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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Multicultural forensic anthropology

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During the last years that I spent in Taiwan before coming back to Spain temporarily in early 2018, my Taiwanese girlfriend and I almost became addicted to Bones, a quite impressive American television series based on forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology aired over twelve seasons. When we finally split up at the beginning of 2017, we had watched 240 of the 246 episodes together.

Since I was a boy, I had a weakness for mystery novels like those written by world-famous English author Agatha Christie (1890-1976), in which only at the very end you knew who had actually committed the crime(s).

Therefore, as Bones followed the same scheme, I could hardly wait to see a new episode. We always chose the original version, often with Chinese subtitles so I could simultaneously practice my Mandarin. Sometimes we even treated us to two in a role…

Although I liked the classical structure of the stories, including the false trails set before the real perpetrator was caught, the relationships between the characters were quite unnatural, like the corny love affair between a successful black American women and an extremely nice Iranian fellow.

Completely contradicting the real nature of violent crime in the US, all but two murderers were Whites, including an older lady who had cut her victim to pieces, just as the average grandma does when she gets upset.

Another thing that struck me was the almost complete absence of East Asians in a working environment which required highly trained personnel. Immigrants from that part of the world have the highest household and per capita income among all ethnic groups in contemporary America, with those of Taiwanese descent at the top of the inverted pyramid.

That’s the result of a very strong learning culture which emphasizes good education and further training. In consequence, Chinese, including those from the diaspora, Japanese and Koreans are somehow overrepresented in professions like medicine, natural sciences and research.

Still, they were hardly perceivable in this supposedly true depiction of multicultural, peaceful and harmonious modern American society over twelve long years. In contrast, you had a Latino, the above mentioned Muslim and of course a Black who turned out to be the smartest of them all, on a par with his female white boss.

When I ultimately mentioned this to my local sweetheart, she didn’t see it as a problem. Though maybe due to my decade-long exposure to East Asian influence, I personally found this misrepresentation quite annoying.

In times when identity politics play an increasing role, I would welcome a more accurate portrayal of Asian Americans in the media. But there might be a long way to go, especially as Chinese don’t seem to have much of a lobby in the West.

Besides that, with notable recent exceptions like notorious New York Times collaborator Saran Jeong, members of this community don’t see themselves as eternal victims of discrimination, in stark contrast with many Blacks, Jews and Latinos. Instead, they just work hard and that’s one of the reasons why I sympathize with them.

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