Monday, January 19, 2015

Loose Lips Sink Ships.....

......Asian Privilege And Self-Sabotage.

Over the past three years or so, a new hope has emerged amongst Asian advocates of a way to wedge the community into the race dialogue without going to the trouble of first formulating a bothersome autonomous narrative of an Asian racial experience. Whisperings and rumors began to swirl of a powerful new entity whose emergence from the light would propel Asians out of the darkness of the facts of their own experiences to morph into a vestigial appendage, like a bubo under the armpit of, anti-blackness. Its name was.....Asian Privilege.

I first became aware of the idea of Asian Privilege back in 2012 from a post in Hyphen Magazine that asked the question; Is There Privilege in Being Asian American? Written by Bruce Reyes Chow, the piece says this......
As Asian Americans, if we are going to stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters, we must not only acknowledge our forms of privilege, but leverage the influence that comes with that privilege in order to serve as allies to Black communities as well as other marginalized groups. There is privilege for many Asian Americans in not generally being perceived as threatening, which allows us to move about public spaces without eliciting suspicion.
My first thought is to wonder why it is so important to "acknowledge our privilege" but seemingly not so important to acknowledge that as beings with agency who make moral choices and utilize reason and rational thinking, that we might have a more sophisticated set of reasons to stand in solidarity with anyone suffering injustice. My sense of justice or altruism alone would surely be enough to warrant a moral decision in favor of standing with any oppressed group against injustice? Aside from that, my sense of compassion, empathy, sympathy, or simple good-will should impel me to side with the cause of justice and fairness.

Privilege - particularly the idea of owning it - simply is not a part of the equation. My second thought on the quote above is how bizarre it is that not being seen as threatening can be conceived of as a privilege. In the context of the Asian-American racial experience a more accurate statement would be to say that Asians are simply not seen, threatening or not - and that is a function of anti-Asian stereotyping. Most interesting, though, is this idea of leveraging this privilege to serve allies and other oppressed groups, particularly when that privilege consists of invisibility. How can a disadvantage - like invisibility - be leveraged to influence anything?

On the whole, the article actually does a fair job of highlighting some of the ways that racism impacts Asian-Americans but never really provides a clear illustration or definition of what Asian privilege is. Mention is made of immigration and academic privileges, but being allowed to immigrate in the same manner as other groups is far from being a privilege, and it is merely conjecture (bordering on inflammatory) to claim that Asians have access to academic settings merely because of assumptions.

This is the general problem that I have with the narrative of Asian privilege; no-one seems able to quite pin down what it means or even give reasonable examples of it in action. Even more importantly, since it is such a vague notion, and little more than a value judgment, the assertion of Asian privilege exists merely as one more sweeping generalization about Asian-Americans.

Since the Hyphen piece was published there have been several articles in the Asian-American media where the existence and notion of Asian privilege has been further referenced, asserted or discussed. Most of the ones I have read take the existence of Asian privilege as a given, although there is still much vagueness about how it manifests, or even why these manifestations should even be thought of as privilege. The basis for this assertion of Asian Privilege seems to lie in various stats that show high Asian college achievement and a healthy income level that, for some Asian groups, surpasses that of even the white community.

But none of these statistical analyses come even remotely close to showing that privileges are somehow imparted to Asians from the white establishment in order to help keep blacks in their place, or even that there is such a conveyance of privilege at all. There is simply no reason to believe that Asians are the recipients of any advantageous treatment at all. In fact, the possibility that Asians are even outperforming whites actually is a point against the notion of Asian privilege since it seems absurd to think that Asians would be given advantages by a racist white establishment that would result in what is fundamentally a disadvantage for whites. In other words, I am being asked to believe that a racist white establishment is driven to undermine blacks so much that they are willing to privilege Asians even over whites to achieve it? That is known as cutting off your nose to spite your face and the mere suggestion of it is worthy only of derision.

Even worse, though, is the possibility that by claiming privilege, Asians have hurt the black struggle for justice. The co-opting of the idea of Asian Privilege by Adam Carolla and Bill O'Reilly last year shows just why Asians shoot themselves in the foot every time they come up with one of these convoluted schemes that attempt to frame the Asian experience of race in the context of anti-blackness. No conservative even thought to think of Asians as having privilege until, that is, Asian-Americans themselves came up with the bright idea of interpreting the various data points of Asian "success" as some kind indication of imparted privilege. Of course, I cannot possibly know whether Carolla and O'Reilly were influenced by Asian-American musings on Asian privilege, but there is little doubt that Asian-Americans themselves bear the brunt of the responsibility for formulating and propagating an idea that has been picked up on and utilized by the very race-baiters they abhor.

The problem is that if Asian Privilege is real, then devoid of comprehensive evidence for it, O'Reilly's inferences are as valid as anyone's. If you can infer Asian privilege from a group of stats, then you can with equal validity infer black dysfunction from the same data set. Even worse, if we infer that the white establishment does indeed proffer privileged treatment to one minority, it is equally valid to infer that such an offer is a meritorious consideration - a clear point in favor of the notion that blacks aren't trying hard enough. In other words, the idea of Asian Privilege undermines the argument that blacks are held back by racism since there is no logical reason for one minority to be elevated over another to the degree that they apparently outperform whites. Again, we have to ask the question; does it make sense that a racist white establishment would privilege a visible racial minority to the extent that they would disadvantage whites?

If Asian Privilege is real, it undermines even the whole notion of a racist white establishment since, if it was somehow privileging Asians it would be unlikely to do so at the expense of whites if the motivation was to maintain white supremacy. If you believe in a racist white establishment then you cannot possibly believe that such an establishment would privilege a racial minority at the expense of its own race. Thus, to believe in Asian privilege undermines the case for racially motivated social injustices since no racist establishment would privilege another race over its own.

Clearly, the notion of Asian Privilege is a piss-poor heuristic that does little to advance understanding of Asian-Americans and even less to understand the propagation of injustices against African-Americans. As a poorly examined, but hysterically embraced, ontology, it obscures both the Asian-American experience, but also over complicates the conversation on race by needlessly making Asian guilt an issue in the race conversation. Worse still, by undermining the case for white racism it implicitly undermines the case for all racially derived injustices - even, funnily enough,  anti-blackness. Good one.

This and my previous two posts have highlighted what I perceive to be a reluctance and even fierce opposition amongst Asian-American commentators to embrace an autonomous Asian-American racial experience, even to the extent that any efforts to focus on Asians are discredited or even derided by Asian-American "advocates". As I hope to have shown, not only does this tendency further marginalize Asian-Americans, the vague and flimsily established notions of the model minority and Asian Privilege that Asians have embraced as the basis for their anti-anti-blackness sensibilities could actually have the potential to harm the cause of anti-racism far more than it could possibly help.

On a final note, I could not have planned it better myself but it says a lot about this supposed Asian privilege that the most widely disseminated discussion on Bill O'Reilly's screed took place between none other than two white men. Yeah, not an Asian in sight to offer an Asian perspective on a subject that supposedly defines our community.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mytholigising The Model Minority Myth.

Why We Need To Think Twice.....

In my previous post I discussed a Times article written by Jack Linshi in which he made the point that questions, discussions, and considerations of diversity almost always exclude Asian-Americans. A pompous rebuttal piece in the Toast criticized Linshi's article for focusing too much on Asian-Americans in an article about Asian-Americans - go figure. One particular criticism was that Linshi failed to point out how the model minority stereotype is used as a "weapon against both black and brown people" which is also a criticism echoed in a critique of Linshi's article by Julianne Hing at Colorlines which rants.......
People who shape the dominant political narrative in this country—politicians, pundits, media—have little use for substantive conversation about any group of non-white people unless it’s to uphold, in stark terms, notions of black inferiority and white supremacy. To that end, Asians have actually been the subject of quite a lot of public fascination, mainly as props used to denigrate blacks and Latinos and programs designed to support them and other people of color—including segments of the Asian-American population. All too often, Asians are willing to play along.
My first reaction to this is that I fail to see why the possibility that white racists might use Asians and the model minority narrative to "denigrate" people of color should in any way preclude Asians from writing articles that specify the Asian racial experience and focus a little attention on it. Surely, writing about the Asian experience of white supremacist structures is itself a critique of that system and, hence, in no way "plays along" with it? This idea and self-righteous proclamation that "all too often, Asians are willing to play along" is troubling in itself, simply because it sometimes seems to be merely a rhetorical tool utilized by Asian-American advocates to point out how different they are from all the other Asians who just don't get it as opposed to a means of shedding a nuanced light on the attitudes and socio-political stances of Asian-Americans.

Actually, we rarely know just what Asian-Americans are thinking or believing about politics or social issues, largely because we are excluded from the enquiry into diversity, race, and many other aspects of American life. But it always helps one's advocacy cred to make vague and unsupported claims that there must be some Asians out there who are bastards and you're not like them. Of course, the irony here is that in order to make such a sweeping statement about Asians and to have it stick with any kind of rhetorical power, one must be implicitly participating in a process that marginalizes Asian's opportunities to speak for themselves and, thus, take advantage of the racist structures that accomplish the very invisibility that enables the media to engineer an identity for an entire minority. I find it hard to take anyone seriously who so unconsciously appropriates the trappings and benefits of white supremacy whilst believing themselves to be speaking out against it.

A subsequent Times article by Linshi actually seems to heed - or it may be mere coincidence - these criticisms and addresses the issue of the apparent role that the model minority stereotype plays in America's racial discourse. Writing about the significance of Ferguson to Asian-Americans he says this about the model minority stereotype........
One possible answer could be found in the model minority myth. The myth, a decades-old stereotype, casts Asian-Americans as universally successful, and discourages others — even Asian-Americans themselves — from believing in the validity of their struggles. But as protests over Ferguson continue, it’s increasingly important to remember the purpose of the model minority narrative’s construction. The doctored portrayal, which dates to 1966, was intended to shame African-American activists whose demands for equal civil rights threatened a centuries-old white society. (The original story in the New York Times thrust forward an image of Japanese-Americans quietly rising to economic successes despite the racial prejudice responsible for their unjust internment during World War II.)
So, Linshi (as is the case with many other Asian-American commentators) is suggesting that the model minority stereotype owes its existence to the exigency of white supremacist structures to somehow affect the civil rights struggle by shaming, denigrating, or embarrassing African-American activists. Although seemingly an axiom amongst Asian-Americans in general and a fundamental ontological pillar of Asian-American reactivism in particular, I think that it is an overly simplistic conception of the stereotype. Furthermore, this conception of the stereotype itself betrays the danger and immense damage that this custom of relegating the Asian experience to a mere side-note of anti-blackness can present.

It is generally accepted that the term "model-minority" first appeared in a 1966 article in the New York Times Magazine written by sociologist, William Petersen, (a subsequent article that same year in the conservative-leaning U.S News and World Report described the self-sufficiency of New York's Chinese-Americans) in which he described the phenomenon of how Japanese-Americans had overcome extreme racial prejudice and incarceration in internment camps to become a successful demographic. He termed this community the "model-minority". Upon reading the piece, it is difficult to reconcile the charge that the model-minority stereotype was specifically designed to shame and hinder black civil rights activism with the content of the article itself.

Certainly, the NYT piece makes references to the black experience - minor allusions consisting of a bare few sentences - but to my reading, it more significantly provides a wealth of information about the unique history of anti-Asian racism and exclusion with very little indication that blacks are being targeted in any way. In fact, there are just as many, perhaps more, references to how Japanese-Americans outperform whites, yet, no-one has suggested that the piece tries to denigrate or shame whites. It requires an extremely sensitive reading of the piece to even remotely conclude that it is anything other than an expose - extremely unusual for its time, and hardly typical now, five decades later - that focuses on Asian-Americans. In short, the piece does the one thing that Asian-American reactivists seem to hate more than anything; it focused specifically on Asians and anti-Asian racism as significant subjects in and of themselves.

If one steps back from the subject to assess the claim objectively it seems somewhat absurd to believe that this 1966 article served as some kind of anti-civil rights effort. Bear in mind that the FBI was actively gathering intelligence on individuals associated with the civil rights movement through a campaign of surveillance and infiltration, such that they most probably were aware of any facts that could incriminate and discredit the movement and its leaders. Thus, I am being asked to believe that even though there was probably a wealth of intelligence gathered information on the civil rights leadership that could have been, at least, manipulated to make it look unsavory in order to shackle them, the tactic of writing passive-aggressive articles with sometimes vague or passing mention of blacks was utilized to stymie the movement. I hope that sounds as far-fetched to you as it does to me. Quite frankly, it sounds absurd.

What is being said is that the people and culture that inflicted injustices on black people came up with a passive-aggressive ploy - that amounts to name-calling - that they presumed would work on a community who had endured and survived some of the worst treatment ever inflicted on an oppressed people all in order to maintain the unequal social order. Name-calling as a means to undermine the emotional well-being of, and a movement driven by, a group of people who had endured extremes of abuse and not been broken by it? The only shock here is why such an inane idea has flowered and endured amongst Asian-Americans. But, if the piece was not written to denigrate blacks, why was it written?

To answer this question we have to understand that in the mid-nineteen-sixties there was little love lost for Asian people in America. It was only twenty years after a brutal and savage war with Japan in which western prisoners of war had been subject to severe maltreatment, and the war itself had been conducted on the home front with an explicitly racist tone by utilizing existing stereotypes of Asians that had developed since the first Asian immigrants arrived on the West Coast to galvanize the will and antipathy of the American public. A mere few years after the Pacific War, America again was at war in Asia in the Korean peninsula, and once again, the war on the home front was conducted with an explicit tone of racist xenophobia as Chinese-Americans were placed under surveillance by America's intelligence communities.

During this period, the US considered using nuclear weapons against both the Chinese and North Koreans, but also apparently considered a French plan to nuke the anti-colonial insurgents in Vietnam during the nineteen-fifties. Plus, from the mid-nineteen-fifties onwards, the US began to slowly increase its involvement in the Vietnam war - an involvement that utilized strategies of mass-destruction like Agent Orange and carpet bombing, but was also characterized by personal animosity resulting in countless and commonplace atrocities against the local population. In short, Asians were largely viewed as enemies devoted to destroying America's way of life that few Americans would have preferred over blacks. The reason that there were so few Asians in the US was that Asians were simply not liked, and it was the passing of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act - that would allow unimpeded migration from Asia - that brought Asians closer to the forefront of America's race dialogue.

America, by the mid-nineteen sixties, was a global power that, through a series of alliances, was striving to stem the advance of communism by pushing its own ideology of freedom, democracy, and equality. The problem was that the whole world could see what nonsense that was. Jim Crow (4th section, "Engaging with Africa") and racist immigration policies undermined America's credibility in the very countries of Asia (page 10) and Africa where the fight against communism was taking place. Thus, doing away with racist immigration policy was essential to maintain America's standing with its allies in Asia. The only obstacle was that Americans were largely against immigration reform that would permit unhindered migration of Asians into the country.

Thus, Asian-America's focus on America's social anxieties at the passing of civil rights legislation ignores the - perhaps equally - anxiety-inducing legislation that dramatically altered America's immigration policies. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 removed all of the barriers that up until that point had severely restricted immigration from Asian countries. Given that for decades Americans had been comfortable with immigration and social policies that excluded Asian people, it is not hard to see why the new legislation that would permit a group of people who were largely viewed as enemies to migrate en-masse might have been received with no small degree of trepidation. A Harris Poll of the time found that almost two-thirds of Americans opposed the act, and another 18% were undecided. America just was not happy with the idea of Asian immigration.

In light of this anti-Asian racism of the time, as well as the overwhelming opposition to the 1965 Immigration act, it seems even more far-fetched to suggest that Asians could possibly have been used as foil in some way to undermine black rights in the American mind. What is more likely is that the New York Times piece was merely an attempt by a liberal-leaning news publication to assuage anxieties about, and shape public opinion in favour of, a very unpopular , but politically necessary, piece of immigration legislation by painting Asian immigrants as a non-threatening and industrious group who make positive contributions to society. That's all it was. Even the US News piece seems to make no attempt to denigrate blacks and even quotes a social worker who explicitly states that the Chinese would exhibit very similar problems to blacks if they were placed under the same circumstances.

To fully understand the scope of American society's opposition to Asian immigration it is worth noting that more than a decade after the 1965 Immigration act, Americans were still voicing misgivings and hostility towards the prospect of Asian immigrants. As these two Harris Poll records show that Americans were in favor of closing the door to Vietnamese refugees, feared that they would take jobs from Americans, and widely believed that they would not be able to integrate. That hardly sounds like a resounding belief in the idea of Asians as a model minority that other minorities should emulate. Even today, some in white America are still smarting about the 1965 Immigration act. Articles like these show clearly that there are some Americans who continue to feel cheated out of their demographic privilege by the 1965 legislation.

By belaboring the dubious assertion that there was, and is, some kind of conspiracy of passive-aggression to embarrass blacks into submission - when several centuries of brutal slavery and decades of Jim Crow failed to do just that - Asian-Americans are not only obscuring history, they are contributing to Asian-American invisibility by deflecting attention away from the Asian-specific racial experiences described above and in so doing deny Asians a deserved autonomous racial perspective.

But, what of the idea that the model minority stereotype continues to be used to "browbeat" other minorities and justify discrimination against those groups? Most recently, public figures like Adam Carolla and Bill O'Reilly utilized the stereotype and its most trendy incarnation, Asian Privilege, to deny that racism is the inhibiting force that minorities say it is. I will discuss the Carolla and O'Reilly use of "Asian privilege" rhetoric in my next post, but for now, I ask the question; is there evidence that those who believe the model minority stereotype also exhibit racist attitudes towards blacks that are justified by, and derived from, it? Unfortunately, the answer is not as straight-forward as the examples of Carolla and O'Reilly would make it seem to be.

A study by the Northwestern University of Law found a tenuous correlation between those whites who adhere to the model minority stereotype and a corresponding adherence to anti-black attitudes. Even where a correlation was present, there was no reason to believe that the model minority stereotype was a causative factor in forming anti-black attitudes, merely that there was a pattern or correlation. Do Asian-Americans really believe that white racism requires an Asian intercessory justification to legitimize its existence in the minds of those who adhere to it? From the study....
..generally non- Hispanic whites who believe that Asian Americans work harder than whites are not less sympathetic to blacks’ need for greater government assistance (see Table 1). Put slightly differently, the belief that some Asian Americans have “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” does not necessarily accompany the view that all groups should do the same.
More significantly, the study found a strong correlation between the belief that Asians are hard-working and successful and a belief that Asians experience no discrimination. In other words, the model minority stereotypes  hurts Asians, by obscuring the fact of anti-Asian racism, more than it informs negative attitudes towards other minority groups.
The Model Minority Hypothesis would predict that those who consider Asians smart, hard working, or wealthy tend to think that Asian Americans are not discriminated against..........Among non-Hispanic whites, the belief in most of the five positive model minority stereotypes correlated very strongly with the perception that Asian Americans faced little or no discrimination in the job market or government assistance for other minority groups.......Similarly, those non-Hispanic white respondents who believe that Asian Americans are wealthier or harder working than other minorities also tend to be more likely to believe that Asian Americans face little or no housing discrimination.
The study's conclusions?
Overall, there is no relationship between positive views of Asian Americans and negative views of African Americans. Where significant relationships exist, they usually tend to undercut the Model Minority Hypothesis, rather than support it. ....On balance, we found no significant support for the concern that those who espouse model-minority-like beliefs are more likely to oppose affirmative action for African Americans in employment or college aid, to believe that blacks have too much government influence, or to believe that we spend too much money on schools in black neighborhoods (see Tables 1 and 2).
In other words, it is particularly those who hold the stereotype of Asian Americans as hard working compared to whites who show intermittent favoritism for immigration, immigrants, Asian Americans, African Americans, and government programs to help them—no “Yellow Peril” here.
The data showed no general pattern of correlations between beliefs that Asian Americans are smarter, harder working, or richer than other minorities and hostility to immigrants, Asian Americans, or African Americans.
Ouch. There is no reason to believe that whites who hold to the model minority stereotype also exhibit a corresponding antipathy to other minorities. In fact, those who view Asians as model minorities also view other minorities sympathetically. This suggests that despite conservative pundits' use of the model minority stereotype to race-troll, average Americans aren't buying it.

Although it is almost certainly true that politicians and media pundits make rhetorical plays on the stereotype, there is little reason to believe that there is widespread adoption of these attitudes in the general population. There is also reason to believe that the idea that Asians receive favorite status or some kind of special treatment from whites - the "Asian Privilege" theory - is little more than a concocted fantasy. After all, few believe that Asians experience discrimination such that it would warrant special treatment. Believing that Asians are more hard-working than other groups simply does not correlate with any notion that blacks and immigrants should be denied assistance, nor is there reason to believe that the model minority stereotype confers political or social benefits on Asians. I wonder if the entirely Asian-American created notion of Asian privilege has done more to generate resentment from other minority groups than the model minority stereotype.

What all of this suggests is that one of the foundational concepts in Asian-American thought is in dire need of revision. Primarily because focusing on how the model minority stereotype affects other groups - which seems to be not at all - we are implicitly obscuring the patterns of racism that have affected Asians for decades and further handicapping our credibility as deserving participants in the race dialogue.

Conservative politicians and pundits are able to use Asians as battering rams against other minorities precisely because Asians have little opportunity in the mainstream to present their own point of view. Asian-American commentators aid this marginalization by criticizing Asian-focused narratives for being Asian-focused.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The First Rule Of Asian-American Advocacy Is.....

.....You Don't Talk About Asian -American Advocacy.

Back in October of 2014, a guy by the name of Jack Linshi wrote what I thought was a refreshing article in Time magazine in which he discussed the place of Asian-Americans in society's dialogue on racial diversity. His thesis was simple; society's conceptualization and media-driven perceptions of Asian-Americans has resulted in their not being considered in the diversity equation. Significantly, he points out the damaging effect that the model minority stereotype has had on marginalizing the Asian-American voice, and hence, its consideration, from America's race dialogue. What Linshi did not know was that he had committed one of the cardinal sins of Asian-American politics.

As I lamented in this post - here - Asian-American activists and social commentators for some bizarre and inexplicable reason seem to have developed a negative knee-jerk reaction to any commentary written by Asian-Americans that have a specific focus on Asian-Americans. There is a bizarre tendency to be critical of Asian-American commentaries that don't also bring the issues of other demographics to the table. According to these folks, if you focus on Asian men, then your piece is flawed because you have not mentioned Asian women (although, the reverse scenario seems to be acceptable), if you talk about anti-Asian racism, then your piece is flawed because you didn't mention anti-black racism, if you focus on the detrimental effects of the Model Minority stereotype has on Asian-Americans, then your piece is flawed because it doesn't mention global warming (that one was jesty, but you get my point). In short, Asian-Americans are unreasonably critical of any commentaries on the community that are in any way presented as independently significant in their own right.

So, naturally, I was not surprised when a "response" to Linshi's piece was published in an online mag called "The Toast" that pretty much stayed true to the custom of diminishing the credibility of an autonomous Asian-focused racial experience. The Linshi piece shines a nuanced light on how the model minority stereotype has fundamentally worked to render Asians socially and politically invisible such that indications of discrimination against Asians in promotion in the tech industry - as well as the rich history of anti-Asian racism - are largely ignored as insignificant by the white majority, minority diversity advocates, and even Asian-Americans. By contrast, the Toast piece seems to want to constrict our conception of the Asian-American experience such that the notion itself has no meaning.

As Linshi points out....
Asians and Asian-Americans are smart and successful, so hiring or promoting them does not count as encouraging diversity. It says: there is no such thing as underrepresentation of Asians and Asian-Americans. The problem with this belief, historians and advocates assert, is that it not only obscures the sheer range of experiences within Asian and Asian-American populations, but also excludes them from conversations about diversity and inclusion in leadership and non-tech sectors..........Not that this exclusion is a new phenomenon. Historians agree that diversity has turned a blind eye to Asians and Asian Americans ever since the 1965 Immigration Act.
Overall, Linshi's piece sheds lights on the most destructive aspect of the model minority stereotype; that it excludes Asians from the dialogue on their own experiences. Because they are marginalized and rendered invisible, they have almost no part in setting, or even contributing to, the agenda on diversity and race - in part because Asian-Americans reactivists themselves seem to conceive of Asian issues as merely a parasitic addendum to other minorities' problems with little, or no, autonomous significance in their own right. I on the other hand, maintain that anti-Asian racism is both fundamental to, and is the very basis of, white supremacist philosophy. Although Linshi does not say it, the unspoken (and perhaps, unintended) implication is that marginalization of Asian-Americans via the model minority stereotype benefits both the white mainstream whose anti-Asian xenophobia means that it doesn't particularly want to see a politically and socially influential Asian minority, but also non-Asian minorities who seem to increasingly view Asians as a stumbling block to their own advancement as well as to diversity itself.

Another piece written in the Daily Beast by Tim Mak expands on  this notion. Mak is more direct about it though....
Paradoxically, Asian Americans are considered minorities when white activists seek to challenge affirmative action but not considered minorities or contributors to diversity when other activists seek to promote it. We’re objects used to prove a political point about other ethnic groups rather than a group whose successes and failures are judged on our own.
Unsurprisingly, this refreshingly straight-forward piece that hints at the uncomfortable possibility that Asians are used as both a foil by the white mainstream to obscure their own racism but are also viewed as the unwanted red-headed stepchildren of the diversity demagogues, has not been embraced -  or even discussed - by the online Asian-American reactivist network. This may also be partly because the piece implies that maintaining  the marginalization of Asian-Americans provides a useful tool for both white supremacy as well as its black/Latino nemesis.

The Toast rebuttal-esque piece epitomizes the kind of pompous and self-important, yet devoid of substance, content that seems to accompany any attempt to bring an autonomous Asian-American voice to the table. The piece is based on an e-mail exchange between two - I presume - Asian-American journalists, Sarah Jeong and Nicole Callahan. Although the whole piece reads like a manifesto of self-importance, these two points, in particular, stood out for me......
Sometimes we are “left out” because we don’t face the same racism. I think it’s rather disingenuous to claim to be “left out” of the black/white framing, and then conveniently ignore or not talk about the ways Asian Americans benefit from not being seen as black.
And.....
But it also doesn’t make much sense to talk about race or the model minority myth at all without acknowledging white supremacy and the anti-blackness at its root........Yes, talking about racism and discrimination against Asian Americans is extremely weird without broaching how the model minority myth has been used as a weapon against both black and brown people.
Quite frankly, I don't see how you can motivate Asians to want to fight white supremacy by telling them that their own racial experiences are irrelevant and that they have nothing unique to contribute to the process. Somehow, Asian-American social justice commentators seem to hold to the principle that Asian advocacy is about stifling an autonomous Asian voice and co-opting the black one, like parasites. Some inspiration.

Even worse, though, this self-disqualifying of Asians from having a voice in America's race dialogue is attained by misunderstanding Linshi's point.  By my reading, the gist of the Linshi piece is not to claim that Asians are left out of the black/white framing, but to suggest that the black/framing is a hopelessly inadequate framework to effectively describe America's diverse racial experience. Even if you accept with full uncritical faith - as many seem to do - the axiom that anti-Asian racism is rooted in anti-blackness (in fact, history suggests the opposite is true - that the racial thinking that made anti-blackness possible and legitimate is predated by, and rooted in, anti-Asianism), you will find yourself unable to adequately describe America's diverse racial experiences. All roads do not lead to anti-blackness and the insistence that they do contributes nothing meaningful to America's race dialogue, particularly where it concerns Asian-Americans.

Asians are left out of the race dialogue for one reason and one reason alone; we are marginalized and offered few opportunities to actually present our experiences in our own words and on our own terms. That is the real damage of the model minority stereotype; it diminishes the credibility of Asian-American claims to negative racial experiences and casts doubt on anti-Asian racism as a significant issue. Ironically, the Toast piece does pretty much the same thing.

Linshi writes.....
Yet the movement to push Asians and Asian-Americans into conversations of diversity and inclusion has fizzled out in recent years. Asian-American activism, historians believe, was at its peak following a national outcry after two white men escaped prosecution for their 1982 racially-charged murder of Chinese-American Vincent Chin. Nascent groups like American Citizens for Justice and the Coalition Against Anti-Asian Violence demanded equal treatment of Asian-Americans both under the law and in society. The fight for Asian-American equality may be less fierce today, but it is still there.
My take is that one possible reason why the "movement to push Asians and Asian-Americans into conversations of diversity and inclusion" might have fizzled out is that Asian-Americans - as the Toast piece illustrates - are stifling it. Asian-American "advocates" have created a hostile environment where those who want to actually focus their advocacy on Asians are deemed to be, or denounced as, anti-black, wicked model-minority embracers, or just not "down". In short, those historical efforts to  give Asians a voice in the diversity dialogue have been subverted by a new generation who seem to have run out of original things to say, so they co-opt anti-anti-blackness movement rhetoric and try to squeeze every possible scenario into some unfeasible manifestation of the black/white dichotomy.

One such scenario is the model minority stereotype, which - according to many Asian-Americans in the know - was created, and exists, solely as a means to embarrass other minorities, discredit welfare programs, and roll back civil rights gains achieved in the nineteen-sixties. I will expand on this conception of the stereotype in my next post, but for now it will suffice to say that there are plenty of reasons to think that the model minority stereotype is, and was, far more complex than simply a conspiracy to pit minorities against one another.

In summary, as long as Asian-Americans continue to diminish and stifle efforts to give our community its own voice and perspectives in the diversity conversation, we will continue to be marginalized, or worse still, not taken seriously. Borrowing the terminologies and rages of black activism - though ostensibly noble - just makes us parrots of someone else's experiences. In some ways there seems to be an element of abdication of responsibility in the sense that it is easier (but not braver) to appropriate the ready-made activist agenda of black advocacy than it is to create an Asian-American ontology from the rich history of anti-Asianism.

On a final note, another thing to consider is whether diversity and the credibility of one's input to the conversation on it must be - as the Toast piece seems to imply - correlated with the degree or severity of the experience of racism. It seems like even more abdication of responsibility to suggest that one has to experience harsher racism to earn the necessary credibility to deserve to give input to the diversity dialogue. Do I really need to have been severely beaten by skinheads, harassed by the police, or racially mocked on national broadcast television to be able to put forward a meaningful and legitimate contribution to the conversation? It seems silly and unhelpful to dismiss an entire community's input because of simplistic notions of who suffers more and harsher prejudice.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Where Am I?

Just wanted to post an update on my low blog activity of recent weeks. I have been focusing my attention on putting the finishing touches to my book and have not had the time to focus on the kind of in-depth commentaries that I like to post on this blog.

The book is all but finished - the story itself has been completed - but because there are some twists and turns in the plot, some of which don't work with parts of the book I wrote several months back, I am going through aligning all of the loose ends, and doing some preliminary editing.

Once this is complete, my wife will go through it and do a proper edit, and then we'll see! My plan is to self-publish, but I recently learned of a publisher that focuses on Asian-American themes, so I may be interested in going that route.

Anyways, hope to resume normal broadcasting soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Interracial Dating And The Disparity.

Are Asian Male Concerns Justified?

There was an interesting discussion over on the bigWOWO website that began as a post about the increasing visibility of black female and white male pairings in popular cultural productions. Naturally, the discussions moved rapidly onto the Asian-American disparity in interracial dating. The most interesting point to be raised concerned the idea of whether there is merit to the, sometimes, zealous, concern exhibited by Asian men for the reportedly-higher-than-usual-outmarriage/dating-rates-of Asian women and the documented reluctance of women of all races to consider Asian men as suitable partners. Or, is the subject unworthy of exploration, that can and should be dismissed as mere navel-gazing for a "privileged" demographic?

Some suggest that by way of comparison to other issues like discrimination in the workplace and race-engendered poverty, the complaints of Asian men on their stereotype-hampered dating and marriage opportunities are merely trite distractions from more significant issues. On the face of it, the idea that discrimination in the workplace is more significant than attitudes in dating choices that discriminate against specific racial groups seems logical. Denying or hampering people's opportunities to find gainful employment or be treated fairly in the promotion process seem vastly more important than whether any given Asian man is able to get a date. Yet, the two issues are interconnected and more similar than most of us are willing to acknowledge.

Institutional racism no longer exists. There are no laws that mandate racial discrimination in employment and housing - in fact, those found to have pursued a practice of prejudice can be, and often are, levied with penalties and legal judgements for doing so. What this means is that in the hiring/promotion process, housing, and any other activity of society, prejudice is only - can only - ever be practiced as a matter of personal choice. If an employer decides before he or she has interviewed an applicant that they will not be hired because of the race of said applicant, then that is personal-choice discrimination, which may be based on ideas and beliefs derived from cultural stereotyping that shape the employer's attitudes and willingness to work or live in close proximity with minorities. The similarity to racialized partner choices is obvious.

Stereotypes and preconceived notions shape people's decision making in hiring and housing just as much as they shape their decisions in personal relationships. Refusing to hire or rent to a minority person because you don't want to spend eight-hours a day with them in the office, or see them next door every morning and evening when you come and go from your home, is fundamentally the same process as dismissing minorities as life partners. This is especially true when both actions could arguably be the result of an adherence to casual media racial stereotypes that propagates ideas of things like minority criminality or diminished masculinity.

Ostensibly, it might seem absurd to consider dating and marriage opportunities to be anywhere near as significant as workplace and housing discrimination. Yet, underlying dating and marriage is the biologically-driven function of procreation and partnering, which happen to be one of the primary functions of most of the animal and plant life on the planet. In fact, apart from the survival instinct, the drive to procreate and partner is probably one of the most fundamental drives in human nature - and sometimes the drive to leave progeny outweighs even the survival instinct, as evidenced by accounts of people risking their own lives to save their own, or even other people's, children. Concerns about prejudices and derogatory stereotypes that hamper one's capacity to find a partner and engage in the function of procreation taps into and threatens an extremely profound human physiological function. Clearly, this is not a laughing matter, nor is it necessarily less significant than issues of discrimination in other areas of life, and neither should these concerns be summarily dismissed as merely the whines of men who can't get dates.

In fact, there is no moral difference between personal race-based preferences in employment and housing and in personal race-based choices in whom people choose to date and marry. The difference is one of legality, yet, it raises uncomfortable questions about the role that civil society plays in maintaining racist attitudes and hierarchies, particularly in the creative arts industries that possibly exert the greatest influence over society's conception of racial minorities and these minority's capacity to fully enjoy the fruits of democratic life.

A comparison to the struggle for gay marriage rights and illustrates the powerful role that civil society can play in bringing about political change. Promotion of gay marriage rights has occurred both in the legislative and judicial branches of government but, interestingly, has also seen a strong promotional drive amongst private institutions particularly cultural institutions. In other words, not only has the fight for gay marriage rights had a legal component, there has also been a significant drive within civil society to promote it, especially in the media.

An article in the online magazine Wired suggests that this drive in civil society to present positive images of gay men and women that normalize their life-choices has correlated with an increase of tolerance and acceptance of gay marriage. This is what it says...
Back in 2008—clearly a big year for LGBT rights—the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and a research team from Harris Interactive did a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults 18 and older and found that two in 10 of them had changed their views of gays and lesbians in the previous five years to a more favorable one. 
Their reasons? Some said it was because they knew a gay person, some said news programs shifted their views, others noted that family or friends had persuaded them. Also, 34 percent said their views were influenced by seeing gay or lesbian characters on TV, and 29 percent said it was by a gay or lesbian character on film.
What is significant here, is this interplay between the work of governing institutions and the activities of civil society. Healthy democracies adhere to a strict separation of government influence in civil society, yet, as the article above illustrates, the activities of civil society have the potential to create shifts in public opinion to the extent that it can affect the degree of support any given issue receives and, hence, the political dialogue itself.

Since the fight for gay marriage rights has involved, both a political activism to legalize it and the social activism of civil society to create more positive perceptions of, and accepting attitudes for, gay partnerships in general, it is inconsistent to claim that society and politics view people's personal relationships - or more specifically, their opportunities to pursue relationships unhindered by political or societal sanction - as somehow irrelevant or less significant than other issues. The two-pronged assault on anti-gay prejudices that is legally discriminatory and socially hampers their pursuit of meaningful and open relationships offers a clear indication that both politics and civil society views freedom to pursue relationships, unhindered by prejudices, as a significant issue.

Thus, Asian men's concerns about the negative impact that racist attitudes and civil society-driven stereotypes have on their capacity to pursue meaningful relationships are far from insignificant. It is merely a measure of the marginalization of the Asian-American experience that these concerns are scorned by both the mainstream, but even more significantly, within Asian-America itself. What this amounts to is that even Asian-Americans are utilizing the structures and sensibilities of mainstream America to participate in the marginalization of Asian men.

The process of choosing a partner is one of the most significant decisions one can make in life, and is arguably the most important decision that many people will ever make, and for most people is the single most defining decision of their lives. Is it funny or deserving of eye-rolling impatience when Asian-American men notice that this primordial drive, that is fundamental to almost all biological existence, is being hampered and hindered by a civil society that normalizes dehumanizing stereotypes of them, and a political culture that plays off xenophobic doubts of Asian humanity to win votes? After all, limiting the growth, influence, and identity of any minority through demeaning them culturally is as serious as racist immigration policies that seek to do the same.

At this point, it is worth noting that there may be a specific demographic component that contributes to the heated nature of much of the dialogue on this issue that takes place mainly on internet spaces. My observation and sense is that those Asian men who complain the most vehemently about the disparity seem to hail largely from one of two age-groups; the mid- to late-teens (or high school graduate age), or the late-teen to early-, mid-twenties age range.

If this observation is accurate, this is significant because such young adults represent a demographic that we could call the "pre-accomplished" and that partnering anxieties amongst Asian men in this demographic may be amplified and interwoven with the normal maturation stage experienced by men of all groups during which they strive to discover a mature identity. In other words, at an age when there is a biological and cultural shift into a life stage when it is normal to notice and want to connect with the opposite sex, young Asian men discover that culture and society have created an environment that hampers this normal process.

What this could also suggest is the possibility that the shift from childhood into young adulthood, and from high-school to college, for Asian-American men marks a first direct acquaintance with the outcome of gender-specific anti-Asian racism. That is not to say that young Asian-American boys do not experience racism prior to high-school graduation - which many, perhaps most of us, do. It means that for many young Asian-American men the shift into the college and young adult environment comes with a realization that all of that casual racism they may have experienced throughout childhood from peers reflects far more than merely "kids being mean", and may, in fact, reflect a pervasive conditioning process for American society that demeans Asian people and their cultures, but also normalizes and legitimizes mainstream America's intrusion into our personal and private sexual particulars as well our opportunities to fulfill fundamental human drives like partnering and procreation.

Those (specifically, within the community) who condemn and ridicule young Asian men for reacting angrily to such a process are not only skirting the negative side of moral behaviour, they are launching a fundamental attack on the wider process of Asian-American empowerment and efforts towards normalization of our community issues. For instance, we pay lip-service to the poor state of mental health awareness within the community and decry the culture of shame of this issue within Asian-America. Yet, all too often - actually more often than not - Asian men are dismissed as pathetic and annoying for reacting angrily to what is an injustice as significant as workplace discrimination. All of the emotional and possibly psychological processes that go hand-in-hand with that be damned.

In summary, given that personal choice drives both workplace discrimination and partnering choices, it seems arbitrary to claim some kind of moral primacy for one issue over the other. Thus, Asian male concerns about the cultural and social hampering of their partnering opportunities are legitimate concerns - as legitimate as concerns about cultural and social stereotypes that make some people not want to live near or hire minorities. Both are about personal choice. Granted, the aggressive and sometimes abusive approach of some Asian men - usually on internet spaces - is not conducive to dialogue, but to label even this type of reaction as merely some kind of bitterness or lack of game, avoids the possibility that there may be a poorly mapped road for how to deal with anti-Asian racism in general, and gender-specific, anti-Asian male racism in particular. In short, a summary dismissal of the subject is tantamount to marginalizing a demographic because they have not figured out a way to address the racism in their lives.

Asian male concerns about casual racist beliefs that hinder their partnering opportunities arguably derive from the same process that drives workplace discrimination, and, thus, deserves a more empathetic response from the community, as well as a more significant place in the Asian-American dialogue on our racialized experiences. To do otherwise is to uphold racism.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Asian Artistic Tradition

The Power Of Narratives.

There has been an interesting discovery of prehistoric art made in caves of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi that has thrown some doubt on the long-accepted narrative of how art originated as a practice and as an indicator of the development of abstract thinking in the evolution of the human mind. Until this most recent discovery, the oldest examples of cave art had only been found in Western Europe and have been dated back to around forty-thousand years. The Sulawesi cave art is at least as old - if not older - than all of the cave art found in Europe.

Although interesting in and of itself, there is another aspect to the phenomenon of prehistoric cave art that is worth talking about. I have written many times about how history and the historical experience are cornerstones of culture and identity. Personal history defines our individual view of the world and is further shaped and given context by the norms outlined by cultural narratives of society that are drawn from the historical experience. For instance, our American historical experience of fighting against unjust British rule contributes to the ongoing cultural narratives of  freedom-loving American individuals who reject and stand up to tyranny at home and in the world, fostering a national identity of a society of individuals who are fundamentally on the proper side of moral choice who make personal decisions based on an internal mechanisms of reason, and not some social conditioning determined by factors beyond our immediate consciousness. It's all about the narrative.

As this interesting documentary from the BBC suggests, cave art marks a point in human cognitive development when the race began to see, and express through art, deeper meanings in the objects and things around them and thus expand their understanding of their place in the world through abstract thinking about the real world. In other words, cave art reflects an awareness of differences between humans and other animals, hence, art is the indication of an evolving or developing agency. In Western thinking, this notion of personal agency has been a huge influence on social and political ideas.

On the positive side, personal agency lies at the root of the idea of individualism and the concept of individual rights. At the same time, imperialism and white supremacist thinking have justified themselves partly by denying or downplaying the existence of, or potential for, personal agency among the world's non-white races. Although these ideas existed long before the discovery of prehistoric European cave art, the idea that Europeans "invented" art and, thus, became the first group or race to make the cognitive leap into a more sophisticated conceptualization of agency, fits nicely into the narrative of the mature and superior agency of the white race.

As this BBC article covering the story suggests, European cave art marks a significant milestone in human cognitive ability, the implication being that there was some kind of tradition of European reason that can be traced all the way back to the prehistoric era......
For decades, the only evidence of ancient cave art was in Spain and southern France. It led some to believe that the creative explosion that led to the art and science we know today began in Europe.
Similarly, the BBC documentary proposes a narrative that implies a continuity of creative lineage from the cave art of prehistoric France to the remarkable sculpted megaliths of Gobekli Tepe in southern Turkey several thousand years later, that extends further back into antiquity the more familiar  narrative of Western Civilization beginning in what is now Iraq - a region that somehow was "western" in antiquity, but is now Middle Eastern.The narrative implies continuity and associations that can only be described as hopeful and tenuous. But it all supports the narrative and that is what is important.

The BBC article again.....
The discovery of 40,000-year-old cave paintings at opposite ends of the globe suggests that the ability to create representational art had its origins further back in time in Africa, before modern humans spread across the rest of the world........"That's kind of my gut feeling," says Prof Stringer. "The basis for this art was there 60,000 years ago; it may even have been there in Africa before 60,000 years ago and it spread with modern humans".
The cynic within wonders if the idea of an Asian origin to art and reason is such anathema to the western narrative (and present-day political sensibilities) that accepting Asia as the birthplace of creative expression is like daylight to a vampire. No, if Europe can't be the birthplace of art (and subsequently science), then the Asians certainly won't be allowed to claim it! They would rather give it to Africa.

Yet, the BBC documentary contradicts this hypotheses that there needs or is likely to be  common African origin. According to it, the imagery of cave art is the result of stimuli on the human brain that is experienced during "trance-like" episodes. That's why, it is suggested, cave art from 30,000 years ago in France resembles cave art from Africa 2,000 years ago - shaman enter the trance-like state and return with trippy ideas that they then paint onto the walls of caves. Similarity between cave art as distant as France is from Indonesia need not mean a common origin elsewhere - it could be the result of a common human physiological response to trance-like states possibly induced by hallucinogens (why else would - or could - anyone crawl into the deepest, darkest, recesses of prehistoric caves to draw polka dot covered animals and stencils of their hands unless they were fucked.up).

But cynicism aside, it is hard not to notice the parallel of the white-washing of Asians out of this country's  cultural narrative (itself occasionally a feat of historical revisionism) and what seems to amount to a similarly aversive ad-hoc denial of Asia as the birthplace of art. If it makes people feel any better about it, it is likely that the Asians who produced this ancient rock art were of a different ilk to present-day Asians.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Lost Without You.....

Ferguson And Are Asian-Americans Stupid?

I generally avoid topicality in my blog posts particularly when it comes to race issues because, all too often, I find that it is all too easy to get caught up in the cycle of reacting and emoting so much that not much else gets offered or if it is, it is drowned out by the passion of the moment. The recent tragic shooting death of Michael Brown by a white police officer (Darren Wilson) is one such case where I felt it would be better to put some time and space between the killing and any commentary. A couple of posts by Asian-Americans in particular caught my attention.

An "aggregator" piece in The Bamboo Post ran with the headline  "Asians Should Care About What's Going On In Ferguson!" - exclamation mark mine - and wrote......
But even though many Asians (I’m sure) are following the story, they may not know how it affects them.
Meanwhile, Soya Jung over at Racefiles writes a piece titled;  "Why Ferguson Matters to Asian Americans which fills Asians in on why Ferguson is important to them.
Japanese and Chinese American organizations and leaders were active in creating the model minority myth, and they embraced anti-blackness. But Asian American identity was forged in the crucible of the black liberation struggle, and also centered demands to end imperialism and war. This is what it means to be Asian American. I choose resistance.
Even though I question the assertion that embracing the model minority myth is an implicit embrace of anti-blackness (and the assertion that Asian-American identity is heavily dependent on the black struggle), what I struggle with most is the implication in the Jung piece, and the explicit sentiment in the Bamboo Post piece, that Asians somehow just don't know how to make moral decisions without the guiding wisdom of activists or are somehow incapable of forming a meaningful or sympathetic opinion about social issues in general and the Ferguson case in particular.

In all fairness, it should be mentioned that the Racefiles had in mind an article written by an African-American journalist in The Root, who was shocked that the Asian-American Journalist's Association (AAJA) had failed - at the time the Root piece was written - to issue any statement of condemnation for the heavy-handed policing in Ferguson, particularly with regards to their suppression, intimidation, and abuse of journalists covering the events. But the actions of journalists cannot possibly be used as a gauge of the general attitudes of the whole community, as the apparent response of the Hispanic community to the events in Ferguson shows.

Despite the satisfactorily swift condemnation by both the respective African-American and Hispanic journalists associations, general interest amongst the general communities of both groups has apparently been dramatically different. According to the Pew research Center, whilst 54% of blacks had "shown most interest" in the events in Ferguson, only 27% of whites, and 18% of Hispanics have shown a similar interest. At the same time, 80% of blacks and 50% of Hispanics, and 37% of whites, believe that the Brown shooting raises questions about race. Asian-American opinions were not solicited for the poll - LOL!

The point here is that it is impossible to make any meaningful assessment of Asian-American attitudes toward the incident since they are - as usual - not included in polls that cover the issue, they are sometimes somewhat disconnected from the activists and media who claim to represent them, and thus, any attempt to portray their attitudes must be mere guesswork and probably not too constructive. In fact, it seems as though it would behoove us to take the position of investigators into Asian-America rather than using guesswork and projection to act as shapers of perceptions about them. The Pew study shows a remarkable apathy amongst non-blacks on the subject of Ferguson, as well as a false presumption that the reactions of journalist associations in any way reflects the general attitudes of the communities they represent.

We simply do not know what Asian-American attitudes and responses to this issue are, and very few of us are in any position to claim to be able to speak on behalf of, or even merely claim that their particular viewpoint - which no doubt for Asian-American bloggers must be more enlightened than those of the rank and file drudge Asians - is not shared by, or any different than, "mainstream" Asian-American attitudes.

I came across an interesting article in the online National Journal publication that covered a Chinese School in St Louis that has become part of the city's desegregation drive. As a public school, students who live in the city attend free of charge, and lessons are entirely in Chinese for the first three years of attendance. Started by educator Rhonda Broussard in 2012, the school offers opportunities for multilingual education in a multi-ethnic setting for kids - many of whom come from deprived backgrounds. As you can see from the article, Asians are playing a significant role in the drive to help end the cycle of poverty and poor educational experiences by giving kids skills that they might not normally be exposed to.

The point here is that it is all well and good to make sweeping statements (pointing no fingers here) about how Asians should or could behave, but the real work gets done when people set up the structure whereby Asians can make a meaningful contribution using skills that they already possess and are willing to impart to those who might not have the same opportunities that they had. Put another way, instead of telling Asians that they don't do enough, or that they don't do enough for our personal tastes, why not actually present a method and a means by which Asians can - and most certainly would be willing - to play a role?

For those who designate themselves as activists - online or otherwise - is it more helpful to decry supposed moral or behavioural shortcomings of Asian-Americans than it is to actually present a realistic course of action that can inspire and motivate them to participate? Certainly, it is much, much easier to employ rhetoric that wins internet fans and kudos, but after all of the oratory, is there any structure in place that puts the strong words to practical use? My sense is that the Asian teachers in the Chinese Immersion School are having a greater positive effect on race-relations than anything I or any other cyber-observer could possibly have regardless of how eloquent we might be. But, don't talk about them, or the experiences of the countless other Asian-Americans whose lives are directly intertwined with those of the racialized poor. We simply seem content to project our own privileged ideologies onto them.

It seems to me that efforts to contextualize the Asian experience through incidents like Ferguson, merely distract from the tragic event itself by shifting focus away from it. If people want to analyze the issue, then good, but to then spill about the Asian experience, or racialize your feelings, seems to somehow be stealing the attention away - even though that may be completely unintentional. It should be enough - and possibly more potent - to simply voice support without trying to shoehorn the Asian experience into it to give one's empathy more credence. It reminds me of how Vanilla Ice always asserted his credibility by talking about how he "came from the street". The sad part is that there is nothing more beautiful and profound than people who have vastly differing experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs, who through tragic events suddenly find that what gives you pain also gives me pain regardless of how much we have, or don't have, in common from our respective backgrounds.