Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance”

Asian men; America really needs you!

Readers may recognize the title of this essay from a chapter out of the Ronald Takaki book “Strangers from a Different Shore”. The chapter outlines the experiences of the mainly male Filipino immigrants to the U.S in the 1920’s and 30’s. What is most interesting about the account is how, in many ways, the Filipino experiences were vastly different from that of Chinese or Japanese immigrants.

A primary difference seemed to be a relative lack of a cultural aversion to ethnic/cultural/social mixing with outsiders. Whereas, according to Takaki, Japanese and Chinese immigrants possessed a drive to maintain ethnic/cultural purity, the Filipinos seemed to have no such notions of cultural or ethnic purity. Consequently, Filipino immigrants of the time regularly and brazenly defied anti-miscegenation laws to consort with white women. Of course, this outraged white men and threatened their apparently fragile sexual prowess and led to terrible racial violence, harassment and victimization of Filipino men with white women. Many mixed race couples simply didn’t go out in public together, even if they had children together, because it was deemed too dangerous.

Carlos Bulosan (the great Filipino-American writer, who was also an immigrant to the U.S.A during this period and witnessed first-hand much of this anti-miscegenation hostility) in his book “America is in the Heart” records many incidences of violence and discrimination directed at Filipino male/white female couplings. Reading some the accounts is heart-wrenching. Discrimination, harassment and violent attacks characterized the lives of those Filipino men brave enough to cross the racial divide.

Both books describe the hostility of white men to the fact that white women found Filipinos to be extremely attractive, sexually preferable and that Filipino men were pursued by white women. What comes through in these accounts is the degree of fear of the Filipino male’s potent sexuality. Subsequent laws limiting any further immigration of Filipinos were enacted with this sexual fear in mind. What a remarkable contrast to the way that Asian men are perceived in America today!

At the present time, Asian men are well and truly discarded, disregarded and demeaned by many in American society. Our value as partners has been diminished – even by some within the community itself. Our masculinity itself is regularly demeaned and relegated as substandard. To me, this shows that the fear of our sexual potency that was so openly expressed in the 20’ and 30’s still exists and is now expressed as media ridicule and enabled by social marginalization. Now the fear of Asian men’s sexuality is hidden behind the bravado of sexual posturing of an insecure mainstream. This is supported by media misrepresentations, , and negative stereotyping, which are sadly endorsed as truth by some within the Asian community.

The truth is that mainstream America has this fantasy about Asian men. It really needs for us to be weaker, less attractive, less masculine and less potent. It needs us to be strange and ridiculous. It needs us to appear weak so that it doesn’t have to face the fact of our potency. Asian men; the mainstream fears you and really needs for its misrepresentations of you to be true.

They fear that you will prove that you are equal in every way.

1 comment:

  1. Filipino/Southeast Asian men were definitely the original "Casanovas" in North America!