Saturday, September 19, 2009

Asian-American Stereotyping in Annie Le Murder?

Not the best written post I've ever seen, but the perspective on this tragic murder is worth sharing:

With the gruesome murder of Yale Graduate student, Annie Le, in recent days, the way that she is being described by many “Crime Experts,” and other “Talking Heads,” clearly shows how some people view Asian-Americans in this country. With Raymond Clark, a lab technician in police custody, the “Crime experts,” and other “Talking heads,” continue to try and figure out the motive for the murder.

They describe Annie Le as an “Asian,” instead of “Asian-American.” Would you describe someone of African-American descent as being “African?” No. Didn’t think so.

Here is an example of Pat Brown, a Criminal Profiler on the Today Show describing Raymond Clark’s possible motive:

[go to the website to see the video, transcribed as follows:]

“She didn’t give him the time of day, and now she’s gonna pick some other White guy. This Asian girl that he thought he could control. He was part of the Asian Awareness club, maybe he thought he could get himself a girlfriend..Asian women…that they’re easy to control than American women.”

Yet, Annie Le was remembered by her family and friends for her “humor and intelligence.” She was not the “submissive, stereotypical, weak,” Asian female stereotype that is so prevalent amongst Western society. Instead, Monte, a friend of Le’s recalls that Le was “really little, but she always spoke out and held her own. She was street-smart and book-smart at the same time, which is very rare when you come across someone with the same IQ she had.”

Perhaps the fact that Le was not the weak, submissive Asian female that Clark had envisioned, angered him so much to have committed such a foul deed? Until we find out the real truth about what happened to Annie Le, we’ll continue to hear the “Talking heads,” spouting off about how Annie’s “Asian-ness” may have played into this tragedy.
The author seems to be identifying two different stereotyping issues. First, there's the stereotyping in the media coverage. Second, is the stereotyping that might have provided the motive for the killer. And it all gets tangled together when, with no motive for the murder yet evident, the media creates one out of stereotypes of Asian-American women.

Click here to see the "Talking head's" video, and read the whole thing.


Anonymous said...

I thought Pat Brown was describing a stereotype that the suspect might have had, not one she held. Yesterday she spoke about how Annie was smart, degreed, going somewhere. . .and this guy who forwatever reason worked in the lab cleaning the rat cages was resentful of her. I didn't hear the prejudice the person is describing but I could be wrong. It can work in subtle ways.

Wendy said...

Sad. I saw a local report and it was presented as the same type of thing--more of the Asian fetish. I haven't heard much about it so I can't say, but i would not be surprised.

A bit off topic, but did you see Survivor? The Asian woman was chosen for the "smart" tribe member task--no one knew anyone yet. I really liked her comment, she was glad they thought she was smart (knew it was a stereotype), but hoped they wouldn't apply the negative stereotypes to her--cunning, conniving, etc.

Anonymous said...

Wendy just did the same thing, called an Asian American, "Asian." That's common, and I don't find it offensive.
"Italian," "British," etc.

Wendy said...

Oops! I so did not notice my error!

Tanya said...

re: Anonymous, Asians vs. Asian Americans...leaving American off the term Asian American almost plays into the stereotype of Asian Americans as the foreign other, or "Perpetual Foreigner" if you would like to look up the topic. Asian Americans are often bombarded with questions such as "Where are you from?" or "What is your nationality?" which both I answer "DC" and "American" respectively. The latter question also plays into the Perpetual Foreigner myth...many other races aren't asked their nationality because it is often assumed that they are American. Here, the person asking the question may really just want to know the Asian American's ETHNICITY...but still plays into the foreign other stereotype. Such is the case when the Asian American asks the questioner his/her ethnicity and that person looks bewildered that he/she was just asked that. The "Where are you from?" question gets especially funny when my reponse is "DC" and the person continually goes through my ancestry to find out my ethnicity...following up my DC answer with "Where are you REALLY from?" or "Where are your parents from/born?" to "What about your grandparents?"...until they give up and realize that I'm not the lay person who uses "Asian" and "Oriental" to describe my race.

Despite Asian Americans contributing much to the landscape of American history, many are still viewed today as "other" and never with a sense of belonging. Race in and of itself is a socially constructed term initially used to describe and divide people...legally. Go through American history and you'll find loads of that example.

So, yes, although it is seemingly innocuous to use "Asian" instead of "Asian American", let's not forget the history and the implications of denying a person their citizenship...possibly one that has been owned for multiple generations.

Tanya said...

One more follow-up is the use of a hyphen...Asian American vs. Asian-American. The hyphen is omitted with respect to Asian American identity being a whole identity...American and still uses an ancestral origin. The use of a hyphen plays into the whole Perpetual Foreigner and the whole inacceptance of the Asian American as American and simply still as "other".

malinda said...

Thanks for the informative comment, Tanya!

I've posted about the pernicious "perpetual foreigner" concept before:

Wendy said...

I appreciate your comments Tanya and agree with you in most respects; however, there is a division among many people whether to add the hyphen or not (not just within the Asian American community). This debate has been raging for over twenty years and there are compelling arguments for and against the hyphen and also whether to identify at all beyond country identity--most prompted through Canadian circles.
Thank you for your insight.