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.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rapism...(TM)

The Curious Case Of Peter Yu.

Peter Yu is a Chinese national living and (previously) studying at Vassar College in upstate New York. Athletically and academically gifted, Yu was a well above average student who was popular with his college peers and seemed to be enjoying a fulfilling campus life. All that changed back in 2012 when female student and fellow rowing-team member,  Mary Claire Walker, accused Yu of rape. Undoubtedly, rape is not a light matter and although I do not have access to the details of the incident and would never seek to pass judgment from a distance, there are aspects of the case that are disturbing to say the least.

According to the accusation made by Walker, Yu had non-consensual sex with her in his dorm room - taking advantage of her state of inebriation. Walker's story is that....
[she and Yu] consumed alcohol at a team party in February 2012; one of Walker’s friends seems to have thought she was very drunk. After the party ended, Walker accompanied Yu back to his room. They started to have intercourse, but Yu’s roommate entered the room and interrupted them; Walker then said she didn’t want to go any further, and she left.
Yu was subsequently expelled from Vassar by a college tribunal for the alleged rape. Yet, the story is not so simple as it at first might seem.

Walker's accusations were made almost exactly one year to the day that the incident was alleged to have taken place (a significant point which I will address later), which doesn't diminish the possibility of her claims, per se, but it does cast doubt on them. In the intervening period - an entire year - Walker neither made a police report, nor sought any kind of medical exam in the immediate aftermath of the alleged rape. In fact, she seemed to have quite merrily exchanged Facebook messages with Yu, apologizing for her own behaviour (Yu was apparently a virgin and Walker seemed to believe that she had taken advantage of him), and ensuing messages between the two of them were cordial if not downright friendly - Walker even sending a message the following day that she had had a "wonderful time" and later, inviting him to dinner.

Although, the trauma of rape makes these kinds of actions entirely plausible, there is enough ambiguity to cast significant doubt on the accusations. But that isn't even the main problem with the case; the manner in which the accusations were made and the college tribunal's actions in response have left a major question mark over the fairness the treatment of Yu and the clear possibility that his legal and civil rights have been trampled upon. Within days of the accusations, a college tribunal had was convened and  less that two-and-a-half weeks later, Yu had been found guilty and expelled.

According to several reports, and Yu's lawsuit, the Vassar college tribunal had all the trappings of a kangaroo court in which a guilty verdict would be the only outcome regardless of the evidence. The deck was stacked against Yu for several reasons. First and foremost, his accuser was the daughter of a long-time professor at the college and the tribunal consisted entirely of colleagues of his accuser's father despite Yu's requests for a student to be on the judging panel. Yu alleges that the short amount of time between the charges being filed and his tribunal offered him little opportunity to mount a reasonable defense or have legal representation, and furthermore, he alleges that the tribunal did not allow cross-examination of his accuser nor did it give suitable credence to the cordial exchange of e-mails between Walker and himself which would seem to be significant counter-evidence to the accusations.

In light of this, the timing of the accusation has, for some, come under suspicion. Vassar has a statute of limitations of sorts which gives alleged victims one year from the date of any incident to file a complaint. By filing a complaint on the final day that the school permits claims to be made, it is suspected that Walker cleverly avoided a counter-claim that she, in fact, was the sexual predator. Walker's e-mails in which she expressed regret for "taking advantage" of Yu - who was a virgin at the time - when they were both extremely drunk are a testament to this possibility.

With the deck stacked so heavily against Yu, it is no surprise that he was found guilty by the tribunal and subsequently expelled. Yu has since applied to and been rejected by several schools and told not to bother applying by several others. The harm to the man's life has been huge and to make matters worse his lawsuit has recently been dismissed.

Surprisingly - or maybe not - Yu's case has gone largely unnoticed and ignored by Asian-American media and advocates. To me there is more than sufficient cause to view the way Yu has been treated as a major miscarriage of justice. I cannot know if Yu's race - or nationality - played a role in his case, but there are disturbing echoes of racially inflected false rape accusation from the past in which a white woman's mere allegations and a rigged jury has been enough to ensure guilty verdicts for minority men.

The silence of Asian-America is all the more acute given the apparent fearful ambivalence towards Asian men's sexuality of some in the Asian-American Progressive Reactivist Wannabe movement. Seemingly ever-ready to frame any hint of a strong Asian male sexuality as somehow threatening or implicitly unhealthy, Asian-America once again throws the baby out with the bathwater with its inability to offer a nuanced position on issues relating to Asian men's sexuality. Perhaps the intellectual process is unable to get past the fact that Yu's case cannot be framed as part of the black/white narrative that causes Asian advocacy to draw an ontological blank. Regardless, it is disturbing that Asian advocacy and commentators have little to say about Asian men's sexuality unless the sıbject is framed as fundamentally negative or reinforces racial stereotypes of the angry Asian sexual predator.

In the bigger picture, Yu's case is part of a larger problem of campus rape and how colleges are addressing the issues. Schools have been accused of not taking rape allegations with enough seriousness or sensitivity and there is a cultural history of treating rape victims poorly by authorities so in some ways, efforts by colleges to soften the process for victims has merit and may be necessary. The Yu case, however, seems to go far beyond this and there are reasons to suspect that Vassar's tribunal process denied Yu any chance of a reasonable and rightful defense and may have allegedly been biased in favor of a fellow professor's daughter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Asian-American Cops.......

....And The Asian Progressives Endangering Their Lives.

My last four or so posts have explored the strange world of Asian-American progressives and their advocacy which seems to promote the idea that Asian-American advocacy should be about anything but advocating for Asian-Americans. Some even suggest that the idea of any race discussions outside of the standard black/white narrative is implicitly an expression of "anti-blackness" - suggesting that any Asian-American endeavour that focuses on Asian-Americans is somehow anti-black. Of course this means that things like Asian-American studies is anti-black simply because by its very nature it exists outside of the black/white narrative and focuses on Asian-American identity.

In order to maintain these bizarre beliefs, Asian progressives resort to progressively convoluted conspiracy theories that hold to the idea that the racist white establishment maintains its own power by privileging Asians with economic and academic rewards - at the expense of white people even. Furthermore, although it is more likely that the model minority myth was created as a means to soften the rampant anti-Asian racism in light of dramatic changes to immigration law in 1965, Asian progressives maintain that it is merely a plot to embarrass civil rights activists and passive-aggressively erode civil rights legislation enacted in the 1960's. In short, Asian-American advocacy is about performing dramatic intellectual backflips to actually avoid advocating for an autonomous Asian voice for the community they claim to speak for.

Instead, Asian-American advocacy is somehow conceived of as an appendage to anti-anti-blackness activism with little of substance to say of its own experience - I don't blame the Asian experience for that. The flurry of reactivism within the Asian blogosphere in the wake of recent police killings of Michael Brown and others has highlighted the ways that this unhealthily co-dependent approach to Asian advocacy has exposed the absurdity of this aspect of Asian progressiveness. Two incidences in particular show how in the rush to piggy-back a weak Asian voice onto black suffering, Asian-American advocacy has both abandoned the necessary nuance of the 21st Century American race experience and, in doing so, failed to present a voice of advocacy for Asian-Americans when it would seem to be the most necessary.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in Asian-American advocacy's response to the shooting death of policeman officer Wenjian Liu and the suspiciously cynical-seeming indictment of Chinese-American cop Peter Liang for the shooting of unarmed African-American, Akai Gurley. Poor Wenjian has been completely ignored by the progressives in Asian-American advocacy and Peter Liang has been basically abandoned and condemned even before he gets his day in court.

Wenjian was an innocent as much as Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, a first-generation Chinese-American immigrant who arrived in America when he was twelve, learned the English language well enough to enable him to provide a much-needed service to the NYPD as a bi-lingual officer, and whose choice of career as a police officer makes him not only a man who had a sense of responsibility to his adopted country, but it also makes him a pioneer in a career path notoriously devoid of an Asian presence. It is men and women like Wenjian who are are breaking down social barriers by their actions and willingness to walk their talk and put their lives on the line in careers where they assume responsibility for upholding the democratic laws and principles of their nation. Sadly, for Asian-American progressives, none of this was worthy of even the most minimal of note.

This highlights the intellectual poverty of those progressives whose thesis seems based on the notion that merely acknowledging the autonomous Asian-American experience is implicitly anti-black. Wenjian Liu simply does not fit this stupid narrative, because his life tells a story of the Asian-American experience that does sit well within the framework of the simplistic and hopelessly inadequate black/white narrative of race in America. Thus, Asian-American progressives merely reinforce the invisibility of the Asian diaspora - Wenjian is the most clear and tragic example of this process in action. Sadly, we cannot blame whitey for it this time.

Awkwardly, though, people like Wenjian quite possibly do more to break down barriers facing ethnic minorities and recent immigrants and galvanize the resolve of the Asian minority than all the reactivism of Asian-American progressives. Why he has been rendered invisible by Asian progressives is bizarre but not surprising. By defining an autonomous Asian-American experience as  implicitly anti-black in order to assert the primacy of the black/white racial narrative, Asian progressives leave no room for such awkward characters as Wenjian. As one of the under-represented demographics in America law enforcement Wenjian is one of the pioneering figures breaking down barriers that restrict Asian-Americans from entering the field. I think he deserves more from Asian-America than to be reduced to barely a footnote in the black/white narrative, his life is worth far more than that.

The case of Peter Liang has offered us a stark illustration of how Asian-American progressive thought defines itself out of all relevance to the race dialogue of 21st Century America. Liang is the Asian-American rookie cop who shot and killed an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn apartment complex. Liang states that his gun went off accidentally and Gurley's death was a tragic fluke. To my reading his story seems sound - the victim was standing one floor below Liang in an unlit stairwell and the bullet ricocheted off a wall striking Gurley square in the chest. If the killing was intentional, then that would make Liang an incredibly gifted marksman who was able to guesstimate the trajectory of his aim (in the dark and from one floor above) so that it bounces off a wall straight into the heart of his victim.

Granted, there are some questions about an alleged failure to follow established procedures that could have averted a shooting, but what makes the Liang case contentious is its timing and the decision of prosecutors to indict the rookie cop. Gurley's killing happened in the wake of the high profile and controversial killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown, in which the white police officers responsible were neither indicted nor investigated. Brown's death has been more or less ruled as justifiable by a Department of Justice enquiry, but the (white) officers responsible for the deaths of Garner and Rice - both of which were caught on camera and strongly appear to show police recklessness and excess - have escaped indictment. In short, the two cases of police killings of an unarmed black man and a child playing with a toy gun (Garner and Rice) which appear to be unjustified and intentionally excessive have gone unpunished and uninvestigated whilst the case of Liang which appears accidental has led to an indictment.

Whatever the merits of the Liang indictment, it is impossible not to feel discomfort at what some people claim is a legal double standard. Liang, of course, is ethnically Chinese, whilst the killers of Garner and Rice are both white, and for some Asian-Americans this fact is an indication that the law is being enforced cynically such that Liang is being held up as some kind of scapegoat to show that the law works and is not biased against blacks. A petition with over 120,000 signatures calling for the indictment to be dropped, notes that the law seems to have been applied unevenly and suggests a political motive on the part of the prosecutor.....
Prosecutors indicts Officer Liang for Political Gain! Asian American Police Officer Becomes Scapegoat! 
NYPD Officer, Peter liang told his superiors that his gun had gone off unintentionally, the bullet rattling off a wall and into an unsuspecting man’s chest, killing Akai Gurley. 
Nonetheless, the circumstances surrounding Mr. Gurley’s death lead to a manslaughter indictment this week, whereas police officers in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner case were never charged. Criminal charges appeared more likely in the later two cases, but these two non-Asian Police Officers were never charged.
These seem like salient points; both Garner and Rice deserve justice for what looks like deaths resulting from either excessive force and an inappropriate use of deadly force on the part of white officers. Indicting Liang does not prove that the justice system works for blacks, but what it does imply is possibly equally disturbing. If public prosecutors are willing to scapegoat one Asian-American police officer in order to stave off criticisms of bias in the legal system, then all Asian-American police officers are vulnerable to the same injustice. If the law is being used cynically to indict an Asian police officer to appease the justifiably angry black community, then that puts all law-enforcement officers of Asian descent in a very difficult position which could complicate life-threatening situations and make them more vulnerable in such circumstances.

Whilst the use of deadly force should never be approached lightly, sending Asian officers out into the field knowing that they might face a harsher scrutiny and unequal, or unfair, application of the law places another layer of pressure on them that not only increases the danger to their lives, but also has the potential to endanger the lives of innocent bystanders during violent confrontations. In the case of Graner and Rice, the police acted excessively and with a casual use of deadly force, Liang - at worst - may simply have been irresponsible and clumsy. So, whilst there may be reason to indict for failure to follow procedure, the very fact that Liang's mistakes are being received with such gravity when blatant, recorded police brutality and inappropriate use of force in the Garner and Rice cases are being overlooked should set Asian-American alarm bells ringing.

Sadly, as one might predict based on my previous writing on Asian-American advocacy, the potential damage to the advancement of Asian-Americans in law enforcement, as well as the blatant, cynical application of scrutiny and the law has been ignored by those who proclaim themselves to be the spokespeople for the community. Even worse, some of these Asian actvists are actively promoting racial hostility to both Asian-Americans in law enforcement, as well as the general community.

In the immediate wake of the Gurley shooting, Asian-American advocacy group - CAAAV - issued the following statement.....
We put out this statement to be clear: that the murder of Akai Gurley is a part of the systemic targeting of Black people by the police, and that Officer Liang must be indicted. As a police officer, he is a part of the institutional injustice we see everyday with law enforcement. We demand an indictment of Officer Liang, just as we have with Darren Wilson and Dan Pantaleo........When the police abuse their power, kill, and aren’t held accountable for their actions, officers are affirmed that they can kill with impunity.....Without a complete and thorough overhaul of these systems, we will have more Akai Gurleys and more Officer Liangs, more Darren Wilsons and Mike Browns, more Rekia Boyds and Dante Servins.
 In other words, in the minds of CAAAV, Liang is guilty of racial bias merely by virtue of his being a police officer. The facts of the case be damned, according to CAAAV, a shooting that is being acknowledged even by the prosecuting District Attorney as unintentional can in no way be viewed to be equal in kind to the obvious abuses of power in the Garner and Rice cases. Again, the grandiose proclamations of CAAAV has hung Asian-American law enforcement officers out to dry in a job where they already face difficulties and discrimination. Asserting a racial motive on Liang's part - without an ounce of evidence - is merely  charging guilt by association and is little more than a call to deny justice rather than implement it.

An article in Salon earlier this month goes even further and not only takes it as a given - again without evidence - that Gurley's shooting was grounded in racial injustice, but also implies a racist motive to those who speak out against his indictment......
But in turning from protests against police brutality to outreach at the Chinese New Year parade, #Asians4BlackLives is refocusing its energies on confronting the ongoing existence of anti-black prejudice within many Asian immigrant communities. The recent indictment of Chinese-American New York City police officer Peter Liang for shooting and killing an unnamed black man, Akai Gurley, in the staircase of a housing project last November, is a stark calling of the question that #Asians4BlackLives is putting forward: “Which side are you on?”
This, in a nutshell, is why I have struggled to find intellectual value in the claims and proclamations of Asian-American anti-anti-blackness activists. There are absolutely no reasons to believe that those who oppose the indictment of Liang are acting out of any anti-black sentiment. None. What Asian-American reactivists seems unable to comprehend is that there are nuances about race and justice that their rigid adherence to the black/white narrative cannot possibly cover. Worse still, by forcing the Asian racial experience into an inflexible heuristic that effectively renders Asians invisible, Asian anti-anti-blackness reactivists are merely contributing to the creation of even more layers of injustice and racism.

Asian "anti-black prejudice" is little more than a point of rhetoric that Asian progressives like to assert but never seem to want to seriously investigate. I don't claim to know how prevalent - or not - anti-black racism is in Asian-America, but there is something slimy about implying that Asian reactivists' canvassing for support within the community is itself an indication of these alleged prejudices. It's more likely that Asian reactivism knows next to nothing about the community it claims to speak for. Focusing on the "outreach" efforts of various Asian-American Al Sharpton wannabes and not the actual response from the community (since that may disprove the rampant racism claims) may well indicate that Asian-American progressives are more married to their self-aggrandizing narrative as morally superior outliers in a community of Nazis, than to any real commitment to truth and justice. Which brings me to the far more serious point.

Support for Liang is in no way, shape, or form, implicitly anti-black, and those who question the circumstances of his indictment show a far more genuine commitment to justice and fairness than the adherents to the hopelessly simple-minded black/white racial narrative ever could. The case has even neighbours of Gurley questioning the indictment....
But for several residents, the indictment of Officer Liang — coming after grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island declined to indict white officers in other deaths of unarmed black men — only underscored how capricious justice could be.........How could they have faith in the system, they asked, if it seemed to value their lives only intermittently?......“You think if the officer’s not a minority, he would get indicted?” said Mr. Rosario, who grew up in the Pink Houses. “If he was Caucasian, he wouldn’t be indicted. In Eric Garner, they had everything on the table and they didn’t do anything. Here there’s no video, no proof, but they indicted him.”
The avoidance of this blatant nuance on the part of Asian advocacy groups is a stark reminder that Asian advocacy avoids advocating for Asians and that any Asian-American that makes any kind of mistake or even merely questions the prevailing black/white orthodox narrative can expect to be marginalized and all but expelled from the community.

Liang's indictment jeopardizes the opportunities of, often lower-class and poor, Asian-Americans seeking advancement through law-enforcement careers to be treated fairly and with equality. By pompously and self-righteously washing their hands of Liang, Asian-American advocacy is also washing its hands of justice for Asian minorities who find themselves in situations where the black/white narrative does not apply. Liang's case is a prime example of this; he does not have the protection of white privilege, nor a powerful black voice noting the cynical and uneven application of the laws. This is a classic of the Asian racial experience; not black enough to be considered vulnerable to racial injustice, and certainly not white enough to share in the benefits of whiteness. Asian-American advocacy seems not to possess the intellectual nous to fathom the autonomous Asian narrative that this state of affairs deserves.

Finally, I cannot help but emphasize just how damaging this simplistic approach to America's complex race narrative may be for Asian-American law-enforcement officers. The kinds of sentiments expressed in the CAAAV statement and the Salon article have the potential to increase the dangers faced by Asian-American police officers as they carry out their duties. This may be particularly acute in situations where Asian policemen and women interact with the black community. From the privileged  comfort of their trendy apartments in recently gentrified urban neighbourhoods, paid for by Ivy-League educations, Asian-American progressives have seen fit to hold court and pass judgment on members of their own community - like recent immigrants and lower-class Asians- about whom they know nothing, and about whom they probably don't want to know anything. 

Sadly, the narrative that these self-aggrandizing wannabes want to push of an Asian-America brimming with anti-black racism that they are working like superheroes to eradicate may lead to more confrontation in the field, and less support from law-enforcement institutions for Asian officers faced with life-threatening situations involving black suspects. Good one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This Town Ain't Big Enough.

The Blackface Of Asian-American Activism

My last three posts (here, here, and here) explored the prevailing zeitgeist amongst Asian-Americans of the activist bent that posits the belief that the Asian racial experience should be reduced to a sub-category of an anti-blackness narrative that permits an Asian voice only insofar as it does not focus on Asians at all, but rather marginalizes the Asian experience and renders it invisible. In particular I pointed out how our insistence on unreasonably framing even the creation of the model minority stereotype as an attack on blacks as opposed to an attempt to allay fears of Asian mass-immigration, has effectively obstructed Asian-Americans access to a vast and autonomous historical experience.

In short, I criticize what I perceive to be an intellectually lazy and vacuous shirking of the responsibility to legitimize an autonomous Asian-American experiential narrative - that includes race - and instead take a position behind African-Americans from which Asians can safely throw rocks at whitey without having to independently address the derogatory racialization of Asians that has been the historical basis for white supremacy since its inception in Classical Greece. I was going to leave it alone but the internet would not let me!

I came across a Tumblr blog that linked a couple of twitter posts by a guy name Alex Ngo (who is a journalist, I believe) that illustrates in one-hundred-and-forty words or less just how damaging intellectual laziness regarding the Asian-american narrative can be.

Here are the tweets....



The interesting thing about Twitter is that it forces users to distill their thoughts down to a few key words and concepts that often hints at a more sophisticated underlying social, or political zeitgeist. Such intellectually supported tweets can elicit immense response capable of galvanizing the public to action. Tweets deriving from a far weaker intellectual foundation, on the other hand, elicit little more than an eye-roll. Thus, if the underlying zeitgeist shows a paucity of intellectual depth, then this will be reflected in tweets on the subject. The above tweets are examples of the latter.

If it is incorrect to speak '"beyond the black/white' in relation to anything Asian-Americans", then the very concept of Asian and Asian-American has no reason to exist. By extension, any and all endeavours of such an entity have no purpose or meaning. Asian-American movies, literature, art, as well as contributions to science, politics, and philosophy are all rendered non-existent because much of this endeavour exists and takes place well outside of the artificial and hopelessly simplistic limitations imposed by the black/white framework.

This is particularly significant in light of the notion of diversity and the exclusion of Asian-Americans from considerations thereof. One of the arguments of diversity advocates is that it is necessary as a means to prepare today's generations for the increasingly globalized economy of the future where they will be required to compete in a diverse environment. How strange it is that in a world where the combined population of South, East and Southeast Asia approaches four billion (over half of the world's population) the diversity theory that claims to prepare Americans for what amounts to a world chock-full of Asians, would actually exclude this key demographic from the diversity dialogue.

Asian-American advocates who insist on maintaining the narrow black/white framework as a means to do who knows what for blacks and Asians, merely do a disservice to their own diversity goals. What exactly are such convoluted notions supposed to teach us about the place of Asians in the world if we insist on invisibility as a strategy and propose that exclusion from diversity considerations are acceptable? Are we to send our diversity-empowered future generations out into a global marketplace where the majority of people have Asiatic faces with the idea that their stories and experiences are insignificant or secondary? For those who claim to be fighting white-supremacy that is a remarkably western-centric point of view.

Clearly, if diversity advocates are genuinely hoping to prepare Americans for the global marketplace, we have to increase the visibility of, and mainstream, the Asian-American experience as an autonomous and unique experience in its own right in order to familiarize the American public with ways to successfully negotiate a world that is full of Asians. But, it is the second tweet above that illustrates the poor reasoning fostered by the simplistic assertion of the primacy of the black/white framework.

Simply put, there is no logical reason to presume that a call for less invisibility for the Asian-American narrative is in any way in conflict with anti-anti-blackness activism. This is merely an arbitrary dichotomy that is false and makes no logical sense. If Asian-Americans cannot fathom a way for an outspoken, autonomous, and visible, Asian-American experiential narrative to co-exist with social justice activism, then that merely speaks of the limitations in their thinking and does not reflect any real conflict of interests. It is worth noting that despite all of the impassioned claims that Asian-American anti-anti-blackness reactivists have made about the need to forego any consideration of an independent Asian-American voice, none have ever bothered to explain why such a dichotomy is mutually destructive. We are simply told to believe that an autonomous Asian-American narrative harms blackness, so shut up and fall in line. At least provide us the courtesy of explaining such assertions, otherwise shut up.

The fact is, that there is already an Asian-American experience that is independent of the black/white framework in spite of the best efforts of Asian-America's racial justice reactivists to ensure that such an experience remains marginalized. If there are some who wish to diminish, banish, or ignore this experience, then let them step aside and permit those who find value in the rich history of Asian-American endeavour to speak for the community.

I see absolutely no conflict or obstacle in seeking to explore the Asian-American experience as an autonomous endeavour and the fight for social justice. That is merely a bizarre notion entirely made up by social justice activists for some reason that I cannot even begin to understand or even consider worth the effort of trying to understand. It is that absurd.

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.