Monday, April 13, 2015

Rapism...(TM)

The Curious Case Of Peter Yu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 23, 2015

Asian-American Cops.......

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This Town Ain't Big Enough.

The Blackface Of Asian-American Activism

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

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

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

Here are the tweets....



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Loose Lips Sink Ships.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mytholigising The Model Minority Myth.

Why We Need To Think Twice.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Where Am I?

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

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

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

Anyways, hope to resume normal broadcasting soon!