Fresh Off the Boat and Representational Anxiety

After grabbing a syllabus from the top of the pile and passing the stack to my right, I immediately flip to the calendar. Week 4. Week 4 is the one I have to worry about.

I’m sitting in a diversity class in my third year of graduate school. I’m studying clinical psychology, and while cultural competence is supposedly woven into each of our courses, we also have a class specifically dedicated to diversity issues in mental health treatment. The class starts with a few weeks on power and privilege, and then each of the remaining weeks is spent examining clinical issues in various minority populations: African American clients, Native American clients, clients with disabilities, LGBT clients.  The fourth week of the course is the one on Asian American clients. This is the week I’m concerned about.

When that class period rolls around, I’m a giant ball of nerves. I’m not presenting, nor do I plan to contribute much to the discussion; I’m anxious simply because I want us to be represented well. It’s so rare that Asian Americans get the spotlight in any arena, so when we finally get our one hour and 50 minutes in the sun, I really don’t want it to suck. This is our only shot, and for many of my classmates, this is the only hour and 50 minutes of their lives that they’ll ever spend hearing about Asian Americans.

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Too Much of a Good Thing? Hardly

Oh, Nellie.

In yesterday’s winner of the “Onion Headline or Actual Journalism?” award of the day, Nellie Andreeva of Deadline posted an article titled “Pilots 2015: The year of Ethnic Castings — About Time or Too Much of a Good Thing?”  In the piece, Andreeva writes — as many others have before her — that the successes of new series like Empire and Fresh Off the Boat have led to a surge in “ethnic castings” during this year’s pilot season.

However, instead of applauding these long-overdue changes, as her fellow observers have, Andreeva wonders if “the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.” Because now, some parts are designed specifically for actors of color. There are now parts that white actors can’t audition for.

You know the feeling you get when you’re so dumbfounded by someone’s argument — at how poor the logic is, how absurd their points are — that words completely escape you? That you don’t even know how to respond, because doing so would require you to articulate facts so basic that you’ve long taken them for granted, like that the sky is blue or the sun is hot? That’s exactly how I felt by the end of Andreeva’s article. On a logical level, I was completely flabbergasted. And I was personally bothered, too.

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