What is a “Banana” – Here and There?

This short article was posted on one of the Forumosa forums for discussion. Not sure what to say about it but offer it as an interesting juxaposition between the Asian American experience in the US and the Asian American experience in Taiwan.

You take the people from a AA forum like Model Minority who see the world with tunnel vision who are no better than the “ugly” Americans they like to blast away for their “plight”. Then, you have the author of


, who gets insulted by his treatment because the natives here can’t believe some one like him can exist. “Marginalization” is indeed color-blind :|.

Unfortunately for the author, his article devolves into a poorly sarcastic rant which takes away from the opportunity to do something with it. On the other hand, if I were in his shoes, what exactly would I say about it? I mean, our uniqueness, is something that can’t easily be explained or described. Being an ABC in Taiwan makes the world even stranger. At least the Angry Asian American[tm] has status in the US, whereas the status in Taiwan is lower. The one way to avoid that is to position yourself as a “meiguo huaqiao” and you gain immediate status. However, that’s not always easy if you don’t have someone “in front” of you to make the necessary introductions.

In the meantime, I have learned my lessons and come up with my own survival rules. Survival Rule No. 1 is: let people know you are a meiguo huaqiao! Survival Rule No. 2: don’t ever be mistaken for a Korean! Survival Rule No. 3: use English only! In order to come across as a meiguo huaqiao, it is necessary to speak English as much as possible even if it causes cognitive dissonance.

When I first came to Taiwan, my cousin here insisted that I follow these exact rules to enhance and perserve my “status” to the locals. Only in this way would I be able to successfully position myself for business opportunities. The minute I deviate from this formula, I would be “lowered” in the business person’s eyes.

Side note: Cool website for spelling


0 thoughts on “What is a “Banana” – Here and There?”

  1. How Asians (or ethnic Chinese more specifically) view other Asians/ethnic Chinese can really smack one on the head, I’d say. Nothing straightforward about it: you look Asian, so the Asian person thinks you are Asian Asian. It doesn’t help that even in the Chinese language there’s nothing that simple to distinguish a banana from any other Chinese (even though there are cultural differences). I noted in a past blog about this article in the NY Times (link to http://www.triscribe.com/wp/wp-trackback.php/220):

    “Fascinating NY Times article on language and world views: contrasting how China and Japan view their own places in the global neighborhood and noting how such world views are expressed in their respective written languages. The Japanese language apparently distinguishes between who are Japanese and who aren’t (even if one is of Japanese ancestry), while the Chinese language apparently considers overseas Chinese as, well, Chinese (even if one is as incapable of speaking the mother tongue). My conclusion: there’s no such thing as a monolithic ‘Asian.’ China and Japan have their own self-perceptions to deal with.”

    And, I have read articles about Japan’s xenophobia/racism toward non-Japanese and of course, even in America we have seen instances of Asians’ prejudices – we are, ultimately, human with various ignorant moments. Even if you are a “banana” (or not), I think the question is not only how others perceive you, but also how you deal with others’ perceptions of you (I think that so long as you’re ok with who you are and you’re not harming others, who gives a damn about how others think of you?). My responses have ranged in varied ways. Sure, some Asian strangers can shame me for not being able to speak Chinese, but that’s my problem, not theirs. I’d ignore them merrily (and if they blame my inability to speak Chinese on my parents, I could give them a tongue lashing, but frankly, it’s not worth any energy.)

    If people in China or Taiwan or whatever country can’t appreciate the idea of diaspora and how that impacts those living in the diaspora, it doesn’t speak well of them, I’d say. Just my opinion, if it makes any sense or not.

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