Reeling off of box office gold, the all Asian cast showed Hollywood the potential for diverse casting. Now it’s available on demand.
The movie, Crazy Rich Asians, is also an opportunity to re-examine approaches to fairness and inclusion within the legal profession, especially as they relate to Asians.
The movie offers a sliver into the window of the Asian and Asian American experiment. I say sliver because the story is unrealistic on so many levels.
Angie Han writes in Mashable, “Crazy Rich Asians had reminded me that the Asian-American experience – my experience – is too rich and varied to be captured in a single story.”
Notwithstanding this concern, this recent romcom provides lessons for diversity in ways that My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Crazy Stupid Love, and Mamma Mia cannot. In fact, research indicates that those who enjoy these types of films may actually have distorted perceptions of reality in their own relationships. A film like Crazy Rich Asians has not only that effect, but also distorts perceptions of how people view people of color — in this case, Asians.
Crazy Rich Asians is more the story of Rich Asians than it is a story of Crazy Asians. Aside from a few instances of what appears to be over-the-top wealth display, the tale of love and living on the fringes is universal.
1. Who you are and where you come from are important in who you will become and where you will go.
A recognition of one’s cultural and ethnic past as well as values instilled into a person will impact their character. The reputation of an attorney is of paramount importance. Having respect for tradition and social expectations, even if flawed tradition or expectations, puts an attorney in a position to effectuate change. Rachel Chu’s character mastered the Chinese game of Mahjong, which she uses negotiation strategies in a game with her boyfriend’s mother. She would not have obtain the same results had she played Poker.
2. Soft skills pay dividends.
I remember the kindest gesture I experienced professionally this year was when I was a dinner event in Miami and the Executive Director of the host organization noticed I had requested a vegetarian meal. The staff brought me some pasta and asparagus. She traded the specially prepared quinoa dish she had prepared for in advance. It was a small gesture, but no one had ever done that to me. Usually people are apathetic or annoyed when I request special dietary restrictions. Rachel Chu’s character is portrayed as a clumsy American, she spills wine on her partner’s clothes and tries to drink out of the dish for rinsing hands. Yet how she recovers relatively quickly from the faux paux shows the soft skills she developed to make others feel at ease. How an attorney responds to a situation – positive or negative – is important. It’s not possible to not annoy, but ignoring some instances may be better than overreacting.
3. Dismantling racism involves building relationship more than burning boats.
In many instances walking away from toxic relationships, particularly professional ones, may seem the best route. But the importance of maintaining relationships — even if at a distance — is important.
When I found myself in Cairo a few years back at a conference, I remember hearing something that really changed my outlook. One of the members of the audience asked about why participate in government and international organizations especially if the rule of law is meant to segregate and disenfranchise certain races, ethnicities, and peoples. The speaker said, “For political reasons. Just attend for political reasons.” I took that to mean to attend to show that we matter. That if we are not there, we are invisible. So build relationships. Be nice even if every bone in your body says stay away and it’s not worth your time. At some point, it will click. Maybe it won’t.
4. Being Asian counts as diversity.
Before I wore the hijab, I got away with being white. Even now because I’m usually on the quiet side, I some how get into that “in crowd” where people feel that it’s okay to make racial remarks, and I won’t care.
I was at the press conference in 1999 in San Francisco in what was a hatch case to Bollinger that was decided by the Supreme Court in 2006.
The march to equality like the path to right match can be LONG. Please follow your heart instead of a racist past.