Monday, July 20, 2015

Asian-American Complicity In Anti-Blackness!

Asian Connivers And Schemers.

I came across an article written for Al Jazeera by Julia Carrie Wong that illustrated perfectly why I view Asian-American progressivism as a vapid and intellectually bankrupt vehicle for shameless self-promotion rather than a legitimate ideology that contributes valuable insights into America's racial dialogue.

In short, the piece explores the concept of "whiteness" arguing that it is an artificial racial category designed to construct a social hierarchy that associates whiteness with "goodness" and non-whiteness with whatever remains. According to Wong, whiteness only impacts race insofar as it delineates between black and "non-black". Contrary to what I had presumed were established historical facts, the article claims the following......
But the induction of Asian-Americans into whiteness doesn’t alter the meaning of whiteness; rather, it’s a reminder that whiteness has never been defined by a person’s country of origin or genetic makeup.
Wong's belief that Asian-Americans have been inducted into whiteness stems from a television show and a solitary study of the demographic makeup of the tech industry that actually cannot reasonably be said to shed light on the racial attitudes of anyone. Worse, whiteness has very much been defined by country of origin and, indirectly, genetic makeup - this is a simple fact of history. "Whiteness" has largely excluded those of non-European origin, explicitly denied the humanity of those of Asian, African and Native-American origin, as well as excluded non-European Caucasians. Clearly, "whiteness" has been founded on an inclusiveness based on genetic makeup and country of origin.

Of course, the problem is that Wong has tied herself up in intellectual knots from which she cannot extricate herself. Since she has claimed that whiteness has no real definition, she cannot really expound on what whiteness entails. If we follow her reasoning to its logical conclusion, then whiteness is a useless heuristic by which to discuss America's race issues - which is blatantly absurd.

Yet, I cannot help but think that this vagueness is deliberate and that this fuzzy definition of whiteness suits Wong's agenda - whatever that may be - because it allows her to make sweeping generalizations and wild claims about Asians without actually having to apply any kind of intellectual rigor to the process. By obfuscating on what "whiteness" means - and I admit, I don't know myself - then it makes it easier to deflect attention away from Wong's shaky reasoning.

While vagueness about what whiteness entails seems to suit Wong's skewed reasoning, it also happens to suit the racial status quo that exists in America - by placing (inaccurately) Asian-Americans in the role of co-conspirators Wong is effectively deflecting attention away from an insistence on white self-reflection and action. By unreasonably inserting Asians into the power dynamic of whiteness, she affords it the luxury of avoiding its own culpability. This goes beyond merely acknowledging racism within Asian-America - it actually deflects attention and resources away from the very source of America's racial injustices. Ironically, this is Model Minority behaviour at its finest - it protects white supremacy by passing, or sharing, responsibility for it to Asian-Americans. Bill O'Reilly could not have done a better job himself.

Of course, the assertion that high Asian-American representation in any particular field - Wong cites the tech industry - is somehow an indication of an induction into whiteness is itself an extremely fuzzy claim. This vagueness is fatal to Wong's thesis since it is almost impossible to decipher what she is trying to say. What it seems like she is saying is that Asian success is implicitly racist and detrimental to African-Americans or she is merely arguing guilt by association - Asians are well represented in an industry normally the reserve of "whites", therefore, whiteness? Asians are complicit because they succeeded? Disturbingly, this sounds like the reasoning and rhetoric of California's 19th Century white nativist bigots who cited the acceptance of low wages amongst Chinese immigrants as a sign of complicity in Capitalism's war on the white working class and utilized this slander to justify the pogroms against Chinese workers all over the West Coast.

The main problem with associating tech industries with whiteness is that it ignores the historical contributions made by Asians in the field and in so doing bypasses the fact that Asians have been present and innovating in the sector since long before it became racist for Asians to be well represented in the industry. FurthermoreAsian countries have also contributed to the conceptual progress of the industry. So to imply that Asians are somehow interloping on a white industry at the expense of blacks and Latinos is beyond absurd - Asians have been integral to the development and growth of the tech industry right from the get go and bear a not insignificant responsibility for its existence as a viable avenue for enterprise for a community that believes that prejudice has limited the options available to them in other industries.

What this means is that Wong's piece is clearly not about relaying facts, but is about rhetoric, hence the use of the term "complicity".

Complicity in this context is an extremely inflammatory term - no doubt deliberately so - that asserts, without offering a shred of evidence that Asians are actively and intentionally engaging in "anti-blackness" by being so well represented in stem fields. A look at some synonyms for the word illustrate this....
Complicity - the state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing: complicity in a crime.
And a couple of its synonyms.....
Connivance -  to cooperate secretly; conspire
Collusion - a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy
What is most noticeable is that these words - slurs if you will - have featured extensively in both the philosophy and specific episodes of anti-Asian sentiment. The notion and belief that Asians are implicitly sneaky, conniving and treacherous are foundational concepts in justifying anti-Asian hostility, exclusion, and, also, drives xenophobia in foreign policy considerations. The idea that Asians are untrustworthy is as old as anti-Asian racism itself and is a prejudice that continues to haunt Asian-Americans. I would actually feel better about Wong's utilization of this fundamental element of anti-Asianism if I thought that she was being deliberately polemic, but I just don't see that degree of intellectual sophistication in her piece or her reasoning.

It has to be said that any discussion on the phenomenon of high Asian representation in the tech industry - and STEM fields in general - is meaningless without mentioning the prejudices and racism that motivates Asian families to push their kids to pursue these careers in the first place. One reason that Asians are encouraged to enter STEM careers - as opposed to the arts, for example - is because of the belief that the greater subjectivity in assessing capabilities in many non-STEM fields leaves Asians more vulnerable to prejudices and disadvantage than in STEM where capabilities can be more objectively assessed. The experiences of aspiring Asian actors and the hostility directed at Jeremy Lin lend credence to this belief.

To me, this is a significant aspect of the phenomenon of the high representation of Asians in STEM. Just as in the past, sport - particularly boxing - was seen as a way for young black men to circumnavigate racism and achieve social mobility, STEM has come to serve that same purpose for the Asian-American community that faces a subtle, poorly defined, and easily denied prejudice in industries where success and ability are measured more subjectively.

This illustrates the grand opportunity that Wong - and Asian-American progressives in general - are squandering with ridiculously childish reasoning and juvenile moral proclamations. There is value in pointing out that it is anti-Asian racism that influences the decisions of many Asian-Americans to enter STEM fields, and that we can, and should, widen the dialogue on race to enable us to include this hugely significant fact. Asian-American progressives seem unable to intellectually juggle the multiple perspectives that America's racial story requires.

There is no conflict of interest to say that in order to create more room for under-represented minorities in STEM we should concurrently put forward ideas for policy drives that creates avenues of opportunity that promotes and encourages Asians to enter non-STEM fields. In other words, instead of labeling Asian-Americans as racist and connivers in "whiteness", why not actually consider ways to create opportunities for Asians outside of STEM fields where the casual racism and exclusion in industries, like, for example, acting, are mitigated. Instead of smug presumptions about the motivations of Asian parents, why not actually put forward ideas for how we can make non-STEM fields less prejudiced towards Asians and create programs that target Asian-Americans for industries outside of STEM?

Unfortunately, this seems too conceptually difficult for Asian progressives to imagine. Their uninspiring answer is to cut Asians out of STEM - where they do not belong -  and let them end up anywhere but "here". It's time for Asian-American activists to start exercising their minds instead of their mouths.

Putting forward strategies for addressing the anti-Asian racism that impels Asians to enter STEM fields is implicitly beneficial to the cause of fighting anti-black racism. If you expand opportunities for Asians in non-STEM careers and address prejudices they might face there that are disguised as "subjective criteria", then you create more room for African-Americans in STEM.

That should be obvious to any reasonable person, why hasn't Asian activism made the connection?

Finally, it needs to be noted that the major elephant in Wong's article is her omission of any commentary on high out-marriage rates of Asian women to white men - yes, The Disparity! - as an indicator of "complicity in whiteness". According to social scientists, inter-marriage is the primary indicator that an ethnic or racial minority has  integrated into the majority culture.

Wong writes.....
The cost of becoming white is hard to measure. It is ethical rather than material. By passively accepting the privileges of whiteness, Asian-Americans become complicit in America’s present system of hierarchy, a system in which the nation’s institutions inflict ongoing injustices on a racial underclass.
What greater acceptance of the privilege of whiteness can there be than to be inducted into intimate union with the group that holds the most privilege and power? What greater complicity could there possibly be? Don't get me wrong here, this is not a diatribe against IR, I am simply holding Wong's reasoning up for analysis and finding it inconsistent. If the cost of becoming white is ethical more than material, then surely there is a greater ethical cost required of those millions of Asian women who are in intimate union with whiteness and who, therefore, have greater opportunities to sway it?

Yet, I do not see - and have never seen - any "progressive" purveyors of the notion of Asian privilege and complicity point the finger at the 30% or so of Asian women married to white men (plus however many are in intimate partnerships) and tell them they have to use their unique position to speak out on racial injustice. There are no other minority demographics of any persuasion in a better position than those Asian women married to white men who can utilize the power of the privilege when - literally - being in union with whiteness to "change the status quo".

If high Asian representation in tech industries is - as Wong suggests - synonymous with whiteness and its anti-black sensibilities, then how much greater must be the implicit racism of high Asian representation in intimate partner unions with whiteness. There is no implicit acceptance of whiteness in striving for a good education and a successful career. There is, however, a hugely implicit acceptance of whiteness and the privileges it confers when one marries or dates into it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Getting Up On Whitey.

Black/Asian Tensions - A Convenient Euphemism?

An article in an online mag called "Mic" that covered the recent Akai Gurley killing by Chinese-American cop, Peter Liang, caught my attention recently. The piece makes the argument that it is the social and political dimensions of the death - rather than the specific circumstances of the incident - that should persuade us against supporting Liang. Furthermore, supporting Liang, the title of the article suggests, will result in "worse racial tension". The article does not explain why this should or would be the case, and neither does it question whether such a reaction would be reasonable or ethical.

Instead, the implication is that such an outcome - i.e. worsened racial tensions - is both natural, reasonable and possibly acceptable. Sadly, justice is not served by committing further injustice. Levelling disproportionate charges against an offender because it satisfies political requirements (which is the fundamental concern of those who support Liang - and not racial prejudice on the part of his supporters) and assuages our frustrations about historical and ongoing racial injustices is as unjust as not indicting policemen who commit brazen murder.

For justice to be justice, the social and political conditions that gave Gurley his hand in life cannot play a role in how Liang is charged or tried. Liang is not guilty of creating the housing projects, nor of their state of disrepair, nor of racial inequalities that makes those living in poverty more likely to be black. If those factors are considered in the case, then justice is not served. Those who support Liang are demanding that he be tried not with social and racial injustices that are beyond his control in mind, but that the specific circumstances of the incident be given the utmost consideration. But the Mic piece fundamentally argues that we should overlook the injustice of charging Liang disproportionately because  there exists so much racial injustice in society. That sounds more like vengeance and scapegoating and less like justice.

Nowhere in the piece is this idea of scapegoating more clearly illustrated than in the words of New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres whom the Mic piece quotes thus...
"If we were as aggressive in policing the housing conditions as we are in policing the residents"  [this might have never have happened.]
This would be hilarious if it did not come on the tail of such a tragedy. The New York City Council bears the sole responsibility for approving the city budget and also monitors the performance of city agencies - which includes New York's public housing authority responsible for the maintenance of the high-rise project where Gurley was shot. How does the New York City Council doing a piss-poor job of ensuring decent housing conditions in its jurisdiction have anything to do with the charges levelled against Peter Liang? In effect, what is being said here is that a membere of the NY City Council admits that it failed in its responsibilities to the people who it represents, contributing (greatly) to the circumstances that led to the tense situation that resulted in the death of an innocent man, and maybe even contributed to the manner of, and raison d'etre for vertical patrols. Yet the implication is that these factors should be considered in Liang's case. This is as unfair as institutionalized racism itself.

Yet it is the dramatic title of the Mic piece - "Supporting This Chinese-American Cop Who Shot a Black Man Only Makes Racial Tension Worse" - that I find to be most disturbing. The idea that an entire community will experience negative outcomes from the actions of a few of them is a classic example of racist thinking. More specifically, it is an acknowledgment that there exists an intolerance amongst blacks for Asian-Americans such that their merely voicing a different opinion of advocating against possible racial injustice against Asians is sufficient to make racial tensions worse.

It looks worse when we consider that Chinese-Americans account for a mere 20% of the population of Asian-Americans and that those who seem to support Liang account for a fraction of that. Yet, their actions will serve as the catalysts for "worse racial tensions". I cannot think of a more clear example of racist mob reasoning. Furthermore, I wonder if - but doubt that - the piece would have been published if it had been directed at white-Americans.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, there were no commentators claiming that Ferguson's white residents' support for Darren Wilson would worsen racial tensions. Yet, here, in the Liang case where there are, objectively, several reasons to be concerned that justice is being twisted for political expediency, we are told to expect a potential worsening of racial tension possibly because those questioning the indictment happen to be Asian. Why, then has no (as far as I know) African-American commentator published an article warning of worsening racial tensions when whites support white cops who kill? Whatever the reasons, there seems to be a clear message that - unlike Asian-Americans - the entire white community will not be held accountable and subject to worsening racial tensions because a minority of them supported killer cops.

An examination of the nature and character of black/Asian tensions might provide some insight to this disparity in attitude. In short, "black/Asian tensions" means two different things to each group. For Asians, these tensions are often experienced as violence. Whereas Asian on black violence is almost unheard of, black on Asian violence seems to be far more prevalent. By contrast, African-Americans seem to experience black/Asian tensions most often as a series of interpersonal slights that are perceived to be an affront to dignity and pride. African-Americans complaints of anti-black violence committed by Asian perpetrators are rare, but there is a long list of Asian victims of violence - ranging from school children to the elderly - at the hands of black perpetrators. Clearly, there is a vast difference in how these "racial tensions" are experienced by both groups.

In the context of the Mic article, to say that there will be an increase in racial tensions could - and should - be viewed as a way of saying that the experience of these tensions by both groups will be intensified. Or, put another way, blacks will experience more hurt pride at the hands of Asians and Asians will experience more hostility and violence from African-Americans.

On the other hand, white-Americans hold most of the power in society and violence between the black and white communities is more mutual. Asians possess no such institutional power. Thus, it could well be that this idea of worsening violence towards Asians reflects a belief that it is less likely to be met with the kind of potential for retaliatory violence that would arise from white society. If not, why were there no commentaries proclaiming the prospect of worsening racial tensions in the aftermath of violence against Asian children and the elderly? The answer is that there is no expectation or probability of anti-black violence to flare up amongst Asian-Americans, and at worst Asian store owners might commit more acts of effrontery to African-American pride.

But it is not just that there seems to be a proclivity towards a casual attitude when it comes to anti-Asian violence in black America. The increasing presence of African-Americans in positions of political and social authority has altered the landscape of black and Asian relations in unexpected ways and there is another extremely disturbing phenomenon that seems to be emerging in the saga of black/Asian relations that goes beyond mere "tension" and hints at more deep-rooted anti-Asian racism in black-America.

In many of the communities where some of the worst and most violent incidences where "black/Asian tensions" have been reported, African-Americans hold influential positions as local politicians, heads of police, heads of school boards, school principals and so on. This means that in many of the spaces where the lives of many Asian immigrants and African-Americans intersect, it is African-Americans who often wield the power of America's institutions. This has not always turned out too well for Asian-Americans.
Council Member Inez Barron and Assembly Member-Elect Charles Barron will be holding a press conference at 12 noon in front of the Brooklyn DA’s Office, following a meeting with District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Office, regarding the shooting death of Akai Gurley, by Police in the Pink Housing development. - See more at: http://www.blackstarnews.com/ny-watch/news/charles-barron-calls-for-arrest-of-liang-nypd-cop-who-killed-akai#sthash.oZM2rYgo.dpuf

The Liang case produced its own example of a skewed application of institutional power.....
Council Member Inez Barron and Assembly Member-Elect Charles Barron will be holding a press conference at 12 noon in front of the Brooklyn DA’s Office, following a meeting with District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Office, regarding the shooting death of Akai Gurley, by Police in the Pink Housing development.......“We are calling on the arrest and indictment of Officer Peter Liang,” says Charles Barron.
This seems like a blatant case of elected officials endeavouring to influence the judiciary to bring about a criminal prosecution - charges which could, objectively, be viewed as disproportionate and biased. After all, why hasn't Liang's partner - Landau - also been charged for not calling in the shooting and not administering first aid? Aside from the fact that democracy itself is predicated on the principle of the strict separation of powers and that there seems to have been an open and unapologetic flouting of this principle to target an ethnic minority individual, the idea of institutional power of elected officials targeting an Asian policeman while ignoring the fact that a white officer also neglected his duties reeks of racial bias. The words "persecution" and "bias" come to mind here.

Even worse, here, these local politicians explicitly stoked, and threatened to stoke, the flames of violence if the judiciary failed to bring the charges that they wanted brought against Liang...
"Unlike my colleagues, I am not calling for peace and calm. I’m calling for us to be hot,” state Assemblyman-elect Barron said, standing beside Gurley’s gal pal, Melissa Butler, at a press conference outside the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.....If you want somebody to be peaceful and calm, tell the police to be peaceful and calm!.....He also demanded that Officer Peter Liang, who fired the single shot that killed the 28-year-old Gurley on Thursday night at East New York’s Louis Pink Houses, be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
To paraphrase this, an elected official insinuated the use of populist violence to pressure the judiciary to bring specific charges against an accused man. Oddly - but not surprisingly considering that the accused is Asian - no one seems disturbed by this abuse of institutional power. At least I have now learned not to expect Asian advocacy to take note, saving me from disappointment that always follows in the wake of expectation.

Sadly, there are several cases in which Asian-Americans - most often immigrants - living in neighborhoods where much of the power of the local institutions rests in the hands of African-Americans find themselves on the wrong end of institutional apathy and apparent bias. The racial targeting of Asian immigrant students by their African-American peers at South Philly High School several years back was investigated by the Justice Department after claims that the victims' reports to school administrators went ignored by the principle and the District Superintendent, both of whom were African-American. The Justice Department found in favor of the Asian students, finding that the district abused their civil rights and engaged in racial bias against them.

More recently, Rochester, NY has seen another explosion of violent racism against Asian immigrants perpetrated by African-Americans under the apathetic eye of African-Americans who hold positions of institutional power. According to the victims, their reports to the police were ignored or not taken seriously even after community leaders held a meeting with police officials.
The anger [of the immigrants] is fueled, he and more than a dozen other residents interviewed say, by hundreds of incidents of robbery and violent and verbal bullying in recent years.......they kept loose documentation of some 300 incidents before a meeting with police two years ago, and hundreds more since, only to see nothing change.........The refugee community typically doesn't report crimes to police because they either fear retaliation, they don't trust police (sometimes because of conflicts with authority in their homelands) or don't think police take their plight seriously.
So, according to the immigrants, the violence cannot be put down to crimes of theft against a vulnerable community - the verbal and violent bullying adds a dimension that goes beyond mere criminal opportunism. The comments of the former African-American police chief - John Sheppard - who met with community leaders are far from inspiring.....
Sheppard described the immigrants as easy targets for crime because they stand out from the rest of the community because of their lighter complexion and facial features.......They may dress different, they may talk different, they tend not to fight back and so that just made them easy victims, easy to identify and the fact that they didn't call police that just made it happen more often.
...that's also known as racism. But it gets even less inspiring. Another officer suggests the following.....
Police Lt. David Gebhardt, who was at the meeting two years ago, said police offered safety classes following the meeting to help the refugees make themselves less inviting to criminals and to become more street smart.
As though somehow the victims of racial violence can change racially motivated crimes by altering their own behaviour. Maybe one of the suggestions to make themselves less inviting to racially motivated crimes might be eye surgery? But Sheppard adds the following.....
There was a time when a lot of Southern blacks were moving from Florida and South Carolina into the Rochester area looking for jobs and they went through the same cycles of discrimination and having to fight back and get a foothold. Then, when they established a foothold, other groups came in whether it was Puerto Ricans or other nationalities and they had to go through the same rites of passage.
This is disturbing to say the least. The idea that racially-motivated violence is some kind of normal rite of passage meted out by African-Americans for newcomers to this country is merely a way of avoiding condemnation of racial prejudice directed at Asians by elements in the black community. No one would dare to make such a suggestion if the perpetrators were white, so why do African-Americans get a pass? Furthermore, the very suggestion that the way to resolve violent racism by "fighting back" avoids the social and political conditions that foster anti-Asian sentiment, but also is an explicit endorsement for the perpetuation of violence - all from the mouth of law enforcement.

In Baltimore itself, despite early indications that there would be targeting of Asian stores, the black mayor of the city did and said nothing to stave off any potential racially-motivated looting - even as the police failed to respond when Asian business owners reported that looting was taking place. These examples illustrate that Asian immigrant experiences of black/Asian tensions engender a gamut of circumstances from black on Asian violence all the way up to apathy and bias amongst African-Americans who hold institutional power that - either by design or unintended consequence - enables or encourages aggression and intolerance of Asian-Americans.

The Mic piece seems to casually accept this aspect of black/Asian tensions and implicitly endorses classic self-righteous racist reasoning that places the blame for racial intolerance on the targets and victims of it. This is not only reprehensible but also extremely disturbing that such an attitude could be expressed and not challenged for its implicit endorsements of racism. Of course, since black/Asian racial tensions manifest most dramatically as black on Asian violence, the article implicitly justifies anti-Asian violence.

This is worrying to say the least, but in the present climate when Asian-American progressives have been prominent in voicing their support for black causes, participated in anti-anti-blackness protests, and shown a willingness to castigate (but also exaggerate) racism within their own community, it is beyond disappointing that those efforts have not translated into a more tolerant and nuanced approach in this black commentary. As Jeff Yang points out (in an article that would have been better suited as a response to the Mic piece), there are many examples of black/Asian cooperation and mutual support, the question is, why is this cooperation and community building between the two groups so easily tossed aside when some Asians voice opposing or unpopular opinions?

If the author of the Mic piece believes that support for Liang will worsen racial tensions, then fine - that may be objectively true - but the passive acceptance of this possibility without any questioning of its rationality or fairness merely serves to justify anti-Asian racism in black-America.

There is nothing implicitly anti-black about the concerns voiced by Liang's supporters - rather, they have highlighted some extremely problematic aspects of the case. Framing their activism as racist - apparently to justify ratcheting up the violence - is the kind of simplistic racist thinking common to all bigoted thinkers. And I'm sorry, but I just don't hold to the notion that racial oppression can justify racist thinking or that those whose communities are heavily victimized by it should be given space to express it uncritically. This would be like saying that we can somehow end racism and racial injustice by being racist and unjust.

This might make sense to some people, but I see no sense in it at all. If a white writer had penned the Mic piece, then I have absolutely no doubt that our advocates would be jumping up and down decrying its implicit endorsement of racial violence. But Asian-America has gotten itself into the habit of dismissing incidents of anti-Asian violence committed by African-American perpetrators out of hand - see Jeff Yang - as though it is a necessary by-product of the fight against anti-blackness. Of course, this merely legitimizes anti-Asian violence and normalizes it as an implicit aspect of the black racial experience. 

Asian-American advocacy's apathy on the plight of the violence against some of the most vulnerable members of our community is a huge dent in the credibility of its pretensions of intersectional activism. There is no logical reason to exclude Asian victims of black racial violence from considerations of justice and failing to do so only reveals the extremely flimsy ethical and intellectual foundations of Asian progressiveness. After all what credibility is there in raising one hand in a fist proclaiming "anti-anti-blackness" whilst flipping the bird at the vulnerable immigrant victims of anti-Asian sentiment with the other?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Anti-Asian Pogrom?

The Looting of Asian Businesses In Baltimore. 

The high-profile shootings of unarmed black men by the police in recent months has brought the state of black/Asian relations to the fore of progressives' discourse - at least for Asian-Americans. Although much has been written over the past several months by Asian-American commentators - often with titles like "Why Asians should care about such and such a black issue" - attempting to forge a narrative of a common black/Asian political and social agenda, it has been noticeable that pretty much all of the commentary to forge this partnership of visible minorities has been done by Asians, with apparently little being said by the other half of the alliance.

Perhaps there does exist an extensive body of work and conceptual analyses that envision a mutual black/Asian power block from an African-American perspective, but so it seems not to be a high priority for them. It seems as though Asians are more invested in the alliance than their black counterparts. The one area where Asian advocates and their black cohorts seem to be in perfect alignment is in their response to reports of anti-Asian sentiment that seemed to creep into the Baltimore riots following the killing of Freddie Gray. In short, the reports of alleged targeting of Asian businesses and the subsequent destruction of many of them have largely been ignored by both Asian-Americans and African-American commentators alike.

The first report that hinted that Asians were being targeted came from the respected news source, NPR, whose piece, although brief, offered a clear picture of the tensions that seem to exist between Asian merchants and the black community in some parts of Baltimore hit by riots. The NPR article notes that although there are those in the black community who have positive and even close relationships with Asian shopkeepers, there are others who harbor resentments and view Asians as interlopers who "give nothing back" to the community.

At least forty-two Korean-owned stores were looted and/or destroyed in the area whilst reports suggest that black-owned businesses were protected and spared. It could certainly be argued that evidence for racially driven looting is inconclusive, although the  main reason for that could be that there seems to be little interest or motivation to actually thoroughly investigate either the experiences of Asian merchants, or claims of racially motivated targeting of their stores. But most noticeable of all is that Asian-American advocacy seems to have no stance, opinion, or point of view regarding this apparent targeting of Asian stores by some black locals.

The best that we seem to have come up with is the effort of progressive CNN writer, Jeff Yang, whose piece seems more concerned that America will get the wrong impression about the character of the riots whilst completely avoiding any hint of empathy for the Asian-American victims of a brutal and terrifying pogrom. It is this disconnect between those who act as spokespeople for Asian-Americans, and those Asian-Americans who have the least political and social clout but who find themselves in the no-man's land of America's racial dialogue that I find troubling.

This disconnect allows Asian merchants - who are most often immigrants with poor English language skills, and who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable group within Asian-America - to be repeatedly excluded from the dialogue on their own experience. Instead, their experience is lost and diminished (and even "gaslighted")  in narratives put forward by progressives such as Yang who exhort us to accept the big picture that effectively leaves targeted Asian merchants as necessary collateral damage in the fight against anti-blackness. Yang quotes Jennifer Lee  thusly....
..the mainstream media continues to pit minority groups against one another to draw attention from larger structural problems that plague poor, disadvantaged communities. By directing our attention to interminority conflict, it directs blame away from the structures that perpetuate gross inequality and toward individual problems.
As you can see, there is no mention of the human tragedy experienced by Asian merchants nor of their looted and destroyed livelihoods - it seems to be forgotten that Asian immigrants often count as poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable. It is probably true that the media promotes this narrative of inter-ethnic conflict - most probably because it makes for exciting viewing as much as for the purpose of deflecting attention away from real social issues - yet, that does not mean that we should ignore the very real possibility that there are elements in black America who harbor racial bias and hostility towards Asians.

The problem is that there is no reason to believe that any anti-Asian sentiment would be assuaged by an improved economic situation, or even that such sentiments are the result of dire economic circumstances. Adhering to this belief ignores the larger picture of xenophobic anti-Asian sentiment in American society that blames Asian economies for taking jobs, resources, and prestige away from Americans who are more deserving of it. The parallels with sentiments expressed by African-Americans are striking - the idea that Asians are taking an economic slice of the pie that rightfully belongs to African-Americans by operating in black neighbourhoods, Asians are taking jobs from locals by unfairly self-employing, and Asians are flaunting their prosperity by looking down their noses at locals, all speak of an entitlement complex that is too similar to mainstream America's negative attitudes towards Asia to be so easily dismissed.

Yang...
....there's little evidence to suggest a pattern in which Asian businesses have been actively targeted out of racial animus.......Instead, it seems as if Asian-owned stores have experienced damage partly because they make up a portion of establishments operating in the most economically vulnerable and socially volatile of neighborhoods. In other words, they were collateral damage, along with other stores in the vicinity of riots.
This is extremely insulting to those Korean-Americans whose stores were destroyed in Baltimore. Does there have to be a pattern of racial animus for racist hate-crimes to be considered as such? The NPR piece that Yang is responding to explicitly reported eyewitness accounts where Asian stores were the only ones targeted.....
But on this particular stretch - picture three treeless blocks of row houses, a lot of them boarded up - the only shops that were targeted were ones owned by Asian immigrants - mostly Koreans.
Speaking of racial animus, one local had this to say......
It's almost like payback, I guess you could say.......For all of the unspoken things that has happened between those businesses and our people, I feel like it was payback.
So, yes, the NPR piece does provide us with sufficient reason to believe that (at least in some cases) Asian stores were specifically targeted and that it was the result of racial animus. Whether or not this constitutes a "pattern" of any kind is completely irrelevant and I think Yang is intelligent enough to know that just because not all looters were targeting Asians stores does not remove the possibility that some were. The absence of a pattern of racial animus in no way precludes incidents of racial animus.

What I find most appalling about the Yang quote above is that he seems perfectly happy to hand-wave away these possible incidents of racial animus (that destroyed people's lives) in order to refocus our attention on what he terms the "real issues". In case he hasn't noticed, racism in America is a real issue and for those Koreans whose stores do seem to have been targeted, it was a very real issue, but Yang has presumed the moral authority to school us on what should really matter to us and whose suffering we should prioritize. That's easy for him to say and it seems his conscience permits him to view the livelihoods of targeted Korean merchants as a price he is willing to pay - all, I suspect from the comfort of a safe neighbourhood that is patrolled by a racist police force. The Koreans on the other hand might not be so thrilled and I don't find this sanctimonious posturing to be particularly ethical either.

Yang's piece gives absolutely no indication that he knows enough about the circumstances of the people or circumstances of that community whose experiences he, remarkably, presumes to be knowledgeable enough of to frame for us. He simply does not seem to have sufficient information to dismiss any reports of racial animus or what seem to be reports of clear incidents of targeting of Asian stores.

Yet, he has presented his piece (and himself) as authoritative on what was happening in a community which he seems to have no first-hand experience of nor does he seem to have actually gone to Baltimore to investigate whether the claims made by NPR are true or not. Thus, I fail to see on what grounds he was able to so thoroughly dismiss the NPR report. His only argument seems to be that we should dismiss claims of racial tension in Baltimore since the media has in the past - and does still - stoke the flames of urban violence with hyperbolic reporting on inter-ethnic tensions, 

It should go without saying that hyperbole does not mean untrue and that just because tensions are melodramatically reported, does not mean they should be dismissed outright.

Interestingly, the NPR piece is actually far from being hyperbolic - if anything it seems balanced and presents several different perspectives. What the NPR report showed was that there are African-Americans in the community who view Asian merchants with great fondness, while others are hateful. No hyperbole there.

I genuinely believe that most African-Americans - even in poor neighbourhoods that are subject to oppressive policing - do not harbour anti-Asian hostility. And I would even suggest that for many (hopefully most) African-Americans, these Asian-owned stores provide an important and convenient service to the local community. If this was not the case, then it is hard to explain how some of these Asian stores could remain in business for the years and decades that they have if they were such terrible racists as some locals suggested. But Yang's approach to frantically dismiss any and all suggestions of racially motivated looting merely plays into the hands of the hyperbolic mainstream media.

It could be that be that one reason the media is even able to stoke racial tensions between blacks and Asians is because prominent Asian-American journalists like Yang marginalize the racial experiences of Asian merchants in black neighbourhoods. The vacuum is naturally filled by the mainstream media. As far as I know, no prominent Asian-American journalist has even bothered to report on what these 42 Korean merchants went through. So don't complain and freak out when the mainstream media does the work of giving these marginalized, invisible, and neglected members of Asian-America a voice and then shape what they say to suit their own racial agenda (although the NPR piece didn't actually do that). Maybe, if Asians themselves were to include these merchants in the narrative of vulnerable communities then the mainstream media would not have the opportunity to take advantage of their invisibility?

I don't agree that Yang's proclaimed "real issues" should exclude the suffering or hardships experienced by Asian merchants in depressed areas. If people are looking to these merchants to be part of the solution to urban dysfunction then it is logical to include them as part of the "real issues" - particularly when their stores are targeted by resentful looting mobs. Losing your livelihood is a real issue and, by its silence or casual dismissals, the Asian media is complicit in protecting, defending, and excusing those who perpetrate these kinds of crimes against Asian merchants. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Editing Is A Bitch

Another Update......

Way back in November of last year I wrote that I had completed my novel, was beginning the process of editing, and was slowing my blogging activity because of this. I had hoped to have the novel finished and either published via a publishing company or (more likely) self-published, probably with Amazon by this summer.

Unfortunately - as the title of this post suggests - editing is turning out to be a far more laborious and painstaking process than I could ever have imagined. My wife is doing the edit and we have, so far, passed the edit between us three times which has taken months. She did the initial edit and gave it to me, I approved - or not - her edit but also found things that I wanted to change! This process has happened three times, which may be normal for the editing process, I don't honestly know.

Every time I read back through the book I find things that I want to fine tune. What I am realizing is that the editing process may not have a natural end point, and that at some point one has to simply say "enough!" and move forward to the next stage of the process. Anyways this is still the reason why my blog productivity has been diminished.

As for the novel, it is an Asian-American historical thriller. I won't promise readers Shakespearean high-literature, but I also know it won't have many - or any - of the qualities typically present in the most highly-regarded Asian-American literature that finds itself embraced by mainstream America. I certainly do not expect mainstream America to embrace my novel! I do promise, however, a narrative of the Asian-American experience that is honest and, in some ways, uncompromising.

Stay posted, will have a new post up within the next few days.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Eddie Huang Scandal

Reactivism For Its Own Sake

A wave of internet reaction has swept the Asian-American online disgruntled-o-sphere, not, as one might fancifully imagine because of reports that anti-Asian sentiment had seemingly crept into the riots in Baltimore, but because of something that Eddie Huang - of Fresh Of The Boat notoriety - said on Twitter.

I don't know much about Huang, except that he is some kind of celebrity chef/media personality who published a well-received memoir (Fresh Off The Boat), which has been turned into a sit-com. The sit-com has been met with huge support from Asian-Americans who seem happy that we are finally the main characters on an Asian-American-centric show. All that came crashing down over the past few days.

It began with Huang's interview on the Bill Maher show, in which - as you can see in the video linked to below, starting at around 5:20 - he stated that....... 
Asian men have been so emasculated in America that we are basically treated like black women......when I sit on OKCupid no one wants to talk to me either..........
Granted, there is a presupposition on Huang's part that the audience will be savvy to those references, but I see no churlish intent on his part. In fact, the comment is vague - too vague to really draw any conclusions about intent or significance unless one is familiar with Asian-American debate subjects. Huang's comment unleashed a Twitter-confrontation and a storm of condemnation from, initially, several black feminists and, subsequently, Asian-American progressives. The whole back and forth can be read here, at Storify, and was initiated by a black feminist blogger who goes by the moniker of Black Girl Dangerous (BGD). Here's the first few exchanges.....

BGD.....
*  Does Eddie Huang have a twitter account because I HAVE QUESTIONS.
*  When you say "Asian men are basically treated like black women" what are you  saying
*  If the point is that society says both groups are undesirable, you need to do a better job of making that clear.
* Otherwise, it sounds like you're just trashing black women for no reason at all. Which frankly, we've had enough of.
* To go on television and lament being "treated like black women" is misogynoir.
Huang replies.....
* in terms of OKCUPID which is what I was referring to, we are least desired, that's what I said
* no one is saying we have the same struggle. i was SPECIFICALLY talking about parallels re: the way we're
BGD...
* But you didn't make it at all clear what you meant. Do you think that audience understood that?
Huang...
* mentioned it because at a ton of my talks i speak about emasculation of asian men and black women in audience sound off too
BGD...
* And right now, this black woman is sounding off. Black women sounding off is only okay if it doesn't challenge you?
Huang....
* that's not what anyone said. you trying to argue or you trying to understand?or you trying to get followers
*they also didn't understand my big lebowski jokes. i'm not going to apologize because people aren't aware. i am.
My take is that both are right - Huang was very vague and even though his intent was benign, if he chooses to speak about issues that mainstream America may not be familiar with, he should be less vague. At the same time BGD did seem to be looking to start an argument regardless of what Huang said - it all turned sour after she (strangely) implied that Huang had an issue with her interrogation. Yet, as any reasonable person can read for themselves, Huang seemed pretty open about answering the questions and explaining himself until that point.

All this aside, what has been most interesting for me is the condemnation of Huang by Asian-American commentators. The general tone of these commentaries has been self-righteous condemnation both for Huang's twitter conduct but also for his actual comments on the Mahler show that led to the ensuing twitter scandal. Yet, Huang did seem to be doing the very thing that the progressives who are criticizing him insist that Asian-Americans do when they try to talk about Asian issues - which is to mention anti-blackness. Remember all those posts I've done on Asian-American progressives which criticize any Asian who focuses on Asian issues without mentioning anti-blackness? Well, Huang did just that - he drew a parallel between an Asian demographic's experience and a black one and now he is being called a racist for doing it by the very people who insist we do just that! It would be laughable except that these guys are serious.

As I have written elsewhere, this Asian-American progressive obsession with anti-anti-blackness reactivism itself seems like a lazy piggy-backing of Asian issues onto black suffering in lieu of taking the time to actually formulate an autonomous Asian-American worldview. In this sense, Huang has more integrity than those Asians who criticize him - he is being honest about his adoption of blackness to promote an Asian agenda, Asian progressives are surreptitiously (even if unintentionally or more likely obliviously) adopting blackness to allow themselves to remain racially invisible and avoid a direct confrontation of society's anti-Asianism.

Yet, if I was to criticize Huang, it would actually be because he, too, has fallen into the trap of trying to explain the Asian experience through anti-blackness, when, in truth, Asian emasculation was the essential spark for the genesis of white supremacy itself, and anti-blackness is a sad and sorry by-product of it. As I pointed out here, people have got things backwards - anti-blackness is ultimately the by-product of the feminization of Asia. This means that the emasculation of Asian men is a subject that need not reference the black experience since it precedes anti-blackness and forms the basis upon which European self-conceptions of superiority are based.

For example, contemplate the musings of such influential thinkers like Aristotle....
The power possessed by all of these [non-Greek Kingships] resembles that of tyrannies, but they govern according to law and are hereditary; [20] for because the barbarians are more servile in their nature than the Greeks, and the Asiatics than the Europeans, they endure despotic rule without any resentment. ....[LINK]
The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skillful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically, for it is both spirited and intelligent......[LINK]
...and Hippocrates....
I say, then, that Asia differs very much from Europe as to the nature of all things, both With regard to the productions of the earth and the inhabitants, for everything is produced much more beautiful and large in Asia; the country is milder, and the dispositions of the inhabitants also are more gentle and affectionate..... Manly courage, endurance of suffering, laborious enterprise, and high spirit, could not be produced in such a state of things either among the native inhabitants [of Asia].....[LINK] 
with regard to the pusillanimity and cowardice of the inhabitants, the principal reason the Asiatics are more unwarlike and of gentler disposition than the Europeans is ......the Asiatic race is feeble, and further, owing to their laws; for monarchy prevails in the greater part of Asia, and where men are not their own masters nor independent, but are the slaves of others.....[LINK]
From an Asian-American perspective, it is almost impossible not to notice just how contemporary these stereotypes of "Asiatics" seem to be. Note the feminization of the Asian character? Or the representation of Asians as servile and submissive to authority? How about the cowardly and "feeble" nature of Asiatics' masculinity as reflected in their non-aggressive predisposition? How anti-anti-blackness reactivism can address these philosophically ingrained modes of thinking about Asia that emerged as the very foundation of white supremacist thinking which informed European self-conceptions about their right and necessity to rule throughout the centuries is yet to be explained.

How these ideas have survived and been handed down throughout the generations is a subject of ongoing investigation for me, but it is almost self-evident that these archaic notions of European exceptionalism through the feminization of Asia have persisted over the centuries. The emasculation of Asia has been both the by-product and driving force of white supremacy's proclaimed right to rule and the subsequent wars and colonial endeavours that this ideology has prompted and justified. This means that the question of Asian emasculation must be at the forefront of the struggle against white supremacy, not a mere footnote in Asian-American progressives' convoluted agenda.

Consider this; in Aristotle's age, the Greek states looked out across the Aegean Sea in both fear and awe at the sheer diversity and size of the unknowable Asiatic masses within the Persian empire that stood poised to engulf Greece's way of life. Racial stereotypes arose describing Asiatics' subservient and submissive nature that seemed to serve as both a reinforcement of the superiority of Greek values and a justification for Greece's right to rule and conquer.

Now, over twenty-five centuries later, we in America, look out across the Pacific at the frighteningly vast and unknowable Asiatic masses, content in the superiority of "our" values and way of life which has justified, and continues to justify, our involvement or interference in their societies. We decry their lack of democratic thinking and subservience to authority and dehumanize the enemy by reminding ourselves of their femininity, all the while contemplating and expecting the inevitable war (with China these days) that will once and for all put them in their place. The deja vu is disquieting. 

Clearly, the biggest problem with Huang's conceptualization of Asian emasculation is not that it inappropriately found intersectionality with the black female experience. Rather, Huang simply failed to relate the sheer vastness of the scope of this emasculation and the terrible effects it has had on the world throughout history. The world we inherited today - the existentially grave East/West ideological divide of our modern world is a testament to the vast scope of this issue.

It has to be acknowledged that these lofty concepts are extremely difficult to convey in a seven-minute segment on live television, and really deserves an inquiry that is integral to, and focused on, Asian-American identity itself. But to do this one would have to acknowledge that there exists a fundamental aspect of white supremacy that cannot possibly be informed by anti-blackness. Sadly, we are not allowed to do this because such an Asian focused approach is (inanely) labeled anti-black by our own reactivists.

So we are stuck in a Catch 22 situation; in order to truly understand white supremacy and the feminization of Asia that lies at its deepest root, we have to accept that emasculation of Asian men must become the fundamental concern for Asian-American discourse. Yet, our friends in the world of Asian progressiveness discourage this thinking which not only contextualizes white supremacy throughout history but also anti-blackness itself.

For these reasons it simply makes no sense to criticize Huang's version of masculinity as lacking credibility because it appropriates "blackness" or it tries too hard in other ways, since these same critics insist on avoiding the philosophical and historical evidence that would re-acquaint Asian-Americans with the historical experiences that could form the basis of an autonomous Asian identity that doesn't justify itself by feeding off black suffering.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What Is Wrong With People?

This Week In Asian-American Reactivism.

It has been both interesting and disconcerting to observe events unfolding around the shooting of Akai Gurley by Chinese-American police rookie, Peter Liang. I alluded to the Liang case in a previous post in which I decried the offhanded manner in which Asian-American progressives and self-proclaimed justice advocates have all but condemned him to guilt weeks before he has even had his day in court.

The case has divided, somewhat, Asian-Americans into two camps: on the one hand are those - mentioned above - who seem like a rabid lynch-mob determined to use any media means necessary to destroy the reputation and character of Liang and shape public opinion against him; on the other hand stand Chinese-American FOBs who obstinately refuse to allow the cynical application of justice to go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sadly, in addition to the attempts to taint Liang's reputation and character, Asian-American reactivism has sought to characterize those who support his cause as, by definition, anti-black.

A recent article by blogger, David Shih, that has made the rounds in Asian-American cyber-country, offers some insight into the issue, but doesn't start out well.
As a Chinese American, I know that my racial identity occupies a space in the cultural imagination somewhere between white and black. I know that white supremacy often works in my favor to give me privilege and the benefit of the doubt. I know that the world is this way until it isn't. Peter Liang, who is also Chinese American, must know this too. On February 10, a grand jury ruled to indict the NYPD officer for killing Akai Gurley, who is black.
Unfortunately, the agreed upon facts of the immediate aftermath of the shooting stand in blaring contrast to the above assertions.....
Officer Peter Liang told his partner Shaun Landau, 'I think I'm going to get fired,' moments after he 'accidentally' fired his gun on Thursday evening at the Louis Pink Houses in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and before he was aware of the fact that he had even struck someone with a bullet.
Liang's reaction in the immediate aftermath of the shooting was the complete opposite of what one would expect if Shih's assertion are true. The rookie cop had no sense that he would be the beneficiary of privilege and that his mistake would go unpunished. If anything, in light of the recent killings of black men in the weeks before Gurley's death and the lack of indictments for the officers involved, Liang exhibits an acutely painful awareness that he would likely be treated differently than white officers - and this is before he had even realized that he had shot someone. He certainly seems not to have expected any kind of benefit of the doubt.

In fact, in choosing to serve in the police force, it is possibly far more likely that Liang was acutely aware that he was entering a profession in which has in the past discriminated against Asian officers and in no way shown any proclivity towards "privileging" them. It is simply dishonest - not to mention inflammatory - to make a random generalization about the Asian racial experience, and then assert that this generalization applies to Peter Liang. But the Shih piece goes on in blissful oblivion....
But there should be no confusion: Peter Liang should stand trial. Liang's supporters are asking for the same standard that exonerated Wilson, Williams, and Pantaleo. It is a racist standard.
This is simply untrue, and such an assertion is unbecoming of anyone who is genuine about their claims to stand for justice. According to a press release - which Shih links to in his post and which he seems to not have read - the The Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights has this to say....
They...announced an upcoming day of rallies on April 26, 2015, to be held in cities across the Nation from NYC to California as a sign of protest against the unduly harsh and unequal treatment afforded the rookie police officer.... 
"The charges in the indictment against Officer Liang is to please the general public. Officer Liang is simply sacrificed for political reason," .... 
“Our community demands Officer Liang receives fair treatment under the law”....
The coordinated protests are a call to action for Asian-Americans, their neighbors, and allies to demand a fair trial and transparency from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, which has so far failed to address community concerns........ 
“The fact only Officer Liang was indicted raises many questions regarding fairness. Why was there no consideration of an indictment of “NYCHA” for failing to restore the lighting and causing a dangerous condition of darkness in the staircases? Why was only Officer Liang indicted for failing to immediately report the incident when Officer Liang’s partner was also present and also failed to immediately call in the incident?”...... 
“We understand that there's a loss of life. This was an unfortunate tragic accident. Officer Liang's misfiring should have been under NYPD disciplinary actions, not under our legal system. The charges are simply inappropriate,”.... 
“What we have here is a political prosecution,” Queens civil rights activist Phil Gim and Co-Chair of the CAACR said, continuing “the Brooklyn DA’s office thought they would easily steamroll the Chinese community and that we would stay quiet, but they were wrong. We’re standing up for ourselves, and we’re demanding that Peter Liang get the fair, unbiased treatment he deserves.”..... 
“Officer Liang is being used as a scapegoat,” Nassau County Community Leader and Co-Chair of the CAACR Doug Lee said. “As the tragic death of Akai Gurley was clearly an accident, there is no logical explanation for the severity of charges against him and the aggressive manner in which he is prosecuted. This is clearly selective enforcement of the law for political purposes.”....
Clearly, the above statements issued by Liang's supporters are making a far more nuanced argument than Shih seems willing to acknowledge. Instead of demanding that Liang simply not be prosecuted, they are demanding that charges be proportionate to the crime. The sentiment is repeated in an article covering a pro-Liang protest.....
[a protestor says] “I think it was an accident. He deserves a chance. I think his manslaughter charge is too high, but he should be charged with something, but not manslaughter. I think it’s an accident and accidents happen. I feel really sad for the victim’s family, but I don’t feel it is a criminal case. This one is an accident and hopefully the evidence will show that and that’s why we need to support Liang.”
If anything, Liang's supporters seem to have a more reasonable - and rational - grasp of the concept of justice than the progressive justice workers. There is not a single point made by Liang's supporters that has been adequately answered either by the actual prosecutors in the case or the online progressive Asian prosecutors who seem keen on a media trial for Liang.

That to me is big problem: if the points raised by Liang's supporters are valid, then there is no logical reason to oppose their point of view. In fact, some seem to agree that Liang's supporters make good points but then - bizarrely - conclude that the objectively unfair application of justice that has brought his indictment is, in fact, a good application of justice. In order to reach this conclusion, logic and reason are subjugated to ideology.

Racefiles....
If we begin from the premise that racism is unacceptable, then it does not make sense for Chinese Americans to rush to the defense of Officer Liang simply because he is a fellow Chinese.
Apart from the fact that this makes no sense, I am horrified that this thinking even comes into the debate. The writer seems to be asserting that race played a role in Liang's actions and the death of Gurley. This is extremely inflammatory and defamatory. Unless our friends in the progressive movement have some hitherto undiscovered evidence of a racial motive for Liang's actions and those of his supporters, they need to control their reactionary impulses and stick to the facts of the case. Remember now, that there is more at stake here than petty considerations of reputations and progressive justice worker credibility.

The problem with both the Racefiles and Shih articles is that there is very little to tie their claims and assertions to the actual case in any meaningful way - they neither shed light on Liang's actions nor on the actions and motivations of those who voice concern that Liang is a victim of injustice. Instead, they construct ideological racial narratives and squeeze the motives of the people involved into it, and present this as facts in the case and reasons why Liang should be unfairly treated. This is clearly - whether they realize it or not - a charge of guilt based on ideological grounds.

Again, there is no evidence that race played a role in Gurley's shooting - unless you choose to suspend intelligence to claim that Liang took out his firearm hoping that it would accidentally go off so that he could shoot blindly into a dark stairwell hoping to kill a black man. Furthermore, there is no merit to the claim that Liang's supporters are motivated by anti-black racism or that pushing for a proportionate application of justice for what amounts to a tragic rookie mistake upholds white supremacy.

Liang's supporters raise compelling points that - in keeping with the custom of ignoring Asian claims of racial injustice - are being ignored. It is the greatest irony that it is Liang's supporters who make no grandiose and pretentious claims of their own justice credentials - and not the self-proclaimed racial justice workers - who are actually challenging the establishment. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of Asian-American progressive"thinking" can't seem to formulate a meaningful assessment of the case that takes into account the nuances of race and justice. They very literally are unable to think outside of the "black/white" narrative box and therefore are unable to see anything other than black or white.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in an open-letter released on behalf of "more than fifty" Asian organizations calling for Liang to be cynically treated by the justice system.
As Asian and Pacific Islander community leaders and organizations from across the country, we strongly oppose calls coming from some members of the Asian American community to drop charges against NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the death of Akai Gurley.
This demand is misguided and utterly hurtful to Akai Gurley’s family and to communities that have been subjected to discriminatory and often deadly policing practices across the country.
We stand with Akai Gurley’s family and all those who have lost loved ones to police violence.
It is neither accurate nor honest - but it is highly inflammatory - to call Gurley's death an act of police violence or imply that it was in any way discriminatory. We are being asked to believe that opening a door holding a loaded gun is racist or indicative of racist intent and is an act of deliberate violence- and not simply and tragically an irresponsible thing to do. They go on......
 The fact that Officer Liang is Asian American shouldn’t mean that we as Asians and Pacific Islanders support him unequivocally. Quite the opposite — it should compel us to think about what justice looks like and how Asian Americans can contribute to the movement for police accountability and broader racial justice.
Police violence against Black communities is a systemic problem, and when police officers are not held accountable, they are enabled to kill with impunity. Without accountability for police officers who use deadly force and a complete and thorough overhaul of policing practices and other institutional policies in the U.S., we will have more Akai Gurleys and more Officer Liangs, more Mike Browns and Darren Wilsons, more Rekia Boyds and Dante Servins.
This would be laughable if the repercussions weren't so serious. The gist of this statement is that Liang should tried with the actions of specific acts of racially-tinged police brutality committed by people other than Liang himself in mind. Furthermore, justice should keep in mind systemic racism against blacks when trying Liang - in other words, he is to be held accountable for systemic racism even though none of these reactivists have presented an ounce of evidence that race, racism, or systemic racism had a role in Gurley's shooting. Thus, justice for Liang should be disproportionate to his crime merely because others - like Darren Wilson and Pantaleo - are guilty of racist policing and the system is racist.

It would be easy to believe none of the fifty Asian organizations cheer leading for the unjust and disproportionate charges leveled at Liang have even read any of the concerns voices by his supporters. The stated concerns of Liang's supporters show a far more nuanced position than merely one of providing unequivocal support based on race. They are fundamentally concerned that Liang's race is counting against him in the overly harsh charges being brought and the cynical application of justice. One need not even look beyond the Gurley case at the Tamir Rice and Eric Garner killings to notice the unequal application of justice at play.

To me, there seems to be a far more serious legal - and moral - transgression in Liang's failure to provide CPR than in the actual accidental shooting itself. If he had acted, then there remains the possibility that Gurley may well have survived. There were two officers on the scene and neither administered CPR, yet, only Liang is being charged for his failure to provide assistance. His partner - whose name is Shaun Landau  and whom I presume is non-Asian and possibly white - has not been charged.  Forget the failure to indict white officers in other cases - a, presumably non-Asian, officer at the scene who committed the same crime as Liang is not being charged for it.

The point here is that Asian progressives - with their unreasonable and irrational insistence on keeping America's race narrative firmly within the confines of the black/white narrative - seem literally to only be able to think in black and white. They don't seem able to conceive of the possibility that there could be levels of injustice being perpetrated within the same scenario. Charging Liang disproportionately to his actions - if true - is an injustice. To insist unquestioningly on seeing Liang disproportionately charged is not upholding justice, but rather is supporting vengeance at any cost. Liang should not be charged as some kind of pay back for the - far, far more serious police crimes where the intent to kill is objectively more obvious - of other members of law enforcement and the racist system itself. Nor should he be some kind of sacrifice to deflect criticisms away from racist law-enforcement and justice systems that enable it. This seems to be what the seemingly blood-thirsty Asian-American progressive movement is supporting unquestioningly. That is simply unjust.

Those who support Liang have made cogent points and raise some very significant questions regarding the cynical application of justice, and in so doing are challenging the establishment's presumptions and practices. By contrast, Asian progressives with their un-nuanced and childishly simplistic approach are fundamentally upholding the status quo of racial injustice in law enforcement and the justice system.

Akai Gurley deserves justice but that does not mean that it should come at any cost including the cynical, disproportionate application of it. Nor should it mean that Liang should be sacrificed to assuage public anger at other police killings and judicial failures to indict. Liang's supporters are asking the right questions that challenge the failures of the establishment and are calling for justice to be proportionate. This is a far cry from the inflammatory misrepresentation of their stance as merely some kind of racial tribalism. It clearly is not.

David Shih argues the following....
The CAACR claims that because Peter Liang is Chinese American, he is being treated differently from Darren Wilson, Sean Williams, and Daniel Pantaleo. But this possibility doesn't mean Liang shouldn't be tried...........Those supporting Liang only because he is Chinese American should know that they are not fighting racism. If the CAACR truly desires justice, it will not lobby for Liang to be treated the same as the white officers. To do so would be to ask for an ad hoc dispensation from a racist system.......
...which is simply false. As I've clearly illustrated, Liang's supporters have presented a far more nuanced stance than the one Shih misrepresents. As readers can see for themselves earlier in the post, the organization that Shih refers to - The CAACR - is not arguing that Liang not be charged. They are arguing that the charges are disproportionate and overly harsh for what even the prosecutor says was an unintentional shooting. Furthermore they argue that these overly harsh and disproportionate charges are only being - and can only be - brought and made to stick against a minority demographic that has little political influence and is mostly on the margins of the political agenda, such as Chinese-Americans. Furthermore, demonstrators who support Liang have explicitly stated that they believe that he should be charged, but that should these charges should be proportionate to the crime. But that fact does not win brownie points in the narrative.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sorting The Wheat From The Chaff

Or, Racial Experiences Suck - Who Knew?

I came across an interesting article from the Huffington Post written by a guy named Mason Hsieh in which he describes his experience of being asked the question "Where are you really from?". Hsieh does a great job outlining the racist presumptions that makes this line of questioning uncomfortable for Asians, as well as the socially inappropriate practice (bordering on harassment) of interrogating someone about their national or racial origins after they have already explained to you several times over that they are, in fact, American through and through.

Hsieh describes the incident thusly....
A few months back, I was at a party and was introduced to a random, white girl (let's call her Tammy). We hit it off relatively okay and began that boring, yet inevitable, game of "tell me about yourself." .........Everything was going fine until she asked me: "So, where are you from?" The conversation went as follows: 
Tammy: So, where are you from?Me: I'm from California.T: But where are you really from?M: I'm from the Bay Area.T: But, like, actually. Where are you really from?M: Oakland.T: Okay, what I mean is your face is not an "American" face.M: Excuse me?T: Like, your eyes... 
At this point, I simply fell silent and walked away from the conversation.
Strangely, even though Hsieh raised many pertinent points about the racial presumptions and ingrained racialized thinking that makes such conversations a common, uncomfortable, and sometimes a potentially dangerous experience, I can't help but feel as though he missed a golden opportunity to advance his own sense of personal empowerment from the situation.

I concur with Hsieh's views about the racial presumptions that drive such interactions, yet his own presumptions about the intent of people who engage in this line of racial interrogation is where he lets himself down both in the article and in the moment of his interaction with the interrogator. Although he acknowledges that he cannot know "Tammy's" intent, he continues as though he has judged her intent to be negative for no apparent reason other than it left him with negative feelings. Worse still, he then goes silent and then storms off, leaving Tammy's presumptions unchallenged.

To me, this defeatist behaviour is the natural, detrimental outcome of Asian-America's feminized anti-racist narrative that promotes feelings of offendedness as the foundational point from which counter-racist  commentary proceeds. As I have tried to explain many times before, our hurt feelings and sense of affront at meda slights and other hate crimes are un-compelling and un-inspirational as a means to galvanize empathy and hopelessly inadequate as a philosophical point of view to provide a strong unifying force for the community that can make coherent and compelling commentaries expounding on our racial experiences.

Amongst adults and in the world of the mature minded, feelings - hurt or otherwise - are things to be managed, and those who operate from emotion and make their feelings the subject of public debate are - often justifiably - viewed with suspicion and lose credibility. In short, Asian-Americans just don't have the privilege of making their feelings a matter of concern. We don't have the option of storming off and leaving the "fight" and we certainly don't have the privilege of allowing racialized or racist experiences go unchallenged in the moment.

To my way of thinking, Hsieh would have better helped himself if he had conveyed some of the ideas and feelings that he wrote about in his piece to the person who had actually caused him the distress. By storming off, he fundamentally conceded defeat by leaving the "floor" to the "offender" - at the end of the day the last man (or woman) standing is the one whose worldview prevails.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying Hsieh should have been aggressive and responded with anger to his interrogation, but he may well have felt a greater sense of personal empowerment if he had stood his ground and made his case rather that allow himself to be driven by emotion. This is where the intent of the supposed micro-aggressor becomes important. To my mind, these situations provide a myriad of opportunities for personal growth in which we can educate those who are well-meaning, but conditioned to react this way to Asians, or conversely, we can call out and confront those who understand and utilize racialized presumptions to engage in what amounts to harassment or bullying of Asians. It is well and truly a process of separating the wheat from the chaff and that is something that has to be done in the moment on, unfortunately, a daily basis.

Some might argue that Asians should not have to educate people out of their racist conditioning and I would understand the sentiments behind that. Reality, however, has a way foiling such high-brow ideological pronouncements. By storming off and not seeing out these kinds of situations through to their conclusions, Hsieh and any Asian-Americans who react in this way are allowing such racialized conditioning to persist unchecked and unchallenged.

It doesn't really seem like it even comes down to "re-educating" people. It is more of engaging in a process of enquiry in which you assume the responsibility to shape and define the racial dialogue in your own personal spaces. In other words, you will be the one being educated and all of the ambiguity that surrounds these kinds of day-to-day interactions will fall away and you will be in a better position to judge the intent of those who approach you with this kind of interrogation. It could be that if one chooses to engage rather than storm off that one could end up with a friend who examines their presumptions. Conversely, the situation could turn into a full-on hate-crime. Either way, at least you will know where it is you stand and, hopefully, have a clearer picture of the most appropriate response for the moment. Plus, the article one writes about the encounter later is sure to be far more interesting.

To conclude, I want to emphasize that such situations are always awkward and knowing how to deal with racism is extremely difficult, particularly in the moment and when the intent is deliberately - or not - ambiguous. But that is merely an accurate summary of the Asian racial experience; there is an ambiguity about Asians as an ethnic minority that places us firmly outside of the considerations of both side of the racial equation. This ambiguity results in a wide gamut of outcomes ranging from awkward questioning and racial slurring, to employment discrimination and violent hate-crimes. So I don't fault Hsieh if he simply was at a loss at how to deal in the moment - we have all been there, including myself. It is a process and sometimes one fails.

It is in our interest to move away from the approach of haughty offence and wounded racial pride as foundations of our commentary and begin to think about and relate how we engaged in such situations so that we shed light on what it requires for us to have the kind of normal social and personal interactions that others take for granted.