Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One Of Europe's Most Powerful Men....

....Is Vietnamese.

Meet Phillip Rösler, born in Vietnam, adopted by a German family, achieved the rank equivalent to Captain in the German army's medical corp, husband, and father, presently serving as the Vice-Chancellor of Germany, and as such is the second highest ranking official in the government of Europe's strongest economic power.

Sounds like an interesting character. I don't know how this guy overcame the barriers (if any) imposed by his ethnicity and gender but it's nice to think that Rösler may have been the outsider who rose above his expected limitations.

Remember the above picture because it represents an image of Asian men that American culture fears above almost everything - an empowered and powerful Asian man not limited by demeaning stereotypes, nor emasculated by xenophobia. Sometimes becoming powerful or empowered involves little more than a realization that  the state of being powerful is simply your natural state - the dilemma being that we live in a society that actively seeks to disconnect Asian men from the belief that this state is natural to them.

Princes being made to plough the fields, if you will.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Stupid Ass.

Hollywood Is Race-Blind!

This just in; Hollywood is race blind. The bigWOWO recently posted this revelation, compliments of one Dan Lin - a Harvard Business School graduate turned film producer. According to Lin, quoted in this article.....

“I guess for me I don’t see a lack of Asian American actors. I think more and more Asian American actors are getting out there,” Lin said, adding that Hollywood is race-blind. “It’s all about who tells the best story. They don’t care what ethnicity you are, they just want … the most talented.”
Nice one.

The most surprising thing about this news is that no-one else in America seems to have noticed this remarkable fact. Given that can we know for sure that racism is prevalent in most, if not all, aspects of American society, it is truly amazing that not one activist, social scientist, Liberal, or academic, seems to be aware of the forward-thinking, race-blind Utopian industry that happened to manifest spontaneously in Hollywood.

It would be nice to hear how Hollywood has succeeded in achieving the feat of ending the racially biased thinking that afflicts the rest of American society. No other institution in America can boast that it has eradicated the kind of petty racially inflected thinking that discriminates against minorities in every level of American society. Whether it be in housing, college applications, incarceration rates, poverty rates, minority representation in management positions in industry, the fact is that minorities undergo biased attitudes in almost all aspects of their lives. So, it would be nice if Hollywood would show the rest of American society how to go about the same transformation.

According to Lin, the one exception to this prevalent social ill is Hollywood - which is race blind - yet no-one has noticed this except for Dan Lin.

In other news, reports suggest that the military is also race-blind. Sources close to Hollywood report that the story of Danny Chen's race-blind experience in the army is to be made into a movie. The role of Danny Chen will be played by either Shia Labeouf, or another white actor. Lin may be producing. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Now I Hit Back.

Facing The Demons.

I came across this awesome blogpost and thought it was worth sharing....

I was the pudgy Chinese kid. In 4th grade, I was the equivalent to the lame gazelle limping at the back of the herd. Easy pickins for every bully who roamed the halls looking for a distraction......As a result, I just accepted the daily taunting, occasional beating and even a very painful “Jim, go back to Shanghai,” which, by the way, was uttered in front of the entire class by my 6th grade homeroom teacher..... By the time I was a senior, an entirely new life lay ahead of me. There was just one thing I couldn’t shake: the nagging regret for my passivity in the face of aggression. It was time to face my demons........If I were to face my demons, I needed the threat of real pain. Between 1995 and 2007, I pounded the passivity out of my psyche, training in kickboxing and MMA (“anything goes” UFC type stuff). Along the way, I made some of the best friends I will ever have. There’s nothing like spending a few hours a week choking, punching, kneeing and kicking each other to forge lifelong bonds of friendship........When I watch this [video], it reminds me that despite all the years of blood, sweat and dedication, I still get my butt whupped. But whereas I lived to train another day, my demons went down for the count.......Because now I hit back.

Great attitude, great story!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Someone Get's It!

Stephen Chan Telling It Like It Is.

I came across this fascinating debate on the subject of the China's investments in Africa. As you might notice the side opposed to Chinese investment employs mainly shrill, generalizations that are little more than xenophobic fear-mongering. In this video, some Chinese dude named Stephen Chan exposes, in the most eloquent way, the blatant racist attitudes towards both Africans and Chinese that underlies opposition to Chinese investment.

You should also check out Chan's website - he appears to be something of a Renaissance Man; writer, skilled martial artist, world traveler, philanthropist, intellectual, husband, government advisor, and the list goes on. Here's his website...... Sounds like a good role-model!

Also, check out what this lady has to say about the realities of Chinese investment in Africa.....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Punch Can Speak A Thousand Words.

The Manny Pacquiao Effect.

There's an interesting article published in Salon Magazine that examines how the success of Filipino boxer, Many Pacquiao, has given Asian-Americans a long-overdue popular hero and provided a sense of commonality amongst the various Asian groups within the US.

For Asians and Filipinos who were born and live in the West, Pacquiao offers a space where a diasporic people can feel closer to somewhere hardly ever seen. For a few hours they are united with all the other Asians in the world hunkered down in Pacquiao caps, socks and hoodies, trying not to gnaw off the rim of their beer glasses. Pacquiao closes a distance of thousands of miles so that they are at home........ I had never seen such a comforting, familiar and unabashed presentation of Asianness on American TV.
These few sentences actually speak volumes. The idea of a common and unified Asian-America is a notion that is given much lip service, but which in reality lacks any meaningful definition or conceptual identity. The underlying reason for this is probably due to the fact that the term "Asia" only gives us information about a general geographical area, but beyond this is fundamentally meaningless as a term which might define cultures or civilizations. Asians generally don't think of themselves as "Asians" any more than a Frenchman thinks of himself as a South-American. Although attempts have been made by various thinkers to define a Pan-Asian ontology, the concept remains largely unrealized.

It's more true to say that Asia can be thought of as a somewhat fractured collection of independently conceived societies with little pan-national cohesion and, in many cases, a degree of hostility amongst its ethnicities. If we examine Asian-America, we might notice that our thinking and self-conception follows this model to varying degrees. Many Asian-American individuals in various communities see themselves as having little in common with other Asian immigrant communities and this even expresses itself in what could only be described as prejudicial thinking towards other Asian groups.

If we couple this with the "softly, softly" approach to acceptance or integration, that has been favoured by most of Asia's immigrants into the US, what we have left is a concept of a Pan-Asian Asian-America that is unjustifiably asserted, but generally under-explored let alone striven for. It is, therefore, very telling that the one phenomenon that can cause Asia's various groups (both in the US and Asia) to have a sense of unity comes in the form of a hyper-aggressive and finely muscled athlete whose job it is to smash people's faces in. Interestingly, the only other Asian personality to have this effect on the Asian mind was also an unashmedly aggressive and finely muscled Asian man named Bruce Lee.

Who would have guessed that out of the entire body of the Asian-American experience, not a single thinker or intellectual has had the capacity to unite almost the entire community in pride such that ethnic and gender divisions all but disappear, yet two Asian men with exceptional fighting prowess have been able to do exactly that? Clearly, what Asian-America - and perhaps Asia itself - is hungry for is this sense of physicality. All too often the Asian-American dialogue seems to be characterized by an almost mystical cerebralization that hyper-subjectivizes the issues to the point that they actually become almost meaningless. (This is most usually achieved by re-writing history, but more on this in a later post!)

No feminist, Angry-Asian-Boogie-Man, or public intellectual has even come close to delivering to the hungry masses of the Asian minority the kind of satisfying sense of pride offered by the fact of strong, proud, Asian men. Ironically, despite the best efforts of some of Asian-America's culture clowns - whose ontology seems to be based upon the denial of Asian masculinity - it is strong and empowered Asian men that give us the most pride, perhaps even to those who wouldn't date us! How could Asian-American culture have missed the boat so utterly?

Clearly, what is most craved by Asian-Americans (male and female alike, and most probably second generation onward) is an empowered masculinity that is unapologetic about its own strength and power. Yet, almost by paradox, it is some sections of Asian-American culture itself that seems to feed the machinations of American culture that seek to demean this very masculine empowerment that is being craved. Given that the only observable phenomenon that has actually succeeded in providing a sense of unity and pride is powerful Asian men, it seems obvious to say that an empowered and confident Asian-American community can come into being only through the realization of Asian male empowerment.

As I've already suggested, the biggest obstacle to this is the aspect of Asian-American culture that upholds demeaning images and the invisibility of Asian men. Most usually done in the name of commercial success, and mainstream recognition, this aspect of our culture is the antithesis to our attempts to accepted as fully American, and perhaps even fully human.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Asian Americans most bullied in US schools: study

No Shit!!!

Via Angry Asian Man......

According to new survey data release over the weekend for the Bullying Prevention Summit, 54 percent of Asian American teenagers said they were bullied in the classroom -- a figure waaaaay above the percentages of other groups.
I would be surprised if anyone is surprised by this. As I've stated in several posts, racially inflected harassment of Asian-American children is an integral aspect of the mainstream American growth experience - it is inherent in the American identity.

The reason is that American culture promotes the harassment and denigration of Asian people as a normative and casual aspect of their self-image. Many, if not most, of America's cultural representations of Asian people are likely to involve glamourous, beautiful, and powerful, white or (ever more frequently these days) black characters acting out the American dream of belittling or, even more popularly, crushing, the Asian. But it's not only dramatic re-enactments of anti-Asian genocidal fantasies where negative attitudes towards Asians are propagated. Many influential and popular celebs and politicians help in the normalization of anti-Asian harassment through their mockery of Asian racial characteristics or cultures.

This should give us an idea of the extent of the problem of anti-Asian racism in schools. American culture models anti-Asian attitudes that can only lead to destructive behaviour towards Asian people. This is because it is commonplace for the role-models of mainstream America to exhibit destructive anti-Asian attitudes, both within and outside of the context of their work. It can therefore be said that this aspect American culture itself is a form of racial harassment.

The belief that the Asian minority prospers free of racism is a proposition that is belied by the phenomenon of high prevelance anti-Asian school racism. There is little reason to believe that mainstream American children who grow up in an atmosphere of normalized anti-Asian racism, will somehow mature into unconditioned individuals, free of anti-Asian prejudice. On the contrary, it is more likely that those who are exposed to this type of attitude (which might well be most Americans) will maintain these attitudes in adulthood. No aspect of American culture teaches them otherwise.

More here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I'll Eat Any Bitch!

A Dog Dinner.

Asians eat dogs, or rather, in some Asian cultures dogs are included in the pantheon of acceptable consumable animal meats. Some Asian cultures apparently abhor eating dogs - the Japanese (I believe) find the practice rather disagreeable, as do some Islamicized Asians, whilst others are pretty unapologetic about it. Somewhat less known, is the fact that opposition to dog-eating exists within those cultures that practice it. In fact, some nations that are recriminated for their chow-munching habits - such as the Phillipines - have legislation outlawing the convention.

Western revulsion for the practice is well documented and as always it is the western perspective that receives the most consideration and thus defines the practice as both disgusting and immoral. Of course, in an objective sense, eating dogs is no more or less repulsive or immoral than eating chickens or cows. Granted there is the very real issue of cruelty, but if the practice was legislated to ensure humane treatment for the animal then I fail to see how there are any objective reasons for people - any people - to feel shame about eating dogs.

At the root of the fuss over dog-eating, is a very real clash of values stemming from differing cultural norms and attitudes ultimately deriving from colonialist notions. The "issue" over dog-eating boils down to a single factor; western (mostly white) people think it's disgusting. This, of course, is just an opinion mainly from emotion, but white privilege is able to transform this mere opinion into a worldview that seems to serve as a foundation that informs the western mind about the character of Asian people. Even without notions of cruelty, it is somehow implied that eating dogs reflects a bestial quality inherent in the character of Asiatic peoples.

As a person who thinks that dogs are adorable enough to eat, I obviously share the cultural proclivity that sees dog-munching as undesirable. But for some reason I lack the arrogance to believe that I have the right to shame or pressure other people to think likewise. After my last pet dog died several years ago, I decided that I couldn't justify keeping another, because to do so would make me a hypocrite - particularly because so many people associate keeping a dog as a pet with humane-ness.

Many people in America treat their dogs better than they treat minorities, their employees, homeless people, or even their own elderly parents. For me, keeping a dog as a pet became morally unjustifiable precisely because I couldn't see how it is humane to have a clean, well-fed, well-housed dog, whilst everyday I would pass several smelly, homeless and hungry people on the street. I started to wonder why instead of trying to create cultural shifts amongst Asian societies that would see them motivated to not eat dogs, Americans didn't try harder to convince their own people to freely use whatever money they would spend on their pet dogs to better address the homelessness problem. A well-fed dog takes food out of the mouths of the homeless and diverts resources that might be better spent. Some dogs even have better health care than many Americans.

Amongst the many ironies of this situation is that dogs evolved to roam in packs in the wild outdoors, hunting or scavenging for food, and not to be kept as ornaments for the pleasure of man. Keeping dogs separated from their own kind, and indoors where they are unable to exercise their natural instincts, could itself be argued to be somewhat cruel. As it stands, American society is more comfortable with the reality that homeless people roam the outdoors, sometimes in packs, and scavenge for whatever scraps they can find amongst the shit and bloodied tampons of the humane, whilst society's pet dogs leave their warm, dry homes and bound along defacating and urinating under the canopy of overpasses and hidden corners of the buildings where the sleeping places of the homeless might be found.

The moralistic brow-beating of Asian cultures for their dog-eating habits, is simply one of many ways that western culture gets to feel smug about its own superiority. Yet, I see nothing inherently more moral or even more desirable about a society that has an entire industry devoted to elevating the comfort of dogs (who incidentally are happy to eat cat's shit!) over that of homeless and poor people. Now, it could be argued that Asians aren't particularly nice to their homeless masses, but -if true, and I'm not saying it is - this just means we are more honest. We're not the ones with pretentions of humane superiority!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stupid Racists?

The Elephant In the Room....

The 8Asians blog recently published a post in which Eugene Lui, the founder of a political group called the Asian Conservatives, gave an interview in which he talks about how Asian-Americans might fit into the landscape of American politics via the ideology of conservatism. Also discussed was how he, as a conservative, conceives of the issue anti-Asian racism in the media, as well the reasons for the apparent dearth of Asian-American conservative bloggers. Here is what he has to say about perceived anti-Asian racism in the media......

Well, I think “racist” has been used so much in the mainstream media these days that the word has lost its meaning........The Civil Rights Movement — that was about racism. Somebody calling me names and making fun of my slanted eyes — that’s just an immature moron stating the obvious..............................Okay, I’m going to say it: Dear libs, stop being so sensitive to every. little. thing. If a popular sitcom doesn’t have an Asian actor, that doesn’t mean the viewers don’t know that Asians exist. If an Asian actor portrays a nerdy student in a Hollywood movie, that doesn’t mean everybody thinks we’re nerds (do you think blacks — ahem, African Americans — are nerds after falling in love with the Steve Urkel character?). It’d be an issue if Asian American citizens were denied voting rights. It’d be an issue if Asian Americans were being persecuted as a follower of Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Falun Gong, or some other religion. It’d be an issue an Asian Americans were being taxed differently than other ethnic groups. It’d be an issue if Asian American parents were prohibited from making babies. .......Remember: Life, Liberty, pursuit of Happiness.
I was quite surprised by this response for a number of reasons. The idea that media portrayals can challenge traditional family values is a prominent notion in conservative thinking. It is a conservative view that media depictions of glamourized casual sex, casual drug use, and homosexuality, can and do have negative affects on the thinking, moral decision making, as well as the behaviour, of America's youth in particular and society in general. Even foul language and explicit language in songs might be viewed as a potential threat to the morality of the traditional family.

The gist of such thinking is that culture influences (or even directs) public opinion and behaviour, and normalizes activities that run counter to traditional values of moral thinking. Thus, such unwholesome cultural endeavour is seen to play a major role in how individuals within a society views themselves, what they consider appropriate morally and behaviourally, and ultimately shifts the compass away from traditional concepts of moral and upstanding behaviour. Additionally, culture is also a reflection of what is actually socially acceptable - popular cultural depictions merely mirror the realities of social interactions. So whilst popular culture can direct opinion and behaviour, it also reflects the reality of how people within the society may actually be behaving and thinking, as well as identifies the ways in which individuals view themselves in relation to others within the society.

If the conservatives are correct that permissiveness in the discourse of popular culture has the capacity to alter individuals' social behaviour, then it must logically follow that negative depictions of Asian people have the capacity to promote and normalize negative behaviour towards Asians. Many people seem to believe that pornography and some depictions of casual sex in film and television can lead people to have sexist attitudes towards women which might ultimately contribute to an environment conducive to harassment, rape, or even violence. It should follow that any media representation of any given group that promotes a demeaning one-sided view can lead to negative social attitudes and behaviours. In order to deny that demeaning and negative stereotyping of Asians contributes to negative behaviours towards that group one must necessarily question or deny that media pornography or casual sex, violence, foul-language, and casual depictions of drug use, can negatively impact moral decision making, or normalize such activities. This runs counter to the claims of conservative moralism.

It is impossible to deny that most representations of Asian people in the American media are one-sided and tend to be derogatory, xenophobically histrionic, and generally dissmissive of any value in Asian people or contemptuous of any contribution of their cultures to the richness of the human experience. Whether it be movie characters, politicians looking for cheap votes, or celebrities trying to be controversial (paradoxically, without stepping on any important toes!), the general tone is the same - Asians are demeaned or dehumanized, ridiculed or mocked, villified or dismissed. Given this general conservative belief that the media and influential personalities can impact people's ability to make responsible moral decisions, and thus affect behaviour, it seems naive (or maybe dishonest in some cases) to offhandedly dismiss derogatory images of Asians.

Of course, one could read this post and think to oneself; "So what?!" Aren't Asian-Americans outperforming everyone in universities, the workplace, income levels and so on and so forth? Isn't it trite to complain about the media when Asians are so successful in America? Surely, our success is an indication that the negative attitudes and racism propagated by American culture do not affect our ability to prosper? Whilst I cannot disagree that some segments of the Asian-American community do succeed, such an attitude reflects a lack of nuanced thinking common amongst Asian-Americans that, I believe, is almost as big a detriment to our prosperity as are racist attitudes.

History shows that when a society promotes negative attitudes and stereotypes about an unpopular group, then the result is usually unpleasant - even in situations where the target group has acheived a degree of integration. The Jews of Nazi germany provide the best example of this. In the years before the Nazis came to power, Germans of Jewish descent were amongst the most prosperous and highly educated people within German society. Yet, the Nazis were able to exploit negative attitudes, behaviours, and stereotypes that had persisted about the Jews to bring about the holocaust. Smilarly, the South Indians of Uganda were a prosperous minority, but persistent hostility towards them led to their eventual expulsion.

Then there are the Americans of Japanese descent who, prior to Pearl Harbour, had become a somewhat integral part of west coast life. Their slow but definite progress towards prosperity was rudely interrupted by an internment process caused by paranoid fear, and enabled by the persistence of racial hostility and resentments. The point should be clear. Any minority against whom negative attitudes and resentments are harboured, are likely to fall victim to some kind of backlash. Unfortunately for us Asian-Americans, we live in a society whose culture actively, cynically, and deliberately, promotes harassment of Asian people.

In short, it's difficult to see how one can hold to the belief that the media and it's personalities can influence the moral compass and behaviour of American society, whilst downplaying the idea that media mockery, and misrepresentation of Asians can lead to negative outcomes for Asian people. For this reason, conservatives of all people should understand this better than anyone else - Asian conservatives even more so. It is simply avoidance to characterize as "stupid' or "immature", the casual and routine racism enabled by the cultural normalization of anti-Asian harassment. In fact, the culture of harassment of Asians is so integral to the American psyche, that it is even normal for America's children to routinely express hostile attitudes towards Asians. It may be true that many Asian-Americans have achieved prosperity, but given the fact that attitudes of resentment and distrust are spitefully promoted in American culture, any prosperity seems built on a weak foundation.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different......

...A Perfect Woman!

Just taking a short interlude to appreciate some of the finer things in life! A great riff, ominous music, and an awesome drummer. Enjoy!

I especially like her cymbal hitting.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Don't Trust Whitey!"

Playing The Pretend Game.

It's funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. I came across this interesting article in the Telegraph that reports some recent research which casts some doubt on the long-held belief that famous explorer, Marco Polo, actually went to China. This claim is not really new - a 1995 book made similar claims - but  after several centuries, Polo's discovery of the wonders of the mystical East have become somewhat exagerrated to the point that his (doubtful) exploits are seemingly given more historical significance than any actual Chinese history. Yet, much of what Polo wrote was seemingly inaccurate or second-hand information that he didn't witness himself - which I suppose makes him a bullshitter.

Not so strangely, this comes as no surprise to me. As I have written about elsewhere on this blog, anyone can make claims about Asia and its people and it is unlikely that the claims will be challenged or in any way questioned for accuracy, honesty, or truth. Generalizing and shaping the image of Asia has become the Gold Rush of the 21st century for many present-day prospective Polos who see opportunity in reinforcing the fear of, and prejudices towards Asians. Seemingly just about anyone can have a go - indifference, ignorance, or just plain old xenophobic fear makes it a sure sell. These revelations about Marco Polo simply show that this process of getting rich or famous through making stuff up (or exagerrating half-truths) about Asia has a longer history than previously thought. In fact, so successful is the endeavour, that there are even some Asians who have imitated this path to success. As one might guess, it is the Asian man who bears the brunt of this misrepresentation.

I think that it is important for Asian men in America to remember that in the modern world, the driving force behind this misrepresentation seems to be resentment and envy at any apparent succcess of Asian people. From inner city shopkeepers to higher profile sportsmen, from academic over-achievers in the Ivy League to the economic powerhouses of East Asia, the onslaught of apparently prosperous people with Asiatic faces has left the western world's certainty of its own superiority in tatters. We can know this by how mainstream America reacts to successful Asian men. So successfully have western peoples been brainwashed to believe in their inherent superiority over the Asian that many seem unable to compute the notion of a successful Asian man. Many Asian men might find that despite playing by all the rules and achieving their success fairly, their success itself is often held against them as evidence of their malevolent and inferior character - even if you are successful you must have done something sneaky or even immoral to achieve it.

For instance, let's take sports. A popular and well-loved stereotype maintains that Asian sportsmen are simply too weak to compete against their far superior western counterparts. This is why when Asian sportsmen do succeed the response can often be characterized as shrill, irrational, and panicky. The clearest example of this occurred during the 2002 soccer World Cup held in South Korea. That year the South Korean team had the best run of any Asian team before or since. Reaching the last four, they overcame such soccer powers as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, incurring the wrath of these soccer superpowers who screamed conspiracy and falsely (and in some ways ironically) accused the Koreans of cheating. The Italians even went so far as to vent their petty rage on the Korean player who scored the winning goal against them by threatening to drop him from the Italian team for whom he had been playing. More recently in boxing, Manny Pacquiao's achievements have been besmirched by insinuations of cheating through the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Some of the most anxious outbursts of irrational xenophobia occur in connection to the economic rise of various Asian countries. Those who witnessed the rise of Japan's economic power during the 1970's and 1980's might remember the panicked hysteria it elicited amongst some western observers. According to some experts Japan's success was due to the robotic nature of the Japanese people. The Japanese were dismissed as unthinking, and unquestioning, machine-like  automatons devoid of personality and individual character whose potential was therefore easily exploitable and suitable for repetitive labour. In this way, the west was able to re-assure itself that although the Japanese were prosperous, it was somehow less worthy, or legitimate than western prosperity and hence the west was still best.

The recent rise of China as a power has elicited an even more histrionic reaction. It seems that the tone of much of the China commentary is that the Chinese are sneaky, lying, thieving, cheating, monsters whose bestial racial characteristics compels them to seek to overwhelm western civilization. Underlying all of this is an apparent raging incredulity that these upstart Chinese dare to demand a prosperity for their people equal to that of Americans. Of course, the relative success of China's economy is usually put down to some kind of cheating or sneakiness on the part of the Chinese horde.

But this type of hostile resentment towards prosperous Asians isn't limited to foreign economic competitors. Here in the U.S a degree of prosperity of some sections of the Asian minority brings with it mainstream justifications for prejudice and hostility against them. Running counter to the notion of the American dream, Asian-American prosperity has been the cue that has legitimized anti-Asian vilification and mockery. Out of all immigrant and minority groups, our prosperity alone is met with hostility and even attempts to curtail it.

The common thread in all of these examples of histrionic misrepresentation is the idea that prosperity of Asian people has been achieved through some degree of dishonesty or under-handedness, and if this is not the case, such prosperity should be feared anyway because Asians are bad people. The upshot of all this is that there is no reason to trust or believe anything that is written about Asian people by self-described western experts. Given that we can be fairly certain that hysteria, fear, and an ingrained sense of hostility, clouds mainstream attitudes towards us, it seems that the only response to Asia experts is skepticism.

What all of this suggests to me is that the 19th Century western colonial ideas of the Asian man who needs to be put in his place and whose only value is as a servant, remains the filter through which western minds conceive of Asian people. Whether you are Asian born and raised in the Mississippi or the Mekong Delta makes little difference - if you are a successful Asian (and male) your prosperity is an affront not only to the stereotypes that western minds create about you to make themselves feel safe, but also shatters some very core beliefs that insist on the superiority of the Caucasian.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Was Bruce Lee Was A Stereotype?

Not Knowing A Good Thing...

As always, James over at The Alpha Asian blog has found another informative documentary video pertaining to Asian men. The video is titled "The Slanted Screen", and explores through interviews with Asian-American actors the past and present prejudices faced by Asian men in the movie industry and society in general.

Of all the guys that participated, Frank Chin really stands out for his directness and insight. I think that when it comes to directness, Asian-Americans might need some development in this area, and Chin, although ascerbic, is at least on the right track! From the video, Chin's observation that Bruce Lee was a stereotype initiated an interesting series of comments, and I wish Chin would have been given more time to expand on this idea. My only caveat is that Chin tends to all too often favour the cluster bomb when a targeted smart bomb might have gotten his message across more succintly.

For example, while I disagree one-hundred that Bruce Lee is a stereotype, I believe, and we all know, that he was both made to play roles that were far below what his capabilities should have demanded if he had been white, and these roles were one-dimensional and often somewhat deprecatory. Lee himself could not possibly have been a stereotype because he differed greatly from what had been seen anywhere anytime before, or even since.

The power of Lee's example is that he rejected the limitations imposed upon him by American racism, and became the superstar that they said it was impossible for him to be. Subsequently, Lee has become such a profound influence on the racist culture that rejected him, that he can be said to have become not a stereotype, but an archetype that shapes the self-images of young men not just in the U.S, but all over the planet. In the past thirty years, just about every American action hero can be said to have drawn some degree of inspiration from Lee. Everything from fighting style and attitude to men's physiques it can be argued have derived much from Lee's example.

The downside to this has been a kind of backlash effect in which the image of a strong and fearless Asian warrior is negated by stereotypical versions that mock and disparage. But this is not a failing on Lee's part, but an example of how irrational maintream fear of Asian men drives the racism against them. Comedian, Bobby Lee (also speaking in the second video) seems to blame Bruce Lee for creating an unattainable stereotype that all Asian men are brilliant martial artists. This is ridiculous. Blame mainstream ignorance and racism for this - Bruce Lee never said that he was typical of anyone or anything, and he wasn't typical of any man, regardless of their race. Bruce Lee is an example of how much potential Asian men possess to impact their environment, and not someone whom we should criticize for "setting the bar too high".

And here as clear as day we are able to see the effect that growing up with racism has on the psyche of Asian men. Growing up with racism causes some (maybe many) Asian men to second guess everything about their masculinity. Even something as inspiring as Bruce Lee's life becomes twisted and something about which to feel shame and embarassment. The irony is that mainstream culture appropriates Lee's warrior qualities and emulates them whilst some Asians apparently rue his success. This also speaks volumes about mainstream America's inability (or unwillingness) to conceive of Asians as individuals and interact with them without pre-conceptions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rebel Without A Clue?

...Chris Jeon.

I happened upon this online article that covers the exploits of Asian-American student, Chris Jeon, a mathematics major from UCLA who has decided to spend his summer vacation helping the Libyan revolution. As you might notice, the article has undertaken to scold the 21-year-old student for his apparently blasé attitude toward such a serious situation. The article proceeds with an indignant tone....

'However, what's worse about Jeon is his reason for going to Libya to fight in this dangerous war. Why did Jeon remove himself from the U.S., go on a ridiculous journey to Libya and put himself in harm's way with a bunch of strangers who he's never met and can't even really communicate with?....."It is the end of my summer vacation, so I thought it would be cool to join the rebels," Jeon said to The National.  .......Let's make something perfectly clear Mr. Jeon, war is not cool. Fighting as a rebel against the forces of a dictator for something you believe in isn't cool. It's a way of life for many of these people. They aren't doing this because it's cool. They are doing it because they feel it's the only way to be free from tyranny.'
I couldn't disagree more. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that war is "cool" but I think that the article misses the point - being in the midst of history in the making is actually a very cool thing and at least Jeon has chosen the (so far) right side to fight for. I don't really see what the basis is for the article's tone - Jeon seems willing to walk his talk and put himself in the line of fire - although I don't rule out the possibility that Jeon is simply an attention whore! What is most interesting about Jeon is that he is enacting something that many men crave but may never experience - adventure in exotic places and participation in the shaping of history as it is being written.

For Asian men, this is especially acute - it might be the case that some of us feel disconnected (or excluded) from the great deeds of history in the making and the truth is that even if Asian-American men were to emerge as pivotal players in history, American culture would most likely white-wash them out of societal consciousness. My cynical side believes that if Jeon were a white student this deed would be framed to highlight how adventurous and daring white guys can be and he would be held in awe by an adoring public appreciative of the positive reinforcement. When Asian guys act in ways that are at odds with the ingrained perceptions of them society will do back-flips to correct the anomaly because it's scary.

I hope Jeon finds what he is looking for.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Doing Whatever It Takes

Keeping The Myth Alive.

I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in athletics. The video below shows the 110 metre World Athletics final that was run earlier today. The two main contenders are Dayron Robles of Cuba, and China's Liu Xiang. As you can see in the video, Robles gets himself disqualified for impeding Xiang and basically preventing him from winning the gold medal. At first it all seems accidental, yet the more you look at the video the more it appears that Robles was deliberately holding Xiang back. Look especially at 2:30 and 2:48-2:52. Robles seems to not just brush Xiang's arm, he seems to hold onto it for a split second.

If this is indeed a deliberate attempt to impede the Chinese athlete (and to me it does seem that way) then this image eloquently symbolizes the dynamic of the experience of Asian men living in western societies. The Asian guy must not win under any circumstances. Sad day for Liu.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Asian Dudes Take Care Of Their Women

Interracial Marriage Trends (2001-2010).

James over at Alpha Asian posted this interesting YouTube video about the most recent trends in interracial dating. According to the guy in the video, although Asian women/white men pairings are still the most common interracial relationships in American society, the rate at which Asian men are out-marrying is approaching parity with Asian females.........

Of particular interest is the apparent lower divorce rates of Asian male/white female, and Asian male/Asian female pairings compared to that of Asian female/white male pairings and the general national divorce rate. This is interesting for a number of reasons.

If these statistics are true, it suggests that as a general rule, Asian men take care of their women and have the goods to maintain successful long-term relationships. It might also suggest that those white and Asian women that marry Asian men may well be taking care of their Asian man better than those married to white dudes.

That's how awesome Asian dudes must be. Keep up the good work everybody!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Child's Play

Learning The Ropes.

Any person who has spent time viewing Asian-American blogs, websites, or forums, might notice that the subjects that garner the most activity revolve around interracial dating and media representation. These subjects - particularly interracial relationships - are discussed and examined to such a degree that many people might be able to tell you the precise percentage of Asians who date outside their race, as well as the rate that this percentage has increased since the 1980's. Similarly, many of us have detailed familiarity with the dynamics of media representation and would willingly take time out of our day to protest a stereotype. Yet, as this piece of news from Angry Asian Man suggests, there is another aspect of the Asian experience that is neglected in the discourse of "mainstream" Asian-American commentary - the issue of racial bullying and harassment of Asian children.

The subject of racial harassment and bullying of Asian-American children in American schools is a theme that I have revisited throughout my blog. Several of my posts have covered the problems of racism facing Asian children in South Philly High, as well the phenomenon of racist attitudes and behaviours exhibited by non-Asian children toward Asian people in general, and Asian kids in particular. For the Asian minority, the experience of childhood racism is so universal that the subject's absence from the discourse is nothing short of bizarre. Yet, information on this subject is not only largely absent from the popular discourse, academic studies assessing the degree, long-term effects, and severity, of racism on Asian children are sparse to say the least. So, not only is the product of Asian-American culture silent about this experience, there seems also to be a lack of academic curiosity. This I believe to be a huge detriment to any notion of raising the consciousness level of an autonomous Asian-American identity and culture, but is also a major stumbling block in the struggle to overcome hostile anti-Asian attitudes.

The culture of casual harassment and racial bullying of Asian kids that exists amongst their non-Asian peers is the primary step in the marginalization of the Asian-American individual. It is hardly surprising that identity issues, a sense of exclusion, and a profound cultural shame, are so widely reported by young Asians raised within an American cultural context. All too often we are quick to point the finger at the media as the principal culprit that brings about these states, but I believe that it would be more accurate to look to the experience of school racism as the probable root of these issues - how could it be anything else? Racial bullying of Asian children varies in degree from the use of epithets to outright violence, or mockery of names and racial characteristics to physical intimidation. At the impressionable school-age, many Asian kids experience casually persistent harassment so normalized that even school employees are often unmotivated to intervene.

Despite this, the negative effects on Asian children may not even be the worst outcome of school racism. Yes, we know and understand that school racism has profound effects on the victims, but what are the effects on American society itself of raising generations of American kids who have learned in school that anti-Asian prejudice is normal and acceptable? It's a well-established belief that children who are raised in violent homes are more likely to be violent as adults, and children who are sexually abused may exhibit sexual promiscuity as adults. Clearly, if kids are raised with a skewed perspective then this is reflected in their identity and perhaps even their moral sense.

So, what then of children who are raised with the belief that dehumanization of Asian people through epithets, mockery, intimidation, and violence is normal and natural? I believe that for many Americans dehumanization of Asians is part of their growth process, and hence thinking about Asians in demeaning ways becomes an integral part of their identity. This raises the question of how this affects the moral compass of Americans and American society in their consideration of Asian people.

For the most part, American attitudes towards Asians are irrational. This is evident from the ease by which mainstream America seems to be so easily goaded by politicians and culture warriors into resentment and fear of Asia. As I've written elsewhere, it seems possible that someone (anyone!) can put forward just about any notion about Asia and its people, and it will be taken as truthful without so much as a critically opposing thought. Furthermore, American culture has created an industry out of denigrating Asians that seems to be driven by a mainstream market unhindered by the moral considerations that promote racial sensitivity and non-racist attitudes as virtues. This shouldn't surprise us; the dehumanization of Asians is a practice that begins in first grade for many American children, and that is the only way that Asians are conceived of.

The result is that when an Asian child is harassed in school, or attacked by a rampaging mob, or the Asian elderly are targeted for violence, or an opportunistic poltician calls for a boycott of Asian shops, few in American society see any reason for action because implict in the American identity is the idea that Asians do not warrant the same moral considerations. There is nothing morally wrong with abusing children if they are Asian. American culture itself promotes the idea that violence towards Asians carries with it an implicit justification - well, they are taking our jobs, or they have unfair trading practices (like invading a sovereign nation to secure oil is fair!), or they are a threat to the American way of life, or they're just not cool.

For me, not much about the Asian-American experience makes sense without understanding the scope and potential repercussions of anti-Asian attitudes that are propagated through America's children and youth. I believe it is impossible to construct an accurate narrative on an Asian-American identity without acknowledging this aspect of the experience.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hell Hath No Fury........

...Like An Entitled White Man.

One of the unavoidable hazards in the world of the thespian is the disappointment of being rejected for a coveted role in a potentially career boosting production. This is tragic at the best of times, but especially more so when the victim of this injustice is a white guy. Worst of all is the shame of losing out to an Asian actor. Angry Asian Man just posted this news (also here) about actor Thomas Jane who has apparently been fired from a new Sylvester Stallone movie and has been replaced with Asian-American actor, Sung Kang and is throwing a bitch storm about the injustice of it. LOL!!

According to this article Jane explains how the producer of the movie opted to move the film in a new direction by giving the movie a "racial makeover" and bringing in an "ethnic actor" to replace the blandly Caucasian Jane, and in so doing is following a tried and tested formula of having a white main actor with a non-white side-kick. This only made me wonder which hallucinogens Jane has been imbibing for much of his life since most of the time movies will have few ethnic actors and almost always absolutely no Asian-American male actors. Furthermore, if a movie does include an Asian male actor he is less of a "side-kick" and more of a "kicked-to-the-side" type of character. That is, of course, when an Asian actor isn't literally being kicked to the side as is the case with the Asian male actors  who have been kicked to the side to make way for Mickey Rourke to play the role of Ghengis Kahn. So, if there is such a formula it exists only in the minds of white men who view minor successes of ethnic actors as a mortal threat to the certainty of their entitlement.

Some bloggers have called racism on some of Jane's comments and they may well have been intended as a snide allusion to racist stereotypes. It is actually difficult to know if Jane did have such an intent. But, I don't doubt for a minute that if Jane had been replaced by another white actor that he probably wouldn't be so threatened and ego-whipped by it. So, yes, I believe that the fact that it was an Asian actor who replaced Jane is the reason he seems so particularly devastated by it. It is also interesting to note how much media and bullshit time Jane has apparently been given to speak out about the injustice he has suffered, when few in the media raise an single eyebrow hair at the complete invisibility of Asian men in popular culture. This goes to show just how much more serious it is when a white man suffers - even though he was compensated for being dumped.

Overall, I think that I'm less offended by any possible racist intent in Jane's comments or anger, but more offended that Jane's rabid entitlement is given so many opportunities to be exhibited. Maybe I should feel sorry for him since if he had a single good friend they would surely tell him to stop embarrassing himself. But, alas, the right to humiliate yourself in public and still stand tall is just another benefit of white privilege. As the Playlist article sagely reminds us......

As for the whole race thing, we’re always up for racial diversity but unceremoniously dumping an actor in order to make that happen is pretty shitty.
......I think they're saying that it is wrong to do to white actors what the industry has been doing to minorities for years - that is unceremoniously dumping ethnic actors to avoid racial diversity in the industry. Please laugh out loud with me.

As for Sung Kang, I hope the movie works out for him. As many of us will know from experience, being stuck between a good opportunity and the rage of an entitled white dude is a precarious position to be in. So, I wish him success and luck.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

America's Pastime.

Putting Words To The Asian-American Experience.

The Ask A Korean blog posted this extremely eloquent and powerful essay by a guy named Jay Caspian Kang that posits the sport of baseball as one of the means by which Asians can (at least for a while) experience what it might mean to be an American. 

Here are a couple of excerpts.......
"The irony of our multicultural education is that it provides us with only the vocabulary of the thoroughly entitled and the thoroughly disenfranchised. Asian immigrants stand somewhere in between, but lack the context and the words to express our place..............

..........This season, I will watch the game for the stats, the umpire-specific strike zones, the infield shifts, the pitching changes, and the numbers on the scoreboard. But, when I hear the occasional racist comment in the stands that I might reflexively place upon myself, my intellect will begin to pull apart baseball's patriotic metaphor. But thankfully, the process is cyclic, because whenever an Asian player is met with applause, or when I see a young white or Hispanic or African-American kid in a Choo or Kuroda or Matsui t-shirt, the flood of inclusive, metaphoric language will seal the gaps shut and I will once again be awash in halfway hopeful reverence."

How refreshing that an Asian-American can write about his experience without demonizing or blaming his own culture, community, or parents.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Asian-American Culture......

....How White Is It?

Over the past year or so, Asian-Americans have been the recipients of some atypical mainstream attention due to a couple of articles written by members of the Asian minority that reported on the negative aspects of "Asian" family culture and how it has the potential to affect integration and acceptance of Asians into mainstream life. Of course I'm referring to the Tiger Mom and Tiger Cub articles which were both published in mainstream publications.

As readers will probably already know, both articles were met with a variety of responses - some expressed agreement, many more expressed resounding disagreement. Upon reading many of the negative reactions to these articles, it became apparent to me that many people were not only reacting to the fact that many negative things were said and implied about Asian people, but also to the fact that these things were said in mainstream publications to a mainstream (and let's be honest, we're talking about publications whose audience is likely to the majority white) that already has cultural structures in place whose apparent purpose is to propagate negative attitudes about us. Why waste what few opportunities that we have to present our point of view by simply repeating to the mainstream many of the negative things that they are already saying about us?

One needn't limit oneself to these two articles to notice that much of what Asian-Americans publish or write about themselves and their cultures in white mainstream platforms follows this pattern to some degree or another. Typically, this type of expression of Asian-American culture, carries with it much drama and hyper-criticism of self and one's culture. Unfortunately, it's never really made clear why we should believe that white mainstream actually gives a crap about Asian-American angst, yet somehow this idea of appealing to, or creating for, the (white) mainstream has apparently become a prominent goal of Asian-American cultural practice. Sadly, implicit in this pattern is the understanding that mainstream racisms and prejudices must be diluted or downplayed, leaving one to wonder whether this drive to manipulate Asian-American cultural expression into a mould that is palatable for the white majority relinquishes its autonomy and simply renders it a sub-category of mainstream white culture.

Of course, it can be said that since the mainstream offers the widest possible opportunity for acclaim that it would be natural to want to appeal to this demographic. Yet, this doesn't really provide us with a good reason for the tone and theme of much mainstream-in-mind Asian-American culture to be so self-denigrating or negative - in fact, it almost seems as though this cultural contrition is a requirement for acceptance by the mainstream.

This reverence for mainstream sensitivities seems, in and of itself, to be something of a cultural quagmire, capable of swallowing whole any semblence of cultural autonomy and just like a bog, fools us into believing that it is solid gound that can be safely walked over, only to leave us stuck. This is even more noticeable given the reality of the demographics of 21st Century America.  African-Americans have a population of around 40 million, Hispanics number around 50 million, yet, how many times do we hear aspiring Asian-American culture warriors speaking about trying to reach these potential markets to disseminate their ideas? One can only guess at how much more fresh, genuine, or even edgy, the product of Asian-American culture might be if it didn't struggle so hard to protect the white mainstream from its demons but, instead, expressed common experience with other minorities.

This very idea goes against the notion that works of art or products of culture exist as meaningful entities in their own right - some of the apparent goals of Asian-American culture seems to suggest that the Asian voice only has value if it has successfully appealed to the white mainstream. It would seem more conducive to the production of potent, original, and relevant works of culture if we didn't try so hard to force ourselves into modes of expression that limits creativity in the hope that the white mainstream will like it. Most ironic of all, is that this approach seems uninterested in appealing to Asian-Americans themselves, and if that is the case, then why label such an approach as "Asian-American" at all?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"My Mom's A Fucking Bitch Too.....!"

Asian-American Get Rich Quick Schemes

The Asian-American blogosphere has been abuzz in the past week over an article written by Wesley Yang in the New York Magazine entitled "Asian Like Me". My reaction to the article is mixed. On the one hand Yang has accurately  described the degree to which some Asian men may feel a sense of disconnect from their own, as well as from mainstream American society and culture. At the same time, I couldn't help but feel that ultimately, Yang hasn't actually said anything substantial to shed light on this state of affairs, choosing instead to apparently allow the overly-dramatic tone of the article to become the content of the essay.

Okay, I get it, some Asian parents drive their kids hard but so what? People of all races experience disconnectedness from their societies, cultures, families, and peers, what is different about the Asian experience that warrants such heavy soul-searching and self-recrimination? Because Yang's article doesn't really shed light on any dynamic that might be specific to the experience of Asian men, I couldn't help but wonder, why on earth did he racialize his essay to such a great degree. To me, based on what Yang wrote, he could have completely left out the racial aspect and been left with a much more powerful human story that would have made more sense.

How can this be? Ultimately, all Yang seems to be saying is "be more like your peers if you want to be more like your peers". Really?! In order to say that, he could have avoided the sappy dramatics and the issue of race altogether because although the article hints at a racial component to the issue, it never really goes all-out to address it head-on. If, as Yang seems to suggest, the race issue is secondary (or perhaps even irrelevant) to the problems he raises, then why bring race into it at all? But this is a dilemma - cultural differences aren't a sufficient explanation for the degree of marginalization described by Yang, but we'll never know because he avoids meaningfully addressing racial issues at all.

In some ways, we could conceive of this approach to describing the Asian-American experience as a  kind of "movement". This movement reflects a worldview and an approach to life and literature that seeks mainstream recognition and success at any cost. We could label this movement, "Kingsto-Tan-ism", in honour of the cultural figurines who modeled and popularized the literary approach of avoiding holding a mirror up to mainstream America's ugliness, and instead creating myths and fantasies based on wishful thinking and ingratiatingly downplaying of racial marginalization of the Asian minority. Ironically, Yang's article effectively perpetuates the process and reality of the feminization of the Asian-American experience by adhering to this philosophy.

Unfortunately, this is what sells, i.e., this is what it is widely believed white people want to read and believe about Asians - that their cultures are so dysfunctional that any racism directed at Asians by mainstream America is actually better for them than what they do to themselves and one another. I would love to be able to say that this is a state of affairs that is inflicted upon us by white hegemony, and that may well be part of the truth. The reality seems to be that Asians themselves play a role in maintaining the delusion because it's a way to sell books, get published, or become the toast of a mainstream that doesn't take too kindly to being called out on its prejudices - especially not by the likes of us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Google Blogger Problems

Just a note to say that Google Blogger went down for around 24 hours during which time I was unable to access my comments or even sign in. Blogger is now back up and running, but several comments have been lost. So, if you posted over the last few days your comment may have disappeared as a result of the maintenance that Google was performing. Sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for reading.

EDIT: May 23rd 2011. Missing comments have mysteriously re-appeared!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Good Weekend For Asian Sportsmen

Park Ji-Sung And Manny Pacquiao.

As a fan of both soccer and boxing, I was extremely pleased to see what a good weekend Asian men had in both sports.

The English Premier League has become one of the most watched and wealthy soccer leagues in the world. This is an especially exciting time of the year for fans of English soccer as the season is drawing to a close and the fight to become champions gets more intense. This weekend, the two teams at the top of the league - Chelsea and Manchester United - met in a game that turned out to be one of the best of the season. Many believed that whoever wins this game will go on to become champions. As it turned out, the game was won by Manchester United who, barring a major catastrophe, are likely to be this year's champions.

The game aside, what was of most interest to me, was the peformance of Manchester's South Korean midfielder, Park Ji-Sung. As I alluded to here, Park is something of an unsung hero for Manchester United. Despite being embraced by the Manchester faithful, as well as being well-respected by coaches and teammates, Park seems to be unpopular with the media and soccer commentators, who have generally overlooked or dismissed his contribution to the team's success, and even questioned whether he deserves to be in the team.

With this in mind, it was nice to see the press finally take notice of Park's contribution - especially in a game of such significance. Following the match, the papers were full of kudos for Park's performance. The Guardian, talks about Park being the driving force behind the teams success, and the BBC also reports on Park's "peerless" performance. Both the Chelsea FC and Man U websites made note of Park's performance. Bear in mind that Manchester United are one of the most successful teams in the world, and have had (do have) some of the best footballers playing for them. For Park to stand out in a team of stars really does underline his value as a player. I my opinion, Park is a good enough player to make the squad, and maybe the first eleven, of most European national teams - the press just didn't seem to notice.

The other highlight for Asian sportsmen over the weekend was the latest victory of boxer, Manny Pacquiao. Although by no means his best performance, he defeated Shane Mosely - a fighter considered by many to be one of the finest of his generation. In post-fight comments, Mosley highlighted the exceptional speed and power of Pacquiao, who in addition to being arguably one of the best boxers of all time, is a true role model for Asian men.

As I've stated elsewhere, Asian and Asian-American sportsmen are unsung as pioneers in the struggle of Asian men to overcome stereotypes, and limiting ways of thinking. Park is a true pioneer - good enough, strong enough, and determined enough to make it as a regular in one of the world's top soccer teams, and even occasionally standing out in a team of stars. Pacquiao is the "impossible" Asian man - aggressive, fearless, and hyper-masculine, his achievements and conduct in and outside of the ring bear no resemblance to the accepted demeaning stereotypes of Asian men's characters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Angry Asiance Men and Dumb Asiance Women.

A Marriage Made In Heaven. 

Along with nasty viruses that mangle your computer, encountering unabashed expressions of stupidity ranks, in my opinion, as two of the major hazards of internet surfing. The freedom to disseminate and receive information that is afforded us by internet access, carries with it the inevitable hazard of disseminating stupidity on a stupendously grand scale. In fact, as this Asiance article illustrates, the internet has almost become a showcase for respectably veneered stupidity.

As you can see, the article addresses the subject of Asian men's supposed angry reactions to Asian women who date outside of their race. Now, I've been around the internet enough to know that the Asian-American Interracial Dating Disparity illicits some of the most passionate and angry reactions from both men and women. Yet, away from the internet, there doesn't seem to be as much conflict or debate about the subject, which leads me to wonder if the supposed anger of Asian men is somewhat exaggerrated - after all, as I've already suggested, the internet does tend to bring out the stupid and the crazy in people.

If there is any truth to the rumour I'll admit that I don't really care for it. For some reason, I find it hard to muster anything beyond indifference when I see or read about Asian women with white men. This has been a positive thing.

I've come to realize that for many Asian-American women who date outside their race (i.e, white men) the belief in the existence of an Angry Asian Boogey Man who opposes their choice is as essential to their identity as is the dating choice itself. What this means is that true or not, real or fantasy, the stereotype of an Angry Asian Boogey Man must be perpetuated in order to somehow give the dating choice more profound meaning than it might have if the stereotype didn't exist. After all, the idea of overcoming obstacles for love is very enticing, even though the Asian female/white male pairing is and has been the easiest racial barrier to cross for over half a century - maybe even longer - and required little or no activism or struggle to achieve.

I've experienced this in my own life. I have encountered Asian women who have tried to pin the Angry Asian Boogey Man label on me, even though my only reaction to their dating choice has been indifference - sorry, but I just couldn't care less. Even after giving every indication and message that, no, I just don't care about you or who you're dating, some Asian women seemed to need to maintain the belief that I am, or have been, pre-occupied with their dating choices. The Angry Asian Boogey Man stereotype seems to be largely a myth that is required in order to give what is ultimately the mundane act of dating a white man, a more important purpose than it actually might possess - almost like emulating Martin Luther King by dating white dudes. So, just for the record, I - just like tens of thousands of Asian-American men - can't muster the interest to be angry at the dating lives of strangers - especially if they're as seemingly dumb as the lady who wrote the Asiance article.

It's time for Asian women to let go of the tired myth that insists that Asian men are are obsessed with their dating lives - we're not. There are other ways to give their relationships meaning than to believe the myth that anonymous Asian men are out to destroy their dating activism.

And Angry Asian Boogey Men, let it go...........that is, if you really exist.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dialogue WIth Simon Tam

My Response

Thank you for your comment and the clarification of your point of view. Welcome to my blog - and thank you for not starting a war! My response to you in the comments section bacame overly long so I hope you don't mind that I've posted it as an actual blog post.

Let me also start by clarifying. You wrote that I said this......'[I] don't offer any good reasons why I think I should have the right to protect our name and define ourselves by calling ourselves "The Slants."'

Your paraphrase is inaccurate. I wrote nothing like that. In fact, what I actually wrote was this... I couldn't help but notice the irony in the above quote. It might well be true that a government agency shouldn't have the right to determine how a group defines itself, but at the same time Tam doesn't really offer any good reason why he thinks he does. Which was a response to this statement made by you……This is what angers me the most: the US Trademark Office decided that anonymous wiki sources mattered more than the voice of Asian Americans. Why does a government agency that has no connection with APA’s have the right to dictate what is appropriate for our community? Why don’t we have the right to decide for ourselves?

Words are not entities with relative meanings, by necessity they must adhere to some kind of standard in order for language to make any sense. Unless the words that you wrote above have a different meaning to you than they would have for most other people then it is fair to conclude that, clearly, you have decided that a historically derogatory term is an appropriate way to define or label our community. What you have written goes way beyond merely wanting to use an epithet to label yourselves because you are trying to convince a government agency that it is okay to for a society think of dehumanizing terms as positive. That affects the whole community, past, present, and future. I also find it strange that you think that this (or any) government agency has no connection with APAs. Isn't the point of activism and political involvement ultimately to forge connections between individuals, the communities that they constitute, and their governmental agencies? The fact is that all government agencies must and do have connections with APAs whether we like it or not, and whether it is good for us or not. It seems to me that this particular agency is showing great sensitivity toward APAs.

Fair enough, plenty of Asian groups utilize the term "slant" to label themselves, but unlike yourself, they don't seem to have appealed to the general community to support them in trying to convince a government agency in making a term acceptable that was and still has the potential to be used to dehumanize Asian people. Surely the bigger issue is that we do indeed live in a society that shows a proclivity, and desire even, to dehumanize Asians. It seems obtuse and meaningless to argue that "words only have as much power as you give them" or that derogatory epithets lose their power if we understand them in the context of their pure or absolute meaning. This is nonsense. A dehumanizing epithet reflects a social and political reality that places some individuals in a hierarchy above an entire group. So yes, whilst it's true that words in their pure form may not be demeaning, it is ultimately a meaningless argument because it is social and political inequalities that enables such words to have power.

That is what I tried to get across in my post. Derogatory epithets do not lose power because we might "own" them or use them to describe ourselves. They lose power when the structures that enable a given group to utilize them as a means to reinforce ideas of social, racial, and political superiority over another group, are dismantled or are themselves disempowered. This means that racial epithets are not merely intended to offend (that's a mundane and naive perspective) - the goal is not and never has been to bruise the egos of minorities, but, rather, to reinforce the idea of  social and political inferiority by "putting them in their place". This why the N-word can be said to be reclaimed and owned - it can no longer be used with impunity because the structures that empowered it have been and are still in the process of being dismantled. The Asian community is not there yet. This is because so much of the negative attitudes directed at us stem from issues of ongoing economic and potential military conflict that affect the very sense of survival of the American state. That's how deeply ingrained is the fear of Asian peoples.

Perhaps I have underestimated the degree of support that your case may have received from a few bloggers and activists, but that still doesn't make your case any more logical or coherent, and I'm almost never swayed by appeals to popularity. I still fail to see how making the term official contributes to dismantling the structures that empower the usage of the alternatives still being used today. Most mainstream Americans don't even know that Chinese labourers were used as slaves in the 19th century. They don't know that Chinese workers were lynched by bloodthirsty mobs of Americans, and don't realize that quaint Chinatowns began as nothing more than ghettos intended as a means of segregation and a step in ethnically cleansing America of Asians. Most Americans don't know of the brutal and inhuman treatment of Filipino migrant workers in the 1920's an 30's, or the discriminatory legislation that restricted Japanese immigrant's opportunities. They just don't know or understand the extent to which epithets have reflected and reinforced deep seated institutional and personal prejudice towards Asian people.

By contrast, you might well notice that many white Americans are visibly embarassed and uncomfortable when they hear the N-word and might even try to disassocociate themselves from its use. This is because the term is associated with slavery, rape, murder, and inhumanity. This is not the case with anti-Asian epithets which is why it is incoherent to reclaim terms that mainstream America isn't ashamed of. I don't want the term "slant" to have a positive connotation. When people hear it, I would like for them to understand that it means violence, hatred, injustice, brutality, and dehumanization and to subsequently be embarassed because anti-Asian racial slurs are not something silly and mundane like "fart-face" or "dick-wad". They are not the cause of the inequality, but a symptom of it. Many Americans believe that anti-Asian slurs are funny, and that earthquakes that kill thousands of Japs are hilarious. By changing this connotation, you are effectively contributing to the obfuscation of Asian-American history and allowing America to remain comfortable in its ignorance of its historical prejudice towards Asians - a past that still has repurcussions today.

The amazing work that you have apparently done is admirable, but I can't help but wonder if the positive reactions that you receive  from Asians and non-Asians might have less to do with your name and more to do with the actual work and activism that you engage in. In fact, I might even be inclined to believe that making "slant"  a positive thing undermines your real activist work.

On a final note, you have stated in that the term slant is not longer used as an epithet, yet in a post that you wrote for the AALDEF and linked to on the bigWOWO blog I read the following......"But then he noticed some other bands, non-Asians, using the name The Slants, to ridicule Asians". Have I misinterpreted this - are you saying that "slants" is still being used to demean Asians?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Neverending Story

Gran Torino And The Tiger Mom.

The Eurasian Sensation blog just posted this latest satire on the Tiger Mom Hydra....

For those who don't know, so-called "Tiger Mom" achieved a degree of infamy early last year due to a Wall Street Journal article that printed an excerpt from her book in which she apparently seemed to explain the merits of emotionally abusing her children. My thoughts on Tiger Mom can be read here, and here.

As you can see from the video above, mainstream America registered its horror and condemnation of Amy Chua, basically labelling her as a child abuser. Whether or not this is true, I'll leave to readers to decide for themselves. What interests me, on the other hand, is this idea of child abuse - or more specifically the abuse of Asian children.

I'm always a little skeptical when manistream America registers any kind of horror at the thought of Asian people being harmed in any way. I'm especially skeptical about the sincerity of mainstream concerns about Asian children. For instance, a few years ago, Clint Eastwood came out with the movie "Gran Torino", in which he played an old, embittered war veteran and racist, who befriends a young Hmong boy and becomes his mentor.

Now the thing about Gran Torino, is that it basically depicts an Asian child being verbally and emotionally abused by a racist, white adult, who unleashes a constant and unrelenting torrent of derogatory epithets at the boy throughout the entire movie. Now, given the apparent concern about the abuse of Asian children, surely mainstream America would have registered some protest at this depiction of child-abuse in a mainstream American movie? The answer is "no". America seemed to actually think that this depiction of child abuse was worthy of several awards, and nominations for awards - in fact, no-one seemed to notice the actual abuse. To put this into perspective, imagine the movie, Karate Kid, in which the Asian mentor, in addition to teaching the white acolyte how to fight, had also called him "white trash", "hillbilly", or "nazi" in every scene. I think that there would have been some protests. Clearly, the idea of abusing Asian children is not so horrific to mainstream America as it would at first seem.

So, the question is, if abusing Asian children isn't so bad, why is mainstream America so horrified by Amy Chua? I think the reason has nothing to do with what she may or may not have done to her own children. Her mistake was to criticize the way that white people raise their kids. If she had simply written that she was hard on her kids but now somewhat regrets it (which, in her wishy-washy way, is what she seemed to be saying), then there wouldn't be an outcry about her methods. But, she actually went one step too far in suggesting that white people aren't perfect in how they raise their children - and that's what has America so pissed.

Now, I do give Gran Torino some kudos for honesty in portraying (and exposing) the realitites of mainstream attitudes towards Asians - although that may not have been the intent. As I've suggested elsewhere, Asian kids growing up in America will be exposed to varying degrees of racism from their mainstream peers - a prejudice that  is both encouraged and normalized by American culture, as well as overlooked and fostered by parents and society. The silence of mainstream America on this subject is deafening.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chinkies and Gooks and Slants Oh My!

Owning Silliness.

The You Offend Me You Offend My Family blog recently posted an article written by musician Simon Tam, the bassist for the all Asian-American group The Slants. According to the article, the band is engaged in a struggle with the U.S Trademark and Patent Office over their attempt to trademark the band's name. Their application has been denied on the grounds that because the term "slants" has been used historically as a means of denigration of Asian people, it runs counter to the patent office's policy of not permitting disparaging terms to be used.

The article then goes on to explain that the band "deliberately chose this outdated, generational term to inject pride into Asian American culture", and that they have received substantial support from the Asian-American community. The article continues.....

"This is what angers me the most: the US Trademark Office decided that anonymous wiki sources mattered more than the voice of Asian Americans. Why does a government agency that has no connection with APA’s have the right to dictate what is appropriate for our community? Why don’t we have the right to decide for ourselves?............The role of government shouldn’t include deciding what a group can define themselves as. That right should belong to the community itself."
I couldn't help but notice the irony in the above quote. It might well be true that a government agency shouldn't have the right to determine how a group defines itself, but at the same time Tam doesn't really offer any good reason why he thinks he does. The fact that a few random bloggers and activists support him is irrelevant.

The worst thing about this idea of "owning" a derogatory slur as a means of empowerment or to inject pride into Asian-American culture (what does that even mean?!!), is that it seems to be a case of simple imitation. The reasoning seems to be that blacks have done it with the N-word so we should too! Pride and all that, don't you know! Of course, the reality would appear to be far more complex than this.

Black people owning the N-word came about after decades of civil rights work, protesting government authorities, facing dogs, watercannon, and lynch mobs, with the effect of building a community of empowered individuals. The by-product of all this activism was that the N-word became hazardous for white people to use because there weren't any more laws preventing African-Americans from refusing to accept the term from them. In this way, the N-word has changed from a socially valid descriptor into socially unacceptable slur. Therefore, for black people to use the term it is both a reminder to white society of its past brutality (and the struggle to overcome it), and it truly is owning the word because non-blacks use the word at their own peril.

The situation of the Asian minority in 21st century America is different. Words like "chink" and "gook" can be, and are, used casually in American society, and racial mockery of Asian people is the norm. In fact, it is considered so normal to concieve of Asians in mocking and derogatory ways, that American popular culture (and the celebrities it manufactures) routinely and confidently propagates these negative attitudes. American children grow up in school environments where racial baiting and harassment of Asians is casual and acceptable. There are absolutely no negative social or political repurcussions that result from using anti-Asian epithets or expressing anti-Asian attitudes. There is no social stigma attached to expressing racism towards Asian people and adopting such slurs does nothing to change that.

With this in mind it would seem obvious that striving to apply a derogatory epithet as an appropriate self-definition in an environment where few positive alternatives are used, does, in fact, reinforce and provide impetus to the practice of dehumanizing Asian people through derogatory epithets. If everybody can use them without restriction, then how are these epithets being "owned"? Furthermore, how does applying a demeaning epithet to oneself convince a society - that is quite comfortable using them - that it is actually wrong to use them?

In short, there is no logical basis to presume that Asians applying derogatory epithets to themselves, in any way promotes cultural pride or social empowerment. All it does is legitimize their use as a means to dehumanize us. Tam's article calls for the Asian-American community to show support for what he terms their "plight" - I urge readers to not support this silly campaign.