Tsunamis and The Children Of The Corn.
As I've alluded to elsewhere, the Asian experience of racism in America bears some comparison to a campaign of terrorism. For instance, terrorists seek to manipulate, disempower, intimidate, and coerce a population into acceding to various demands and beliefs in order to empower themselves, yet, a society that promotes and normalizes racial hostility, violence, and behaviours through demeaning stereotypes and xenophobic socio-political rhetoric creates a similar relationship between the mainstream and the target minority as the relationship between the terrorist organization and the citizens it targets.
Where I presently reside, the existence of various militant separatist, anarchist, nationalist, and religious groups makes for an interesting cocktail of potential hazards of the explosive kind. Three years ago a bomb was discovered in a Burger King just down the street from my apartment, and earlier this year a suicide bomber martyred himself in one of the City's main squares. Suffice it to say that even though these types of incidences are rare, I would be lying if I were to say that the thought of being caught in a bomb blast whilst sitting in my favourite coffee shop, or shopping at the grocery store, is not always at the back of my mind.
Obscenely, this sense of foreboding that a bomb might go off is analagous to the experience of being Asian in America. Just as in a society that lives with an internal terrorist threat in which its citizens can never foresee the next martyr, but who know that one will come along sooner or later, Asians in America never really know when their race is going to be a problem for someone, somewhere. It could be in a favourite cafe, or whilst shopping at the grocery store, but sooner or later, someone will remind us that being Asian means casually routine harassment and racial baiting, and perhaps even violence.
It is precisely because American culture normalizes racist attitudes and behaviours towards its Asian minority that an environment has been created in which interactions with the mainstream often carries with it the likelihood for racial denigration or even violence. Yet, because depictions of racial violence and harassment forms the core of representations of Asian people in American culture, this is not considered an abnormal state of affairs. Hence, just like someone who is trying to live a normal life knowing that a terrorist's bomb could go off any time or anywhere, many in the Asian minority exists in a state of expectation knowing that an inevitable explosion of casual (or even casually violent) racism will impinge upon their lives. Society is set up to ensure this.
American culture (and hence American society) is abnormal in its xenophobic hostility to the epicanthic fold and the single eyelid. If you refer to the title of this post - "Çinli Gibi" - it is Turkish for "(He looks) like a Chinese", and I heard a group of small Kurdish kids saying it about me whilst I was walking through my neighbourhood recently. I looked over at them and smiled, to which they responded in accented English, "Hello!" and then giggled. I waved and continued on whilst the kids went back to playing. Just a case of innocent curiosity - how normal! If this had occurred in America, the kids would be likely to have a selection of choice epithets to hurl at me, and the tone of the exchange would likely have been alot uglier.
This offers a great insight into how sick and aberrative American culture is when it comes to its attitudes to its Asian minority because, by contrast, mainstream American kids seem to be armed with a ready supply of racist attitudes and epithets that they are seemingly not discouraged from using in their interactions with Asian people. It is Asian-American children who experience this most intensely - yet what can it mean for American society and the place of the Asian minority within it when America's children go through the most impressionable years of their lives with the belief that it is normal to use racial epithets towards Asian people?
To me the recent outpouring of anti-Japanese feeling in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami is simply confirmation that the practice of rearing American children to think of Asians in dehumanizing ways has been a great success, and that we should not be surprised that this apparent inability to have a human connection with Asian people is so prevalent - it is how many of these people have been taught to think since childhood.