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Calling Asians 'robotic' is racist stereotype with long, troubled history

14 Comments
By Long T Bui

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Throughout the pandemic, JT pieces have suggested that fewer Japanese have succumbed to Covid because they are less individualistic than Westerners and tend to follow rules. Technically, that could be seen as racist, as would be the appellation of any characteristic to all members of any specific racial group. You can't have your cake and eat it. And there is a penchant for uniforms and uniformity in Japan - as covered in many JT articles.

Racial groups are all too often self-defining in society - sometimes to the point of being colour coded. When a racial group appears in a settled society, one of the ways the locals come to terms with it is by stereotyping members of it according to obvious character traits. Some of these may simply be typical occupations, some may be physical or cultural attributes and more offensive. This is how groups deal with the external 'other' appearing in their midst.

The danger in taking issue with all of this, and trying to rinse society in a clinical manner, is that you are making war on what are, for good or ill, fairly natural responses. This is how our species functions. To remove all stereotyping fractures natural hard-wired developmental functions of group behaviour. Ironically, to do this effectively, would be to render all of humanity more similar - or 'robotic'.

We are an imperfect species and we get by, behaving imperfectly. Even with the best of intentions, woke activists cannot rinse society of these imperfections any more than Aryanists could.

As for 'robots', herd instinct and the concept of the 'hive mind' is not unique to any race or group. You can find it anywhere on the planet. Those who value individuality often find it more easily in others. They may want to look a bit harder in the mirror.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

May not be just “*an American thing” *@BigYen 7:12am. Les Carpenter wrote for The Guardian, a British newspaper, for 8 years before returning to The Washington Post. Neither does Carpenter’s exact quote appear promoting hurtful ‘racist’ stereotypes of Asians and Asian-Americans.

Here’s Carpenter’s original quote and a link to see the 2022 Olympic piece understanding Chen’s reluctance to be overly emotional prior to and subsequent to his recent win:

-“[Chen failed] and was never in contention for a medal …in PyeongChang. [Chen] has rebounded with a fierce, focused, almost robotic zeal, winning all but one of his events since his 2018 failure.” -

“Nathan!” shouted a photographer near the top of the stands trying to get a picture from up high. Chen nodded and gave a half-smile.“I’m still processing it,” he later said of the gold. He shrugged. He didn’t have much more to add.” -

*Sometimes you can want something so much that when it finally happens the moment is drained of emotion**.”-*

Feb 10, 2022: - https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/2022/02/10/nathan-chen-gold-medal-figure-skating-beijing-olympics/

7 ( +9 / -2 )

You can call it robotic or anything else, but the cultures in many Asian countries especially Japan, China and South Korea where the people have to live by certain standards and in schools and companies by strict rules to abide. It is so true that China's President took actions to limit the unnecessary additional schooling the children did.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There are tales or sagas on everything, books on everything, and in this case stereotypes on every other people. Just calm down and accept it, because you cannot change it. It doesn’t play a role and has no significance if you declare that phenomenon racist or whatever. One chance is left anyway. The people attributed with such stereotypes could all start behaving otherwise or contradicting to that stereotypes if they don’t like it. But at best it would also only be replaced by the new other stereotypes then.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Just calm down and accept it, because you cannot change it. 

Of course you can change it - by making people aware of it, to start. People who wouldn't dare utter a negative phrase about a black or brown person are often completely oblivious when they say things about East Asians. In music, the common slur when an Asian plays brilliant jazz, for example, is that they lack "feeling." The suggestion is that they have just robotically mastered the notes but can't play from the heart.

Sure, you can never eliminate stereotypes, but you can eliminate systemic discrimination - such as universities capping the number of new Asian students because qualification-based admission would result in "too many Asian students."

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As the China-U.S. trade war heated up in 2019, right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones claimed that Asians were like fearless “robots coming to kill you.”

The implication is that Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese are a swarm of cyborgs who think alike and will attack in unison. Jones also stated that Native Americans – bearing some ancient link to Asia – are easy to “mind-control.”

This part seems like total fantasy. Alex Jones may think this, but not many other folks do.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I am Asian, and have never heard of this before. But are there no merits or truth to stereotypes?

Outside of education or theoretical discussions perhaps we should not be too concerned about people's thoughts as we have enough problems with policing people's actions. So unless someone acts upon these stereotypes in a negative way, I don't really think it's an issue.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In the world we live in today it appears calling someone anyone anything other than what they look like "human beings" can be misinterpreted as being racist, especially if the word is tied to something negative.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I remember as a kid all those awful stereotypes on TV. Far Eastern Asian people were often the buffoons and stumblebums, awkward and geeky. Later in the 70s there was a detective-comedy show 'Holmes and Yo-Yo' where you guessed it, the character Yo-Yo was a robot that looked a Korean. Thankfully that show didn't last. Then as a teenager I remember the movie '16 Candles' with that whiz-kid geeky character 'Long Duk Dong'. And he got seduced by a white 'fat chick' (another stereotype 4 ya).

There's been a few exceptions to this. George Takei of STAR TREK and Jack Soo of 'Barney Miller' are two Japanese-American actors who refused to take any role degrading or portraying their race or ethnicity in a negatively stereotypical light. They played good people, bad people but never the 'robotic' or nerdy 'ching-chong' image crap. And it's high time to discard those images for good.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Throughout the pandemic, JT pieces have suggested that fewer Japanese have succumbed to Covid because they are less individualistic than Westerners and tend to follow rules. Technically, that could be seen as racist, as would be the appellation of any characteristic to all members of any specific racial group. You can't have your cake and eat it.

Exactly!! SO TRUE!!

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Wow that is tough. How about all the Asian stereotypes of Caucasians. I have heard white devil is very popular, or saying white men spread venereal diseases, are lazy, etc. Oh, no indignation?

Exactly. Pure hypocrisy.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

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