Friday, November 20, 2015

Asian Guy Nearly Lynched.

Tim Tai Versus Southern Mob.

A recent NY Times article covering the student protests at the University of Missouri brought to light some fascinating aspects of early 21st century racial dynamics. The story goes as follows; in the aftermath of a series of racist incidents on campus in recent years, students have begun staging high-profile protests culminating in the college's fo─▒tball team going on strike and a protest led by a group calling themselves "#ConcernedStudent1950" in which they camped out in a public area of the campus.

It was during this camp-out that the following incident occurred.....


Naturally, the video caused quite the stir, with publications right across the spectrum of political leaning coming out to condemn the stupidly petulant and self-defeating-if-you-want-to-get-your-message-out act of hampering press freedom. From the video, you can see that a herd of rebels without clues attempt to intimidate a freelance photographer into leaving a public space that he had every right to be in, and then use physical force to eject him (which I suggest might be illegal) and deny his rights as a journalist and citizen to report the news.

The reaction of the photographer was admirable in that he refused to be cowed or intimidated and held his ground until he was faced with an increased level of aggression and the very real possibility of physical violence. Although it is racial issues that underpin the whole incident, there are - in my opinion - unique racial dynamics about it that deserve comment but which seem to have flown under the radar of people's awareness.

Keen-eyed readers would have noticed that the photographer was Asian, a guy named Tim Tai, and that his primary confrontation was with a woman named Janna Basler who turned out to be an employee of the school. Towards the end of the confrontation, the intimidation was amplified by a black student whose aggressive posturing encouraged the rest of the mob to increase their own levels of aggression.

During the course of the confrontation, Basler sets the example for the students by standing in the photographer's way and preventing him from getting closer to the camp. Then, she crosses her arms and pushes him - and at this point things become extremely disturbing. Having obviously and clearly nudged the guy - the recording captures her doing so - she immediately replies (lies) that "he had pushed her". Somewhere off camera, a guy can be heard indignantly asking "did he touch her, did he touch her?" What was going on here is clear - some guy was looking for an excuse and reason to be aggressive, perhaps violent towards the photographer.

In and of itself, it is disturbing that a college employee would incite students to violent aggression, yet, in the context of America's race history it assumes an even more dark and disgusting tone. One of the foundational pillars of white racist violence towards minorities (particularly men) has been the inviolacy of the white woman and the drive to protect her purity - as well as the purity of the white race - from contamination by non-white men. The primary way that this was achieved was via anti-miscegenation laws and segregation, but also through social acceptance of violent retribution towards any minority male who loved across the race divide. An even darker aspect of this normalization of violence against minority men, was the phenomenon of the false accusation.

American history is replete with incidences of minority men who had been falsely accused by white women of rape, and violence. This incident is a sinister echo of those dark times and it speaks volumes about the profound scar on America's racial dynamics that even in 2015 a white woman - Basler - participating in a protest against racism could clearly and blatantly lie that a minority man had physically accosted her in some way and have minorities jumping to her defence. There was a time when that would have gotten the photographer killed and quite frankly, it sounded as though there were some guys in that mob who were willing to commit violence to defend her sanctity. It is with the most ironic appropriateness that Basler, when asked by Tsai to reveal her identity, replied "My name is 1950" - a fitting reference to her use of 1950's racial dynamics to intimidate and incite aggression against a non-white man.

What this says about how America's races interact and conceive of each other offers us the opportunity for intriguing analysis. Could it be that despite years of ethnic studies courses, and a greater awareness of racist thinking, we (minorities) are still somehow conditioned to think of a white woman's word as more sacred than that of minority men? Could it be that we (minorities) still place a higher value on white women such that we are willing to ignore her false accusations and be aggressive on her behalf anyway?

But, don't get me wrong here - I'm not saying that Basler was cynically, or even consciously exercising the privilege of false accusation, merely that we as a society may have gotten so conditioned to behaving in certain ways based upon racial hierarchies that we accept the word of white people as authoritative and probably truthful even though our eyes are telling us the opposite. We are simply accustomed to accepting behaviors determined by racial privileges. Perhaps, on some deep level, conditioning leads us to understand that any accusation made against minority men by white people must - by definition - be true. Maybe the minority members of that mob felt some kind of afterglow, or sloppy seconds of white privilege by being allowed to participate in the charade, drawn by the power in knowing that they stood behind someone who, seemingly, had the power to redefine a lie as the truth.

Whatever those involved were thinking, the scenario played out like a classic of pavlovian conditioning in which no-one seemed to grasp that they were actually reinforcing the racial hierarchies of America's past with their unquestioning response to a white woman's false accusations. It, thus, may be no surprise that the group of students, teachers and Basler, for the most part, ignored the white journalist who was recording the incident and focused their aggression and false accusations on Tai - the minority.

As for the overly aggressive black dude at the end, I couldn't help but be reminded of the lyric from this song, and I quote - "black pohleess showing out for the white cop" - in which it is implied that black cops become overly aggressive when dealing with minorities just to impress, or prove their credibility to, their white peers. There is a lot I could say about that, but that is not necessary since it pretty much speaks for itself.

On a final note, it is worth mentioning another dynamic of the incident. Over the past few years, higher education and the courts have been considering the issue of affirmative action. A common refrain amongst supporters of AA has been to push the racist stereotype of the test-taking-wizard-but-unthinking Asian automatons who are unable to think critically, challenge authority, or lack the flexibility of thought necessary to contribute to a diverse intellectual environment that colleges supposedly strive for. Yet, what we see in the above video illustrates more clearly than any study, that it is the non-Asian students - at least at Missouri - who lack the critical thinking skills to challenge authority, and interact with their learning environment in a way that fosters a challenging and progressive intellectual environment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Dalai Lama And The Cult Of The Emasculated Asian Mystic.

A Halo Slips.

Since being forced into exile by communist China in 1959, the Dalai Lama has become probably the most beloved - and accepted - Asian man in western history. His position as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile that opposes Chinese occupation has also endeared him to political elites who oppose and fear China's rise to economic prominence. Most notably, almost alone out of all the world's religious leaders, the Dalai Lama has been publicly embraced by America's celebrity caste whose endorsement of his stated pacifism has been - in my opinion - the driving force behind his elevation to a celebrity himself.

Yet, His Highness's halo seemed to take a knock last month when during a BBC interview he was asked about the potential for a female Dalai Lama in the future and he replied that such a woman.....
"...must be very attractive.."
...otherwise she would....
"...not be much use..."
Naturally, the response from women's rights activists has been one of disbelief and disappointment. For me, it merely confirmed the adage that expectation leads to disappointment - particularly when it is applied to those proclaiming unique religious knowledge. Even though I have no issue with men who wear dresses or with the religious, men who wear dresses whilst simultaneously proclaiming religious piety and spiritual expertise tend to set off my skepticism alert. Thus, the Dalai Lama displaying a distinctly backward and a spiritually archaic attitude towards women merely confirms my suspicions that religious types wearing flowing robes and dresses should not necessarily be placed on pedestals.

What is most interesting here, though, is that the Dalai Lama fulfills the fantasies of America's apparently spiritually bankrupt celebrity elites who seem willing to buy into the stereotype - created by none other than the apparently spiritually bankrupt celebrity elites - of the slightly more than human Asian mystic whose lack of sexual prowess and possession of arcane spiritual knowledge renders void the seeming normative distaste for Asian men that our American culture routinely exhibits.

I have long maintained that the stereotypes of Asian men in American culture reflects a deep-rooted xenophobia that limits acceptable western conceptualizations of us to the harmless mystic who fulfills a spiritual void in the western elites who accept them, and the harmless buffoon type whose antics and fundamental childishness allows them to serve as examples of how men should not be but who Asian men cannot help but be.

Yet, just like all fantasies, these dehumanizing stereotypes distort reality and reflect the depths to which people will go to hold on to their prejudices. In the case of the Dalai Lama, the fantasy of the advanced spiritual Asian mystic has obscured some very uncomfortable concerns about the nature of Tibetan society prior to the Chinese take over. Worse - but strangely unsurprisingly - these distasteful aspects of a society long upheld by western Orientalist fantasists as a utopian paradise on earth, only seem to warrant criticism when westerners (western feminists in this case) have their feelings hurt.

The problem is, that for several decades there has been significant evidence that Tibet prior to the Chinese take over was a theocratic hell that oversaw horrific human rights abuses committed by the religious elite against the extremely poor majority. Don't get me wrong here, I do not accuse the Dalai Lama of committing atrocities against his own people, but merely say that the fantasy stereotypes created by the west of the spiritually advanced mystic which has been applied to him has helped to obscure discussion of a brutal history that is at odds with both the stereotypes of morally advanced Tibetan monks as well as the stated claim of advancing democratic principles for the benefit of the Tibetan people.

Viewing the Dalai Lama through the filter of the racial stereotype of the harmless Asian mystic who will lead his people back to some utopian nirvana only obscures the fact that Tibet was never a utopia but was to many accounts a hellish society ruled by wealthy aristocrats and buddhist monks who kept the vast majority of the population in a condition tantamount to slavery.

An article written way back in 1992 by a man named Michael Parenti outlines the extremely harsh conditions under which the majority of Tibetans were forced to live. Bonded servitude from which there was no chance of escape meant that the majority of Tibetans lived as slaves whose lives and bodies were subject to the whims of their owners. According to Parenti, runaways were treated with extreme cruelty sometimes resulting in death, and thieves and criminals were subject to brutal reprisals that included cutting off of limbs and mutilation. Religious beliefs taught by the monasteries reinforced this social system....
The theocracy’s religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.
It says a lot about the status of Asian people in the west that it is only when the representative of this cruelty "offends" white feminism that the halo of spiritual superiority comes under question - forget the thousands of Tibetans who lived as slaves, that is easily overlooked in a society that normalizes dehumanizing conceptualizations of Asian people. What is important is the fantasy of spiritual advancement that the Dalai Lama purports to offer that can give meaning to privileged western lives.

In some ways the Dalai Lama is the ultimate representative of the model minority; the stereotypes that place him on a pedestal allows those who support him to cloak their virulent xenophobia towards the Chinese just like the model minority stereotype allows the denial of racism in American society. Furthermore, the uncritical acceptance of what the Dalai Lama represents - a peaceful, harmless spiritually advanced society where everyone (every Asian that is) is complacently and unquestioningly contented with their lot in life - seems to act as a counterfoil to the other stereotype about Asian men; wicked, grasping, inhumane and de-individuated hordes who consume everything in their path.

What is often termed as harmless and "playful" dehumanizing stereotypes has manifested in a very concrete way - both as the unquestioning embrace of  spiritual figure whose pre-1950 society seemed as brutally repressive as the communist regime that replaced it and the equally unquestioned acceptance of the Chinese as brutal savages destroying the western fantasy of Shangri-la. Put another way, this juxtaposition of un-nuanced attitudes can be viewed as a reflection of the two most powerful and largely unchallenged stereotypes that have been applied to Asian men. On the one hand we have the stereotype of the harmless, desexualized mystic who is unthreatening and beneficial to white people by virtue of his harmlessness and lack of libido, being played off against the bestial, grasping Asian man whose inadequacies manifest as angry oppressiveness.

As I have suggested, this inability - or lack of desire - to formulate a more nuanced understanding of the facts simply means that the spiritual aspirations of white America, founded as they are on a flawed and delusional historical narrative, supersedes the experiences of Asian men and women who suffered brutal conditions in Tibet's feudal society. This in no way denies that Chinese communism has itself acted with brutality both towards the Tibetans and their own people, it merely acknowledges that the western narrative of the simple dichotomy of good, passive Asian man pitted against wicked, inhumane Asian man is founded on racist thinking that reduces Asian peoples' experiences to figments of the western imagination and in the process obscures justice and truth.

The absurdity of this situation can be summed up thusly; it is through dehumanization of Asian people - since the neutered mystic and the angry aggressor stereotypes are both dehumanizing - that the west seems to somehow believe it can foster freedom and justice.

A more nuanced - and truthful approach - would be to, well, acknowledge the truth; while communist China has acted with brutality in Tibet (just as it has done so with its own people), there is compelling evidence that pre-1950 Tibetan society was as bad if not worse. Furthermore, there is also evidence that Chinese rule has brought benefits to Tibet that are simply too embarrassing for western ears to apprehend, and that the rhetoric of Chinese attempts at genocide are exaggerated if not completely false.

What seems clear to me is that so long as the issue of Tibet continues to be viewed and understood through the implicit framework of racial stereotypes, the only people who will benefit are western spiritual mysticism junkies who seem to think that nirvana can be attained via the practice of ignoring history and the suffering of Asian people under the Tibetan theocracy, but also creating more suffering by upholding racial stereotypes that inhibit any possibility of approaching the subject objectively and with the understanding that all parties involved are human rather than dehumanizing stereotypes.

What has to happen is that our society has to become aware that racial stereotypes are damaging - extremely damaging - by virtue of their very nature and are not only damaging when they backfire and offend white people's sensibilities.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Defence Of White Anti-Blackness..

Acts of Contrition In Asian Progressivism.

In my previous post I suggested that Asian-American progressivism and so-called advocacy seems to be pushing a narrative that exaggerates alleged anti-black racism in Asian communities and elevates it to a level that is equivalent to the white racism that seems to be at the root of the oppressive policing in black communities. I came to notice how Asian progressive commentary in mainstream media outlets seems to be little more than a tactic of deflection away from the far more serious and deadly issue of white racism that supports a contention amongst some ethnic minorities; white liberals and the liberal media are merely racists in denial.

How else can one explain the platforms given to Asian progressives that have little to say about the deep-rooted anti-black prejudices in police forces that seem to induce unreasonable levels of violence towards blacks, and lenient local judiciaries that offer impunity to police officers who engage even in obvious abuses? A recent article in the Huffington Post gives such a platform to white liberalism's latest Asian-American Progressive Useful Idiot to divert attention away from white racism.

Entitled "What Asian Americans Owe African Americans", the piece - written by Christopher Punongbayan - serves as an example of what is wrong with Asian-American contributions to America's racial discourse.

The first point is that it is difficult to determine how to categorize the piece. It cannot be called "news", or "investigative" since it provides no news per se (i.e. we are not being informed of an event or series of events, and neither are events being described), and there is no evidence of an investigative element - i.e no information was gathered and presented as an argument that makes the case for the piece.

Instead, what the piece presents is an inflammatory generalization about Asian-Americans - with a heavy implication that it is Asian immigrants (yes, the wicked FOB's again!) who are being referenced - that asserts the existence of a "problem" (Asians "distancing" themselves from killings of unarmed blacks) but never gets around to specifying exactly how, where, or when this "distancing" has taken place. It never builds a case to support that initial assertion, choosing, instead, to assert - again without a supporting argument - a vague claim that Asian-America "is what it is today" because of an African-American led civil-rights movement.

Finally, the piece ends as it started - by not making any sense and without any kind of significant conclusion. Having riled up its readership with wild, unsubstantiated claims of Asian-American distancing from black suffering and (of course) a general attitude of anti-blackness within the community, the article leaves us limp and flaccid by offering absolutely no meaningful solution to this apparent problem.

In other words, having made inflammatory statements about Asian-American racial attitudes - that are never substantiated with meaningful examples of how this hurts African-American prospects in society - the article has nothing useful to say about how Asian-Americans can approach this problem and find a solution. The reason for this is obvious; Punongbayan has presented no reason to believe that his assertions are true or - even if they are true - that they have any detrimental effect on African-American social and economic aspirations. Thus, without a rational and reasonable argument to support the case that "Asian distancing from blacks" is a real phenomenon, it is impossible for him offer any real world remedy.

Put plainly, Punongbayan has presented an article that serves no purpose, has no meaningful input into real-world solutions to America's race issues, seems not to be even capable of presenting a rational (or intelligent) description of his own community's racial attitudes. Furthermore, he seems to have only a very rudimentary and simplistic understanding of the complicated racial and geopolitical circumstances that informed America's shift towards liberalization of its race and immigration policies.

What can be taken from Punongbayan's piece is that it reinforces two negative aspects of the Asian-American racial experience: firstly, it utilizes the same racialization strategies used by the mainstream by making wild, unsubstantiated generalizations about the community and representing them as facts; secondly it reinforces the notion of Asian immigrants as insular ignoramuses who have no concepts of justice and equality - like the Asian cultures they come from - and who are thus, different in fundamental ways from the Americans they live amongst.

I would have loved to have been able to dissect  Punangbayan's piece point by point, but sadly, he has not made any reasonable arguments that can even be seriously addressed. This makes me wonder who the article was aimed at. As the Executive Director of the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus I have to believe that Punagbayan is well acquainted with the history of Asian-America's contributions to the civil rights struggle and thus should be aware that other Asian-Americans would find his contentions troublesome.

Yet he seems to willfully ignore the significant contributions made by Asian-American civil rights activists since the early days of Asian immigration independently from the black struggle which laid the groundwork for many of the subsequent rights enjoyed by Asians and non-Asians alike in addition to laying the groundwork for non-European immigrants to be given the same rights to citizenship as their European counterparts. It can be easily argued that Asian activism was a major factor in bringing about the liberalization of America's draconian and racist immigration laws that has benefitted millions of non-white immigrants - mainly non-Asians.

Since it is already obvious that the gist of Punangbayan's piece is not to advance any positive perspective on Asian-Americas, or their contributions to the civil rights struggle, then I can only assume that his article is aimed at non-Asians who are not interested in the Untold Story of the independent Asian civil rights struggle. Worse still, Punangbayan seems to want to reach an audience that comfortably accepts wild generalizations about Asian people told in a manner that is insulting to both rational thought and intellectual integrity.

Punangbayan claims the following.....
The 1960s is perhaps best known for laws like the Civil Rights Act. But 50 years ago today, on October 3, 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was also passed in the midst of the social upheaval of that period. This immigration law has been absolutely transformational for American society because of the drastic demographic shifts that were brought about in its wake. 
From 1820 to 1965, only 1.5 million Asians immigrated to the US. After 1965's immigration act, more than 10 million Asians have immigrated to our shores. Were it not for the centuries-long struggle led by African Americans on behalf of all excluded communities, we as a nation would not only have a lot fewer civil rights, we would not have nearly the racial diversity we do today.
The irony here is that Asian-Americans are almost never included in questions of diversity when it comes to America's race dialogue. In fact, Asians are explicitly and unabashedly excluded from considerations of diversity when it comes to issues such as college admission and attendance rates and diversity in the tech industry. If anything, the significant presence of Asian-Americans in education and the tech sector are largely viewed as not reflecting diversity at all and even viewed by some as an impediment to "true" diversity.

More pertinently, the subject of the liberalization of immigration policies carries a far more nuanced history than the article would like us to believe. Punangbayan's piece does not deserve a reasoned rebuttal on this subject since it offers no reasoned case to support its single-minded focus on the black civil rights movement as the primary reason for immigration reform. Suffice it to say that I would suggest that other, equally necessary factors influenced the US administration of the time to appear less despotic in its racial attitudes towards non-white immigrants.

Furthermore, it is Hispanic immigration that has seen the most dramatic increase since 1965 - surging past Asians to the tune of 55 million. Thus, by Punangbayan's reasoning Hispanic's owe a huge debt to black America. Of course, though, Hispanic's seem to never be invited to publish articles in mainstream liberal publications that deride their own communities and make gross generalizations about them. The reason for this could well be that Hispanic commentators don't seem to generally have negative perceptions of their own community and they are able to place the Hispanic experience into a reasonable context of the human experience that is sympathetic to the concept of an autonomous Hispanic identity and worldview.

Asian progressive commentators eschew this kind of self-conceptualization and condemn it as implicitly anti-black. Hence, whilst proclaiming diversity, Punangbayan effectively diminishes diversity by ignoring diverse historical experiences. Thus, the question of who is the target audience for the piece becomes one of great importance that sheds light on the limitations that seem to shape the content and scope of Asian-American commentary in the liberal media.

To answer this question it helps to point out that Punangbayan's points are fundamentally trite. What could possibly be a more significant issue than extra-judicial shootings of unarmed citizens and the failure of the courts to provide justice for victims and their families? What could be more significant to all communities than the failure of our democracy to insist on accountability of those entrusted with carrying out law-enforcement? According to Punangbayan - and other Asian progressives - an equally serious problem is the "distancing" of Asians from blacks that has to be addressed, thus diverting the discourse away from the actual issues. If it was not as serious as extra-judicial killings by law-enforcement that has equally deleterious effects, then why write about it at all as a related subject to these killings?

It may have escaped Punangbayan's notice, but since the spate of high-profile shootings of unarmed black men - and women - by the police in recent years, Asian-Americans have been (cloyingly) prominent in speaking out against it, participating in efforts to organize and attend demonstrations, and have dedicated the efforts of many of their "justice" organizations to supporting black rights.

Yet, Asian progressives consistently engage in self-righteous moral grandstanding in mainstream publications insisting that anti-blackness in Asian-America is a peril that threatens to swamp our society. This is insulting not only to the FOBs that progressives continually target for character assassination, but also for those Asians - and they are many - who do and have supported the black cause.

What all of this is suggesting to me is that the liberal media seems intent on pushing a narrative that elevates claims of anti-blackness in Asian communities - which to be honest upon investigation appear to be trite and parochial prejudices - to the same level as police shootings and alleged judicial complicity in enabling them. What this looks like to me is that there seems to be a process within the liberal media to create a "liberal model minority" that shares the burden of white accountability through primally screaming the apparent horrors of Asian anti-blackness. Yet, never are we made privy to the actual incidences that provide us with a reasonable cause to believe that "Asians distancing themselves from blacks" has anywhere near the detrimental effects that Asian progressives and their white liberal media johns seem to want us to believe.

I happen to believe that alleged police oppression and unexplained killing of unarmed citizens is a serious issue that deserves thorough investigation and that nothing should deflect attention away from the main issues. Yet, trite and nonsensical moral grandstanding by Asian progressives that actually permits the discourse to be shifted away from the issues at hand seem to be the custom of the liberal media. Not only is that insulting to our intelligence, it is a morally reprehensible act of self-aggrandizement,

Thus, whereas conservative media only mentions Asians when their experience can be used to bolster claims that racism is no longer a factor in our society, the liberal media permits Asians to have a voice when they somehow agree to make fantastical insinuations that Asian anti-blackness is as serious an issue as police murders of innocent people. In other words, articles like Punangbayan's serve only to deflect attention away from far, far more serious issues of racialized social injustice and suggests that the liberal media is equally invested in using Asians to deflect attention away from white racism. Fortunately for them, there seems to be no shortage of Asian-American useful idiots willing to act as the assuager of America's racial sins. Salvation through Asian progressive idiocy, indeed.

But, there is another potential outcome that I find extremely disturbing. The narrative of Asian immigrant anti-blackness may be sowing the seeds for more racial discontent between black and Asian communities and exposing Asian immigrants who do business in black neighborhoods to more violence and hostility than they already face. Whilst self-righteous Asian progressives cast judgement on working class immigrant Asian communities from the comfort of their safe-neighborhoods that are well-protected by predominantly white police forces who may well use the tactics of intimidation and harassment of blacks passing through in order to "keep the streets safe", it is the working-class immigrants who live and work in poor black communities who will no doubt bear the brunt of any negative reactions to these sweeping moral proclamations.

It is becoming ever more apparent that hostility to Asian immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment is an implicit part of Asian progressive discourse. The relentless (but never substantiated) accusations of endemic anti-black racism amongst Asians has placed the Asian progressive movement into a strange position - claiming to be speaking up for the the black victims of police violence and murder, instead it deflects the dialogue away from that very issue by making a mountain out of the molehill of "Asians distancing" themselves from blacks. This places them very firmly in the category of de facto apologists for the racism that makes police abuses inevitable.

But none of that matters, let's just point the finger at the Asian FOBs - it is easier than actually formulating an original perspective on America's race discourse.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dylann Roof And Asian Racists.

Asian Progressives Again!

One of the unusual footnotes in the recent tragic Charlotte church shootings perpetrated by Dylann Roof was the revelations of his complex racial thinking as recorded in his so-called manifesto. Of special note was Roof's attitude towards Asians - while he voiced hatred for African-Americans, and a somewhat love/hate attitude towards Hispanics, he absolutely adored Asians.

He had this to say.....
I have great respect for the East Asian races. Even if we were to go extinct they could carry something on. They are by nature very racist and could be great allies of the White race. I am not opposed at all to allies with the Northeast Asian races.
Naturally - and appropriately - Asian-American commentators reacted with horror to these assertions. Some pointed out the prejudices faced by Asian-Americans and argued that racism is present in all communities. Others took the road of contrition and sought to lay bare the apparent depth of anti-black racism in Asian communities. My take is that both of these perspectives missed the most significant question raised by Roof's assertions about Asians - why does, or would, he believe that Asians could be allies in anti-black racism?

This question is significant because there are no reports of Roof ever having had any Asian friends, or even having lived amongst Asians, he does not seem to have traveled to Asia, or in any way been exposed to Asian-Americans to any great degree. His friends seemed to have been either white or (strangely) black and there is simply no evidence that he had any significant exposure to Asians either on a personal or acquaintance level. Yet, Roof had formed this opinion - no, this certainty - that Asians would, by nature, support his racist beliefs.

To me it is extremely bizarre that the question has not been raised of why he would assign these qualities to a demographic that he seems to have had no exposure to. If Roof (apparently) had no Asian friends and had no significant personal interactions with Asians, then discovering why he would hold a belief about a people whom he simply is unacquainted with would seem to necessarily be the predominant question that needs answering rather than reacting with contritious angst, or merely reacting.

If Roof truly had little or no exposure to Asians that fostered his beliefs about them, then obviously, he formed these beliefs based upon secondary sources. In other words, his beliefs about Asians must be based on information he read or was exposed to either in the media or, far more likely, the internet. The internet as a source for his formation of these attitudes seems more likely because it is there that we see issues of race, accountability, and complicity being most vigorously discussed amongst Asian-Americans, whereas the media general portrays Asians monotonically negatively, the internet affords Asians an opportunity to be more integral to how they portray themselves.

This raises intriguing possibilities for this discussion; is it possible that Roof formulated his beliefs in the acute racism of Asians by reading Asian-Americans' own commentaries about themselves that they post to the internet? I would suggest that this is, indeed, the case and that Roof's ideation of Asians as soul-mates in racism may derive from these commentaries rather than from other sources.

I won't argue here that there is no racism amongst Asian-Americans, but I will argue that the idea (an idea that is rapidly becoming a stereotype) that Asians are a virulently racist group is one that has been formulated and exaggerated by Asians themselves.

Now there are a number of different avenues where this notion of virulent Asian racism could derive: firstly, there are the various Asian forums where racist attitudes seem to crop up from time to time; secondly, there are websites that are accused of being racist, although such sites seem explicitly against whites as much as anyone; thirdly, there is the racial commentary by Asian anti-racist writers who offer an Asian perspective on America's racial issues in the wake of instances of anti-black racism.

The question is; which of these platforms could offer the most accessible and plausible source for Roof to formulate his belief in virulent Asian racist attitudes? The first two options seems like weak contenders - in my experience, racist attitudes on Asian forums are rapidly isolated and condemned, and any supposedly racist/nationalistic Asian websites are few and far between, if they exist at all. Furthermore, there are certainly no nationalistic/racist Asian-American groups that operate within society that have formulated or propagate any racist theories or perpetrate racist crimes. That leaves the third option; Asian social commentary on larger issues of race in America.

Logic would dictate that any commentary on a platform with a larger readership potential than those with niche participation are more likely to have their ideas more effectively propagated throughout the culture. Put another way, a commentary written for a national or internationally read internet publication will probably have more influence over social opinion than a one sentence diatribe posted onto a web forum, or a blog post written on an alleged racist website. Thus, race commentary written by Asians in widely read and accessible news and magazine sites will reach a wider audience, meaning that it is reasonable to assume that commentary on race written by Asians in widely read, mainstream platforms will be the most likely to shape society's beliefs about Asian and Asian-American attitudes towards race.

If Roof believes that Asians are inherently race-supremacists and we accept that he could have formulated this belief based upon Asian-American race commentary then might we expect this commentary to be racist in nature? While that would make sense, you would struggle to find any Asian-American commentary in mainstream publications expressing white supremacists leanings. On the contrary, Asian commentary on race in mainstream ( and, therefore, most readily accessible) publications are almost uniformly anti-racist. So, why could someone like Roof form the opinion that Asians are racist by reading anti-racist Asian commentaries?

Content may be the culprit. Although thematically, Asian-American commentaries follow anti-racist notions, they often also tend to use the opportunity to simultaneously highlight anti-blackness in Asian communities. So, what we tend to find is that a piece written in response to instances of - usually - oppressive policing, often ends up being a diatribe against Asian anti-blackness. It's almost becoming a cliche and there are numerous examples.

Of course, Julia Carrie Wong's piece in Al Jazeera, is a good example of how the Asian experience is framed such that it forces Asians into the black/white narrative and denounces them - by virtue of their achievements - as collaborators in anti-blackness. Another piece, from March of this year and also authored by Julia Carrie Wong, in the mainstream liberal news magazine, Salon, again refocuses our attention away from white racism in order to spotlight what she terms, "ongoing", and "unchecked" anti-black racism within immigrant (it's those rampantly hateful, unenlightened FOBs again!) Asian-American communities.

A piece written in another online magazine by Liz Lin that was also published in the Huffington Post mulls over the reasons for "Why Asian-Americans Might Not talk About Ferguson". Lin has this to say about her experience of being given the benefit of the doubt by the maintenance man when she tried to break into her friends apartment (for benign reasons).....
....he unlocked the door and immediately left, not bothering to wait around and make sure that I didn’t ransack the place. He let a complete stranger into an apartment that wasn’t his and walked away.........As I entered the apartment and started looking for the box, I was incredulous — and I was never more aware of the privileges I have as an Asian American woman.
That is weird, but maybe the maintenance guy was merely not very bright, or just didn't care, or did not like the tenants who lived in the apartment. Was he making a judgement based on race? Can we be sure? But at least she acknowledges that being an Asian woman in this culture confers privileges.

She continues....
Would this person have ever let me into the apartment if I were a black man? I’m not a betting person, but even I would put serious money on the answer being no. I probably would’ve been asked to leave the premises, too.
The problem here is that she implicitly presumes that her privilege as an Asian woman is conferred on all Asians and, therefore, she cannot even conceive of the possibility that an Asian man could also have been treated differently. But then, after running through a gamut of racial presumptions about Asian passivity, single-minded focus on out-competing others, and the tired and completely unsubstantiated notion that Asians are somehow culturally predisposed towards political disengagement, she finally gets to the real gist of her piece; Asians are racist. Yes, Asians have and do experience racism and prejudice, but, we are racist........
And then you have the anti-black sentiment that pervades Asian and Asian American communities. In Asian countries, where the overwhelming majority of people have black hair and brown eyes, it’s especially easy to generalize about those with different phenotypes, either positively or negatively. And immigrants bring those attitudes with them to the States.
And there you have it, Asians are racist and they bring it with them from the old country. In and of itself it is odd to claim a race's racial characteristics makes it easier to generalize about others who have different ones. Could she really be meaning to say this? Phenotypal homogeneity makes it easier to stereotype others? Because Asians all look the same, that makes it easier to generalize about others?

Caucasians are certainly not phenotypically homogeneous (and neither are Asians for that matter), yet they don't seem to have had any trouble generalizing about others, and I see no evidence that it was ever harder for them to do so because they are phenotypically diverse. I hope this assertion sounds as silly to you as it does to me. Worse still, remember that this piece made it to publication with the HuffPo. Plus, funnily enough Lin's piece doesn't actually talk about Ferguson.

Influential progressive magazine, Colorlines, also weighs in with this notion of Asians as passive and active participants in anti-black racism. Commenting on some problems it found with a Time article written by Jack Linshi, the piece, written by Julianne Hing, says this...
Asians have actually been the subject of quite a lot of public fascination, mainly as props used to denigrate blacks and Latinos and programs designed to support them and other people of color--including segments of the Asian-American population. All too often, Asians are willing to play along.......Asian-Americans are subjected to the model minority myth, and yet also reap the social, cultural and economic benefits of not being seen as black......In the end, Linshi's article reads more like an extended whine for Asian-Americans who've bought into model minority-buttressed myths of white supremacy but wake up from entitled slumber surprised to find themselves stifled by it.
There you have it; Asians reap rewards because they are not seen as black and Asians play along through their achievements. In other words, just by virtue of the fact that any given Asian has "succeeded", they have played along with white supremacy. Despite the numerous progressive assertions of this "playing along", I am yet to actually find evidence for it.

But the list goes on - blog posts, Twitter, online magazines, literary websites, news sites, even cartoons, all written by Asian-Americans, and all testifying to the rampant racism that, apparently, is gushing through our veins and seeping out of our pores as we scheme and connive with white power to prevent African-Americans from owning their own Seven-Elevens and becoming computer whizzes.

Those who abhor Dylann Roof's conclusion of a commonality between white supremacy and inherent racism amongst Asians and wonder why such an opinion could exist, need only look at the wisdom of Asian Advocacy to find out from where such ideas derive. We cannot blame the white media for this one; this is the one stereotype that the white media is not propagating - Asians are the one's propagating this idea of a rampant and implicit anti-black racism in our communities. Asians are themselves denouncing their own communities as inherently and rampantly racist.

The irony is that this merely "takes the heat" off of white racism, and acts as means to deflect attention and the discourse away from it. On this point, should we have suspicions that the white media seems so open to these kinds of Asian confessionals? Doesn't it dilute the gravity of white racism to have Asians make arguments to the effect that "we do it too"? Isn't it suspicious that in the midst of self-evident instances of severe and deep-rooted anti-black prejudice in America's local governments and police forces, white (and often liberal) media sites are publishing articles that deflect attention away from it and onto Asians? Sadly, to quote Julianne Hing, all too often, Asians are willing to play along with this.

What this implies is that Asian activist commentators are colluding with the white media and ultimately with the white patriarchy (nudge nudge, wink wink!) to create this stereotype about Asians and their inherent racism. Asian activism is contributing a narrative of Asian complicity - which is mostly overly simplistic, and often unreasonable and vague - that runs parallel to white racism and may help to divert our interrogation of it.

Some sociologists have suggested that in the wake of increasing Asian and Latino immigration, America's racial hierarchy is evolving from white/non-white into black/non-black in which immigrants who are neither white nor black assume a social positioning that places them above blacks in a kind of pseudo-white category that maintains social inequalities based upon race. But all this does is squeeze non-black minorities into the black/white dichotomy without consideration of the possibility that such a black/non-black "divide" could evolve away from the implicit injustices of white superiority and is in no way subject to unassailable determinism.

There is nothing implicitly wrong with the idea of a non-black identity - what makes such a thing anathema is that it asserts that any black/non-black categorization must follow the rules of white supremacy. And here is where we see the damage caused by Asian activism's insistence on conceiving of the Asian minority in terms of black or white. One can be non-black without being anti-black, and non-black without adopting whiteness. This implies that the nature of the relationship between blacks and non-blacks (Asians or Latinos) is one that can be shaped by blacks, Asians and Latinos without the baggage of white supremacy. In other words, it is up to us to decide what it means and how it will affect racial justice.

The obstacle to this - an obstacle that Asian activism is already reluctant to address - is that an actual healthy relationship of peers between Asians and blacks would require one, an autonomous Asian cultural identity (which is defined as anti-black by Asian activism), and two, reciprocity, that is, an acknowledgement that black/Asian tensions are far more complicated than merely "Asians are anti black".

By ignoring the obvious non-blackness and non-whiteness of Asians, our activists are preventing this necessary dialogue from taking place and in so doing upholding the power of white supremacy to shape black and Asian interactions. By insisting on framing Asians as complicit in whiteness simply because some succeed - or merely want to succeed - activists are shutting down the very avenues for dialogue that disempower white influence over how minorities view themselves and interact with each other.

It is because of Asian activism's narrative of rampant racism in our communities which have the effect of shielding white racial crimes, as well as its refusal to advance an autonomous Asian narrative not derived from the black/white dichotomy, that white supremacists like Dylann Roof are able to form the belief that Asians are brothers and sisters in spirit to white racial ideas. Asian commentators have created a narrative of Asian-American attitudes based on little more than their subjective impressions and reframing of the Asian immigrant experience as implicitly anti-black.

How creating stereotypes through the over-generalization of Asian-American attitudes helps to alleviate racial injustice is by no means clear. Asian activism needs to do better and if it is unable to do better, it should probably keep mum.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Interracial Dating Disparity And Anti-Blackness.

Rock Throwing From Glass Houses.

In a previous post that discussed the dubious charge that Asian successes in education and the tech industry are indications of sneaky Asiatic conniving with whites to keep blacks down. I also pointed out the inconveniently logical reasoning that if merely doing well in education and the tech industry amounts to anti-blackness, then how much more must be the complicity and anti-blackness of the (extremely) high out-marriage and dating rates of Asian women with white men. This idea of privilege imparted to Asian partners of white men is of great interest to me and was the subject of what became one of my most read posts several years ago on the gender gap in Asian-America.

In that post I examined the ways that gendered anti-Asian racism have manifested since the first communities of Asians were established on the West Coast. I examined how restrictive immigration laws that prevented Asian men from finding Asian partners whilst the influx of tens of thousands of Asian brides of white G.Is meant that it was far, far easier for Asian women to immigrate if they were partnered with white men. I also argued that this post-war period marked a shift in which the narrative of brutal hardships inflicted upon the predominantly male pre-war Asian communities became white-washed and seemed to have been replaced by the narrative of white men as saviours of both Asia and its women. In other words, Asian men and their experience became only incidental to the Asian experience.

Julia Carry Wong's piece has reignited my interest in this phenomenon if only because if we use Wong's (and other progressives') context of making the charge of Asian privilege and complicity in cases of success and assimilation, then the biggest complicity problem that Asian-America has must be the several million Asian women who have assimilated into whiteness through marriage and intimate partnering of white men. In my post on the gender gap, I alluded to an implicit "privileging" of Asian women in the post-war period that enabled thousands to leapfrog anti-Asian exclusionary immigration laws and enter the US unhindered. In this post I will examine this process in greater detail and the notion that Asian privilege - if it exists - is also largely gendered and may even have its roots in what could be termed "Asian female privilege".

If this exists as a phenomenon, then any notions of "owning our Asian privilege" has to - by necessity - include an examination of this specific aspect of it. Why? Firstly, given that Asian advocacy has largely become a platform for dubious confessions of Asian racist complicity, consistency impels us to examine all cases where Asians have been "complicit" in white supremacy and - by way of acceptance of this privilege - in anti-blackness. Secondly, logic demands it. Wong's piece argues guilt by association - Asians who succeed economically are by association to the "whiteness" of their profession (as though success is a white quality) guilty of complicity and maintaining the racist status quo.

Yet, as is often the case, the historical record tends to pull the rug out from such grandiose, self-righteous condemnations like this and, as I hope to show, presents problems for those who ignore the gendered privileges afforded Asian women who partner white men - particularly for Asian feminists like Wong - who pass vague, sweeping judgements over an entire demographic while ignoring the substantial privileges afforded to them.

I am reminded of an interesting - and painful - post written by an African-American woman (Bea Hinton) several years ago in which she acknowledged the privileges she experiences when she dates white men....
When I choose to date a black man, I inevitably send a message to society about who I am and what I represent. When I choose to date a black man, I choose to be ignored at bars, barred from clubs, humiliated by groups of drunken white men, or passed over by taxis. I choose to internalize their experiences of undervaluation, passed over promotions and emasculation. I choose to carry the burden of [dating] black men, and I choose it often; 90% of the men I’ve dated are black.........One night, a date and I decided to hit a local New Jersey bar. As we approached the secured entrance, a white couple was also entering, walking only steps behind us. Before we could hand over our I.Ds, the white security guard informed us that we could not enter, as my date was violating the dress code; mere seconds later the white couple reached the door and was promptly let in – with the guy outfitted in the same ensemble.
She goes on......
I still remember how I felt when I first dated a white man. I was welcomed into any space and important; we didn’t need to dress a certain way to prove our membership. Respectability politics were a non-factor. The burden had been lifted; we wouldn’t get turned away at the door, in fact, we always skipped the line. The ease with which this white man navigated the public sphere was simply amazing and I wanted that. Dating was just easier. Life was just easier. I implicitly signaled to whites that I was mainstream, that I shared their middle-class values, that I was civilized – that I wasn’t angry, but safe and approachable. I felt safe and free and privileged.
The honesty here is admirable and I found the piece to be an intelligent insight into the vagaries of some  interracial relationship permutations. What she is describing is privilege - or more specifically, being the recipient of an elevated social status that grants her access to "whiteness" and the life certainties that it offers. Hinton acknowledges that her choice of intimate partner serves as an implicit social signal and a political statement of acquiescence to white, middle-class values. She maintains that life was simply easier when in intimate partnership with a white man; the burden of racial presumptions about her disappeared and she was afforded the opportunity to navigate society as an individual rather than as a stereotyped minority.

These experiences are particularly significant when it comes to Asian-America whose female half of the population marries out - mostly to white men - at huge rates. For the most part, Asian-American women who marry out seem to want to avoid any attempt at politicization of their choices opting, instead, to view their choices as purely personal choices that have no political or social ramifications aside from as a kind of feminist empowerment. Unfortunately for them, this is no longer an acceptable position. Thanks to Asian-American progressives in general - and Asian-American feminist like Julia Carrie Wong in particular - the personal choice to date and marry into whiteness has become a political issue.

The reframing of the Asian-American racial experience as merely a reflection of anti-blackness and the insistence on condemning Asian successes and progress as complicity in anti-blackness must by necessity force us to examine the choices of those in our community who pursue intimate partnership with the white male racist patriarchy - that is, of course, Asian women.

Wong claimed in her Al Jazeera piece that success in the tech industry equals an implicit acceptance into whiteness as well as an implicit complicity in anti-blackness. For her, Asian success must mean an acceptance into whiteness which equals anti-black racism. Awkwardly, that reasoning condemns the 3-5 million or so Asian-American women who pursue or are in relationships with white men to the same charge. If we accept Hinton's claims, then dating white men implicitly confers whiteness on women of color which - by progressive reasoning - is implicitly anti-black.

I came across an interesting study recently that outlined the degree to which Asian women who marry white men have been the recipients of immense privilege in America - it has a surprisingly long history. Published in 2006, the study by a South Korean woman examined interracial marriages in Asian-American communities (primarily amongst the Chinese and Japanese) up to and including the Second World War. The findings are fascinating as they exposed the degree to which America's draconian racial sensibilities of the period were gamed in order maintain the sanctity of white male prerogative by granting the Asian female partners of white men special - preferred - status in America's racial hierarchy.

The study explores interracial marriage between first generation Chinese and Japanese and white partners covering the years 1880-1954 on the west coast. The study excluded other Asian groups since for most of the period these two groups comprised the majority of Asian immigrants. There are a couple of points of particular interest in the study: firstly, the majority of out marriages were between Asian men and white women due to the higher rate of male immigration; secondly, these marriages openly flouted anti-miscegenation laws and got around them by seeking marriage licensing in states that had no such laws before resuming their married lives in California. Even though such marriages were most often tolerated, there remained overwhelming white hostility to such marriages.

Yet, the study uncovers evidence that despite this hostility, there were significant differences in how these mixed-marriages were accepted by white America. These differences manifest in significant ways....
..........marriages between white women and Chinese and/or Japanese men were major targets of racist and misogynist assumptions about interracial intimacy in the U.S. West. Such marriages were further marginalized by federal government’s policies on Asian exclusion and on the mixed marriage families during the World War II internment of Japanese Americans. Government policies upheld a white male citizen’s ability to assimilate his Asian wife and his patriarchal prerogative to his interracial family. Pg.8
...........federal policies on Chinese and Japanese Americans, including immigration restriction laws and the internment of Japanese Americans, treated white men and white women married to Chinese or Japanese Americans differently. Gender gaps in interracial marriages were articulated at the level of federal laws and policies on marriages between citizens and noncitizens. These laws and policies respected white male citizens’decisions to choose their marital partners among Asians and accommodated the unity of these families. American male citizens married to Asian women could make their Asian spouses legal immigrants at a time when all persons of Asian nationalities denied entry to the U.S. According to the sources of my work, Asian wives of  white male citizens were exempted from the 1924 National Origins Act and could enter the U.S. as non- quota immigrants. Pg 25-26
Federal laws on immigration, overseas marriage, and citizenship punished white women citizens married to Asian husbands by stripping them of their citizenship.Between 1907 and 1934, American female citizens married Asians lost their citizenship for the duration of their marriages. The 1922 Cable Act allowed American women married to foreigners to regain their citizenship by naturalization. However, American women married to men of Asian nationalities could not restore their citizenship because they were married to men who were deemed ineligible for naturalized citizenship. Pg. 26 
These findings from the study speak for themselves but can be summed up as follows; Asian women who married white men were afforded rights not offered to male Asian immigrants who married white women. They were given the status of legal immigrant, granted entry and residency outside of the quotas established by exclusion laws (meaning that there was no limit on the number of these female immigrants so long as they married white men), and during the Japanese internment period they had the option of remaining in their homes in the military exclusion zone, thus, keeping their families intact. Federal law and racial "wisdom" of the time supported white male prerogatives to marry Asian women at a time when it severely discouraged Asian men from marrying whites but also hindered their ability to marry within their race.

By contrast, white women who married Asian men were considered to have "left the white race" and were socially ostracized by white society. In the period between 1907 and 1934 white women who married Asian men were required to give up their American citizenship and during Japanese internment although Japanese women were allowed to leave the camps and join their white husbands in California and keep their families intact, white female spouses of Japanese men were given no such privilege and were forced to enter the camps with their husbands and children if the wanted to keep their families together.

The study....
A “Caucasian”father of mixed race children was deemed as embodying a stronger and more desirable element of the “Caucasian environment” than a “Caucasian” mother of such children. The WDC decided to respect the right of a “Caucasian”patriarch to protect his Japanese wife and minor children and so released the Japanese mothers of mixed race children from camps, allowing them to join their white or other non-Japanese husbands on the West Coast. The same treatment was never applied to Japanese fathers who had had children with white or other non-Japanese wives. Pg. 32-33
In modern-day Asian-American progressive parlance, another way to say all of this is to say that Asian women who married white men were being inducted into whiteness, while white women who married Asian men were emphatically ejected from it. The privileges of easing one's ability to navigate society when a woman of color marries or dates white men that Hinto describes in her essay became enshrined in federal law and an accepted addition to prevailing social wisdom; Asian women who married white men became white (with caveats), Asian men who married white women confered a loss of whiteness on their white partners.

In the aftermath of the war these unique racial privileges afforded to Asian women who chose white men as partners continued with the historically unique passage of the War Brides Acts that effectively ruled that Asian women who were married to American GI's - the vast majority of whom were white - had special racial status; they were allowed into the US as "non-quota" migrants. This means that in theory, the only limitation to such immigration was the number of American GI's who chose to marry them. To understand the degree of privilege engendered by this policy, consider that at the time, Asian-American families were literally torn apart by exclusion laws and immigration quotas that prevented parents from entering the country to be with their kids, or kids entering the country to join their parents....
After 1924, the racial exclusion of Asians incorporated gendered difference to the legal status of Asian men and women married to Americans. An Asian man’s marriage to an American woman did not make any difference in his status; he was still an alien who was ineligible to become a naturalized citizen. An Asian man married to an American woman was under the same restrictions as other Asian immigrants were subject to after 1924. Although Asian women married to American men were not able to become naturalized citizens, the U.S. Government qualified these Asian wives of American citizens with a “non-quota immigrant” status, which exempted these women from the rule of giving no quota for Asian immigrants. This established a precedent of the U.S. government’s post - World War II policy on Asian war brides of American soldiers. The Soldier’s Bride Act of 1947 briefly allowed these war brides to enter the U.S. as non-quota immigrants. The 1952 Immigration Act resumed Asian immigration but did not repeal the quota system. Because immigration quotas allotted to Asian countries were still limited, Congress expanded the practice of recognizing Asian spouses of American soldiers as non - quota immigrants until the 1965 Immigration Act rescinded the quota system. Page 50-51
This privileging of Asian women who married white men stands in stark contrast to the loss of privilege for white women who married Asian men, and highlights the efforts of white social and political structures to discourage Asian men from miscegenation with white women. Asian women who married white men became white, white women who married Asian men were ostracized by the white community and - during the war - denied their civil and legal rights.

This war on inter-marriage between white women and Asian men continued in the aftermath of the war when white wives of Japanese men who had been forced to live in the camps in order to keep their families intact were denied the right given to Japanese internees to make claims against the government for loss of property.......
More than half of the approximately 120 white women who were married to Japanese Americans decided to evacuate with their husbands and children in 1942, and most of these women remained in the camps with their husbands until the war was over. To be with their family in the camps, these white women had to agree to assume a quasi-Japanese identity by signing a waiver form that stipulated that they would be treated “as if” they “were persons of Japanese ancestry.” However, when the U.S. government offered reparations to former internees, to compensate them for the loss of their personal property, under the Evacuation Claims Act of 1948, the white spouses of Japanese Americans were excluded from the legislation and were unable to file an evacuation claim on grounds that they, as white, were not subject to evacuation orders in 1942. During the war, white women married to Japanese Americans resisted the way that government policies constructed their racial identities and challenged the white patriarchal assumptions implicit in the military’s mixed marriage policy. Pg. 34-35
This can be viewed as a sort of punishment of white women for marrying Asian men. But most interestingly, these policies asserted the rights of white patriarchal power by denying white women the same rights and choices as white men. This is the most convoluted irony; a common narrative from these marriages is that they released Asian women from the hardships of oppressive Asian patriarchy, yet such marriages were only possible because of white sexist and racist privilege that not only did not extend to white women but actively sought to deny them these rights of choice in marriage.

For Asian-American feminists such as Julie Carrie Wong, who have taken up the banner of "anti-anti-blackness", and seem to have adopted - like other present-day Asian "progressives" - the bizarre strategy of deflecting attention away from white racial crimes by equating Asian success to the practices of racial injustice, this history presents a problem. These advocates seem to froth at the mouth when unarmed black men and women are shot by the police in suspicious circumstances because it gives them a chance to hijack the tragedy and turn it into an opportunity to primal scream their angst over their ninety-year-old grandmother having been racially insensitive.

It is because of this tendency to make such mountains out of molehills that Asian advocacy has developed this skewed antipathy towards Asian successes. Consider this; Wong and other Asian progressives denounce apparent Asian "successes" in education and the tech industry as "complicity" and as something that somehow strengthens white supremacy and anti-blackness, yet this simplistic notion is only possible if we deny the racial experiences of those who have attained this modicum of achievement.

We have to remember that in order to get get into high-ranking colleges and go on to high-paying jobs in tech, Asians are required to jump over slightly higher hurdles than others. Higher test score requirements in college admissions, an apparently more critical assessment of their extra-curricular achievements than would be applied to other groups, and stereotypes of critical thinking and reasoning deficits, all conspire to impede Asian progress. Then, once Asians have broken through that barrier and attained those levels of economic parity, along comes self-righteous Asian "advocates with sweeping denunciations of them as accomplices in racial injustice. Whereas we should be looking at these people as pioneers and paradigm shifters, Asian advocacy insists that we deplore them as racist inductees into whiteness.

Yet, as I have shown, no group has been inducted into this whiteness more than Asian women - and no group has been afforded such racial privilege as those Asian women in marriages with white men. At a time when anti-miscegenation laws destroyed families of Asian men and their Asian or white wives, Asian women married to white men were inducted into whiteness and allowed to keep their families intact. During the one of the worst episodes of anti-Asian hysteria, Japanese-American women married to white men were given the option of leaving internment camps to be with their children and white husbands. White women married to Japanese men had to literally forego their whiteness and allow themselves to be incarcerated in order to keep their marriages and families intact.

In the post-war period, tens of thousands of Asian women married to American GI's received honorary white status that allowed them to breeze past immigration quotas and live freely as Americans with their husbands. At a time when Mildred Loving was having the door to her home kicked in and being dragged from her bed  by the police in Virginia for marrying a white man, Asian brides of white men were strolling freely through the streets of many Virginia towns arm in arm with their husbands without any fear of  arrest. I see no reason to believe that this cultural peculiarity of affording Asian women privilege if they are in intimate partnership with white men has in any way dissipated. What has changed is that other groups - to varying degrees - have found their own niche in the economic ladder of white power which has made this historical privilege afforded to Asian women less apparent.

Minority feminists writers such as Hinton are honest about it - being the partner of a white man confers privileges and eases navigation through society. Your race becomes less of an issue, and you don't have to worry about being the victim of petty acts of racism that can play havoc with your psychological state but which seem like minor impediments to those who never experienced them.

Honesty is the key word here; while Asian advocates are denouncing those who have struggled with stereotypes and racism to achieve a modicum of success, they are ignoring the most blatant instances of complicity with whiteness. This only highlights the featherweight substance of Asian progressivism - it seems not to have a clear principle by which it is guided, it only has those who should be denounced and those who shouldn't. That means that Asians who overcome prejudice to succeed are denounced, Asians who explicitly seek out white men, and are inducted into whiteness when they succeed are considered progressive heroes.

Don't get me wrong here - this is not a diatribe against the IR disparity. Those familiar with my writing should know that I couldn't care less about it. What concerns me is that the weakness of Asian advocacy is so pronounced that it has few avenues to explore its own voice that it has to turn Asian progress into a negative. The problem is, if Asian privilege is achieved through "complicity" the Asian women's dating choices (that is, ahem, their apparent pursuit of whiteness white men) must by necessity come under critical assessment. Not doing so only further diminishes the minuscule credibility of the grandiose proclamations made by Asian progressives.

If we are to denounce the special privileges afforded to Asians by white America, then let's be consistent and denounce it across the board instead of picking and choosing our principles from expediency.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Wrong Kind Of Victims.

Ignoring Looted And Destroyed Asian Businesses In Baltimore.

One of my recurring criticisms of the Asian-American political dialogue is that it seems unrooted and easily swayed by the slightest of social trends. A recent example was the Eddie Huang Scandal in which he incurred the wrath of justice workers, commentators, and wannabes across the racial divide when he refused to be bullied into admitting wrong-doing when he suggested that Asian men and black women share a common experience in terms of how both groups are considered outside of the normal standards of beauty and attractiveness.

As I pointed out, Asian-American progressives came out swinging to castigate Huang for doing the one thing they have insisted Asian commentators do; qualify Asian issues by mentioning anti-blackness. For me, this was a clear indication that Asian-American progressiveness is merely a reactionary movement that offers nothing original to the race dialogue and seems to wait in some kind of stasis, coming to life only to react to cases of anti-blackness with wild and dramatic emoting.

More recently, the tragic shooting of nine African-Americans in a Charlotte church by Dylann Roof has only further eroded my faith in the intellectual and philosophical foundations of Asian-American justice work, and has left me wondering what exactly it is these guys stand for.

In the aftermath of the Roof mass-shooting, apparently around half-a-dozen black churches had burned to the ground, with three of those being ruled the result of arson and none being considered hate-crime motivated. What has caught my notice is the response to these church burnings compared to the burning and looting of Asian-American stores in Baltimore.

As I pointed out in previous posts, Asian-American justice work seems to stop short of advocacy for Asian-Americans except in cases where it can be utilized to address anti-blackness. This custom is most noticeably applied to those FOBs who operate small-businesses in poor, predominantly black neighbourhoods. These Asians are a major stumbling block for the sometimes self-righteous, black-people-saving messianic moral pretensions of Asian-American justice workers who find it difficult to balance the obvious injustices perpetrated against innocent, looted Asian business-owners by African-American mobs with their "anti-anti-blackness" sensibilities.

The result has been a combination of silence and off-handed denial that Asian stores were in any way targeted - racially targeted - and a general "pretending not to notice" that Asian-American store-owners were victimized in any way. Clearly, FOBs who operate businesses in black neighbourhoods are, for some reason, not included in the pantheon of acceptable advocacy recipients of Asian justice work.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in the apparent lack of coverage, and, perhaps, support for drives to contribute to the rebuilding of these Asian stores. In the aftermath of the Charlotte shooting and the subsequent (possibly unrelated) spate of burnings of black churches, much was made of the remarkable efforts by Muslim and Jewish groups to raise funds to help the rebuilding of these places of worship. The mainstream media - including publications as far afield as the UK - carried pieces about this inter-faith compassion. Even Asian-American commentators gave a shout out to this story and other efforts to raise money for these churches.

Reactions of Asian-American advocacy commentators to the looting and arson attacks against businesses during the Baltimore riots, on the other hand, were muted to say the least.

As far as I was able to tell, the only Asian-American commentators to draw attention to fundraising efforts to assist these Asian store owners were Korean-American publications. Everyone else seemingly could not be bothered to promote assistance efforts for these innocent victims of mob violence. This is particularly problematic for the inaptly named Asian-American advocacy.

Contrary to what one might expect, in situations when Asian-Americans are in need of advocacy, Asian-American advocacy is nowhere to be found. In what to me would seem to be a straightforward case of racial targeting of Asians and their property that should have elicited strong condemnation by any movement claiming advocacy as their raison d'etre, the increasingly outspoken Asian-American progressive advocacy movement has remained obstinately quiet. The result is that not only have some of this progressive ilk tried to downplay or - without investigation - deny outright the possibility of racially motivated targeting of Asian stores in Baltimore, they are seemingly apathetic or absent in the efforts to raise funds to help the rebuilding of these businesses.

This illustrates why I view this recent incarnation of Asian-American progressivism to be of little substance. It seems to have based its activism on the appropriation of black suffering to give itself credibility and allow its various constituents to "punch above their weight" and, perhaps, achieve a higher-profile than what might be possible. As a result, some Asian-American demographics seem to fall outside the scope of what is considered permissible recipients of this non-Asian focused, Asian-American advocacy. One such demographic seems to be recent Asian immigrants who operate small-businesses in poor black neighbourhoods.

These guys not only have their experience of racial violence "reshaped" by those who put themselves forward as spokespeople for the community in order to downplay its significance, efforts to support them in rebuilding their destroyed businesses are effectively marginalized by the very advocates who should not only be at the forefront of helping this most vulnerable of Asian demographics, but should also be the most vocal about highlighting their experience of racial violence.

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.