Written by Takumi Ienaga
Being born and growing up in Japan, I didn’t have much opportunity to see Asians and Asian Americans representatives in media. I mean, of course I had seen many “Asians” on TV, news, movies and so on but the situation is totally different when seeing them in the US and in Asian countries. While I was in Japan, I was not aware of stereotypical depiction of Asians and Asian Americans that was practiced in the US media. Probably because I didn’t have an identity as Asian since everything non-Japanese was foreign for me, including other Asian countries. Even if I saw stereotypical depiction in Hollywood movies or some other sources, I didn’t care much as long as they were not Japanese.
However, there was one event that made me think of situation of Asians in the US. It was famous baseball player, Ichiro Suzuki. He was star player in Japan, and he has showed really high performance in Major League too. In 12 years of career in MLB, he made 2606 hits and left .322 career batting average. He made it to All-Star game 10 years in a row since 2001 which was the debut year, and also 10 years in a row being awarded for Gold Glove (Baseball-reference.com). Looking at those statistics, it is inarguable that he is one of the best players in MLB. However, even in his best years, he was always targeted by harsh criticisms saying that he is “selfish.”
Many of the criticisms state that Ichiro can always aim for homerun, which Mariners really needs, but he sticks to making singles just for setting records therefore he is selfish. Some people even attribute Mariners’ low performance to Ichiro who constantly leaves above-average statistics. However, Ichiro is clearly not just selfish player. Once he said he could hit 40 homeruns in a season in exchange to dropping batting average to .220, and he also said that was not something the team wants (bleacher report, 2010). He actually knows what he is capable of, and he chooses the style in which he can bring out his abilities the most.
This criticism of Ichiro is an example of model minority and yellow peril. Model minority is stereotype of Asians and Asian Americans in the US. According to model minority stereotype, Asians and Asian Americans are naturally intelligent and shows high performance to the level that almost emotionless or just thinking about his/her own reputation. Ichiro is also criticized for not thinking about team and seeking for nothing but own records. Yellow peril is the fear that whites hold against Asians and Asian Americans who might eventually take over their properties. Some Mariners fans and sports journalists thought Ichiro was using the games as the stage to show off his abilities thus he was privatizing the team. Both notions are based on stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans, and lead whites to think that they are facing thread of Asians and Asian Americans, therefore, in extreme opinion, they should be drove away. I am hoping that Ichiro would diminish those criticisms by leading Yankees to the world champion this year.
Baseball-Reference.com, “Ichiro Suzuki Batting Statistics and History”, Web. Accessed on February 1, 2013.
Evan Bruschini, “Ichiro Suzuki and the Infield Hit: Selfish Stat-Padding Or Revolutionary Tactic?”, Bleacher Report, 2010. Web. Accessed on February 1, 2013.