This is a not-so-common moment in history, when a word gets added into the dictionary. The Chinese dictionary is where it is added. If you, like many other readers, tune out of this article once you read that it is a Chinese word rather than a new English word, ask yourself, why? Isn't China supposed to become more of a prominent force in the future? Isn't Donald Trump opposed to Chinese politics of trade? Isn't the sun going to rise from the east in the morning?
Okay, I'll admit the last one was a bit off topic, but inevitably, it comes down to an issue of racial and cultural appropriation. When done by people of a higher societal status, it is looked upon as diversity. When done by people lower on the ladder of society, it is looked upon as mimicry or thievery.
This type of cultural appropriation occurred from China to Korea, and from China to Japan, although it has since become more fluid as society evolves. The Chinese stereotype of Japanese kanji is that it is "stolen" from China's Tang Dynasty times, when scholars from Japan visited China. There is a similar perspective on Koreans.
However, in the current status quo in America, and in western nations, Asians tend to keep to themselves or are white-washed. This is simply untrue and is debasing to the Asian populace in any country. When a whole nation's media and news puts Asian Americans into a bad light, nobody wins. Aside from the huge benefits that China and Taiwan provide to the United States in terms of trade, when it comes down to it, they are both culturally unaware of their neighbor. Alienating them is simply a wrong decision because in case of a trade war, America loses "bigly," to quote an infamous, contemporary U.S. politician.
Individuals in the world need to keep an open mind when it comes to cultural appropriation and misuse of certain symbols or positions of power. Humanity has relied on these symbols and politics to build a formidable civilization, but the overarching premise behind all of this is a cooperative mindset.
Cooperation between the Asian countries comes mostly in the form of trade pacts and in a shared sort of cultural heritage. The parenting methods, dating schemas, and workplace discipline common in Asian countries is all very similar to one another, with certain discrepancies varying from region to region, but with similar root concepts.
So next time you use your gut reaction to judge certain things as being "exotic" or "trendy" simply because they are Asian, Indian, or Middle Eastern, please think again. Props to Disney for an all-Asian Mulan cast, by the way. Asian Americans will be happy about this result, because of several reasons.
Reason number one, it creates a greater sense of identity within the melting pot that is the United States. Asians now are no longer just playing the role of “the nerd” or some other role that debases and insults the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the eastern philosophies.
Reason number two, having a presence in media means that people will come to understand us Asians a little better. They will see a yellow face on screen, and realize that the color of the face is unimportant. What is important is the role that the actor is portraying, and the underlying messages.
Reason number three, and perhaps the most important reason why having an Asian Mulan cast is critical is for our posterity: our children or young adults will view the movie as an example of something that is unique in its own cultural perspective, not as an example of mimicry or diversity.
Movies tell a story, and having one that tells a distinctly Asian story is important; honoring our heritage and sending that rich history and story down to the next generations is a great but arduous task. Our identity and overall sense of society’s standards are at stake. Will you help to tell our story? This is the story of not the White man, not the yellow man, but of humanity.