For all of the complaints that there is a lack of Asian representation in American media, there are very few acknowledgements that a significant part of the problem lies within our own community. Asians are stereotyped as being academically successful and going into challenging, lucrative careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. We encourage our children to become doctors and engineers, veering them away from the humanities. And then we complain that there is no one who looks like us on TV.
So many of my Filipino friends have been reluctantly nudged into careers in medicine. While I do not question the importance of having a stable job, it is ignorant to dismiss other fields as frivolous. Why do we disrespect the artists among us? Why do we tell them not to follow their passions?
You have probably watched a movie or a television show recently, turned on a radio, or read a book. Even if you haven’t, you’re reading these words right now, so you must recognize the value of written communication. Our leisure hours are consumed by the arts. We go to museums, to plays, browse Netflix for the latest hits. Yet we tell our children that creating things that make people happy is a waste of time.
It’s no wonder that there are so few Filipinos in the entertainment industry, so few books written about Filipinos, so few Filipinos paving the way for future writers, actors, and musicians. We have created a community that lives in the shadows, that exists in American society but does little to influence it.
This is a mistake. Filipinos thrive in the arts, and there is no reason to assume that a creative path is one that will inevitably end in financial ruin. In keeping our children out of these fields, we are silencing the voice of the Filipino community in American society.