Saturday, January 22, 2011

Asians Eat White Kids For Breakfast

With Chopsticks, Of Course.

In the furor created by the recent "Tiger Mom" article in the Wall Street Journal, it would have been easy to miss out on the fact that few, if any, mainstream commentators displayed any kind of skepticism that Amy Chua may have been guilty of over-generalization in her assertions that her periodically vituperative parenting exuberance was somehow representative of the wider parenting philosophy of the Asian community. In the news dissemination industry where journalists are traditionally taught to dig deeper into a story in order to better determine its efficacy, it is especially surprising that this generalization fallacy was so easily overlooked, and perhaps even embraced.

It brought home for me how willingly society seems to accept the idea that Asians can be conceived of as a single unit, where the qualities exhibited by one Asian can be rapidly generalized as the truth for the entire group and applied accordingly. Even worse is the realization that you can make just about any claim about Asians and it's veracity won't be challenged in the mainstream. The reason for this, I believe, is that Asians have become so de-individuated in mainstream culture, and consequently in the general social consciousness, that it has become normative - and simply less troublesome - to dismiss Asians as a collective entity and not see them as individuals with unique qualities and perspectives. This sociological truth enables the mainstream to feel secure in its own superiority, and transforms anti-Asian discrimination into some kind of natural outcome of Asian cultural deficiencies and not mainstream bigotry.

What this all suggests is that when Easterly Asiatic peoples or their cultures are discussed by the mainstream, reason and logic seem to fly out the window, and are replaced by a gullible inability (or lack of desire) to sort through fact from farce, all with the proclivity toward low-key hysteria. In essence what this means is that the mainstream engages with the Asian minority from an irrational position, from which any and all suggestions that reinforce their pre-conceived (usually negative) notions about us are generally accepted without question, and any evidence to the contrary is dismissed as aberrative.

Naturally, this is a prodigious issue for the Asian minority. Here we are trying to engage in dialogue through literature, art, music, politics and so on, but the mainstream we are trying to reach aren't often engaging with us from a place of logic and reason. The mainstream consciousness is so inculcated with the notion of the uniform indistinguishability of Asians that they literally don't see us as individuals and it is because of this cultural pre-disposition to think of Asian people in derogatory ways, that negative beliefs about us are so easily disseminated as truths.

For the Asian minority, this manifests as a challenge to reassess our ways of perceiving the manner of our interactions with the mainstream (and with ourselves). Because our reception by the mainstream is founded upon irrational gut-reactions to de-personalized pejorative stereotypes of its own creation, any challenge to it requires a staunch re-assertion of Asians as individual entities. This approach leaves no room for the kind of backpedaling defense into cultural relativity as exhibited by Chua in her Wall Street Journal article and in her subsequent interviews. Those in the Asian minority who seek to present an honest understanding of their community simply do not have the privilege of using the over-generalizing language employed by Chua (and many others) - this simply undermines their own endeavours.


  1. The best way is youtube as media representation. Represent yourself and become a personality known for something. That way, it doesnt matter if the mainstream dont care. Mainstream is going online anyway.

  2. You know, when I first came to the US, I used to get very perplexed when I introduced myself as Nigerian and the person I was speaking to would immediately tell me that they had a Kenyan friend or a South African friend like there was the possibility that I would know them or live three streets from their family home (an African/Nigerian thing).

    Then I realised it was because as far as the Western/Causasian concept was concerned, all Africans were one people. A hungry, impoverished, war-torn, needy people. The reason is how westerners learn about themselves and other people.

    They learn in this format: "Indians are this, this, and this. They like this, this and this and do this, this and this." It is never. "Indian people is a term that can be used to refer to people from this place, those places, that place and these places. In that places, they MIGHT have this, this and this..."
    With the former, you are getting a definite definition without room for addition or subtraction whilst in the latter, you get a sense that the definition is incomplete as it is so broad and encompassing.

    Even look at how Americans define themselves. You are "white, black, non-white hispanic, asian or other". You are "patriotic or not". When the truth is you could be alot of things.

    So, in my opinion, you have to start with the way you are taught how to define the things you know.

  3. Anon....

    That's actually a good point. The internet along with video sharing has given Asian men an opportunity to have a voice that's direct and doesn't get re-interpreted by mainstream spin.


    I think that there is also something of an Orwellian twist in the way that language is used to describe Asians (and usually all non-western/white people).

    Just like "newspeak", language that is used to describe Asians is limited to just a few adjectives and nouns that strongly inhibit the capacity to conceptualize Asians beyond those terms - and usually reinforces the notion of uniformity.