in bad taste that disappeared into the daytime TV ether.  Instead, Eddie Huang – who wrote the autobiography “Fresh Off the Boat” on which the ABC sitcom was based – has attacked Harvey for the segment. 
He says Harvey's comments are part of "the structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media.” And these stereotypes create “an actual abhorrence to Asian men in the real world.”

Now, I’m neither male nor Asian – in case anyone was confused – so I cannot speak to Huang’s sense of emasculation by the media.  Perhaps this started when he sold his memoir to a TV network for a “Boat”-load of money and when he didn’t like what the studio did with the stories and characters, he had no creative control to stop it.  He has, in fact, been quite critical of the show.

However, I was under the impression that Asians are under-represented in the media.  Didn’t last year’s debate on Hollywood’s lack of diversity prove this?  Sure, they play gang members who are killed off by “the good guys” or they’re a comedic foil for Two Broke Girls.  But for the most part, Asian are sorely lacking on television.

So how is the media perpetuating a stereotype such that I, a white woman who lives “in the real world”, now have an “abhorrence to Asian men”?  Actually, growing up I had huge crushes on Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat and Bruce Lee.  More recently, I’ve leaned toward Daniel Dae Kim and Sung Kang.

Oh, maybe he wasn’t talking about me.  Perhaps my friends, then?

We know he’s speaking on behalf of Asian men since he is one and only he knows his own life experiences.  So he’s earned the right to his feelings on the subject.

But he doesn’t have the right to mine or yours.

The fact is cultural differences have been romantic kryptonite between couples for centuries.  Just ask Romeo and Juliet.  It has nothing to do with the media.

And Harvey’s jokes were along the lines of what you’d say to someone in a bar.  So if Huang’s knowledge of this stereotype-driven abhorrence toward Asian men is based on a failed Friday night pick-up, his problem isn’t his ethnicity.

Yes, society has a lot of friction between social and ethnic groups.  Cultural discord and stereotypes have developed over centuries of human history while the internet only began to open our windows to the world two decades ago.

So it’s not going to disappear overnight.  And it won’t improve with more “us versus them” anger.

Perhaps we should try opening the discussion with a joke.