Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Role Model At Last - Take Notes.

And Follow In This Guys Footsteps.

Some comedian picking on the wrong Asian.....

This sensitive-looking Asian dude with sensitive-looking ponytail shows us how to deal with racism and those who disrespect Asians and that sensitive-looking guys aren't always wimps!. Granted the guy was being a comedian, but I won't fault the Asian for reacting to the insult the way he did - that's what any normal man would do.

H/T Angry Asian Man

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dumb And Dumber

Dating White Guy Activism.

It's almost impossible to believe that only half-a-century ago dating and marrying outside of one's race was illegal in many states and could lead to imprisonment, social stigmatization, or even death. It has been a long and hard-earned struggle of individuals and civil rights groups that has slowly brought about legal changes and shifts in social attitudes such that the choice to marry outside one's race is no longer controlled by despotic legislation, although it must be said that social stigmas, though less apparent, still remain. For some demographics, society still maintains reservations about the desirability of miscegenation and thus although it is legal, dating and marrying someone of a different race is still a serious life-choice that is not discussed casually, or taken lightly. With one exception.

A recent article in the Huffington Post, written by Princeton student Vivienne Chen explores the nuanced bigotry involved in the increasingly common practice of Asian women who exclusively date white men. As Chen explains, the practice is a minefield of prejudice and racial stereotyping - which she casually accepts with a flighty shrug and a petulant sigh. Chen's article was written in response to these two articles which also bemoan the pitfalls involved when some Asian women exhibit biased thinking against all men of colour (including and sometimes, particularly Asian men) and choose to exclusively date white men. 
We prefer Western men because we grew up in a culture that prefers Western men......Asian cultures can be remarkably xenophobic, and white people are sometimes given a "light-skinned pass." Long before the White Man set foot in China, having light skin was a sign of wealth and status, as it meant you didn't spend long hours toiling in the sun....But by constantly projecting this idea that men who specifically like Asian women are creepers, we risk making otherwise decent, respectable guys avoid dating Asian girls for fear of being labeled a creeper -- until we have nothing but creepers left.
This is a strange thing to say, and a little bit silly - African-American and Hispanic-American women grow up with the same conditions yet don't appear to exhibit the same bias towards white men. Furthermore, both these groups value lighter skin, but haven't developed the same type of culture which discriminates against men from their own community and shows preference for white men. Even more remarkable about Chen's piece is that it is discussing cultural stereotypes within the context of inter-racial relationships in which the creation of negative stereotypes about men of colour was, and remains, one of the fundamental ways that American culture maintains social stigmas about marrying outside your race. Negative stereotypes about minority men have and continue to serve the purpose of discouraging white women from marrying outside their race. Yet, Chen ignores this social phenomenon and addresses the least damaging of stereotypes - that of white men as "Asiaphiles".

The results of these stereotypes have even more far-reaching effects than simply discouraging inter-racial dating. Stereotypes about Asian timidity embolden anti-Asian racism and have created a culture of casual, nonchalant, throw-away, prejudice that is expressed with little expectation of repercussion. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is the way this stereotype of Asian people may affect America's foreign policy actions in its sometimes delicate relations with Asian countries. Negative stereotypes of black men - violent and hyper-aggressive - drive police brutality and even contribute to the death of innocent black children.

Yet, despite this, Chen's choice is to focus on the "hardship" faced by a small minority of white men who are "unfairly" stereotyped as Asia-philes. And right there in a nutshell illustrates the second most important reason (the first is; I just don't care) for why I don't concern myself with the so-called "IR disparity debate" - in order to hold dialogue on the subject one has to often be able to actually comprehend the thought process of a muddled mind, which means that you have to understand the logic of stupidity. I'm glad to say that, so far, I have been unable to do this.

It takes a unique kind of privilege to be able to be so casual about a subject with as bloody a history as miscegenation, so much so that the author is able to acknowledge her own and other Asian women's biased thinking when it comes to stereotypes and prejudices about minority men (who in passed years bore the brunt of anti-miscegenation violence) yet can wave it away by citing reasons beyond their control - it's not their fault! Of course, it is also speaks volumes that Asian women are routinely given mainstream platforms to wax poetic about their prejudices and biases (most often against their own people and culture) in a way that other minority women are not. You will be hard pressed to find African-American or Hispanic-American women being given the platform in mainstream media outlets to casually express and wave away their prejudices towards men of their own race.

There are a couple reasons for this that I can think of. The first is that it is culturally unacceptable to express prejudice towards Black or Hispanic-Americans - regardless of who is expressing it, and the fact that this phenomenon exists illustrates the degree to which anti-Asian racism is tolerated. The second reason is that the dialogue and narrative of Asian-American inter-racial dating choices is conducted in one of two ways; it is either vulgar and hyper-sexualized by the women writing about it, or it is childlike and juvenile, often exhibiting the thinking and reasoning of a pubescent. Chen's piece is an example of the latter.

In my experience - limited as it might be - black and Hispanic women of college age and beyond, simply don't present or show themselves in their writing to have juvenile mentalities because they have to try so hard (especially black women) to overcome prejudice - childish flightiness won't work for other women of color. Juvenile mentalities in non-Asian women are just not tolerated and those who posses them are certainly not given many opportunities by mainstream America to display it, nor are they taken as seriously as Asian women seem to be. The irony here is that this childishness is an implicit aspect of the so-called "Asiaphile" phenomenon to which such Asiaphiles are attracted and one can only wonder if this also plays a role in the accessibility of some Asian women to the white male dominated media. That's is definitely food for thought.

And here is another reason for Asian men to avoid debating the IR debate - it gives voice and attention to people whose thinking is so simplistic that it allows the propagation of an Asian-American voice that lacks nuance and intelligence - that is the last thing we need. For instance.....
Those of us who come from more traditional Asian families know our parents would faint if we brought home an African American boyfriend; I've seen my friend's mother scream at her for having a Berkeley-educated Brazilian beau.
People change - yes, even traditional Asian people - where's the stories of the traditional family who overcomes their prejudice and finally accepts their black son-in-law? What about those who are traditional but accept their children's decision to date or marry an African-American? These types of people actually exist and the main issue with Chen's point here is that her use of the word "traditional" itself has no basis for reference. What exactly does it mean to be a "traditional Asian family" - Chen suggests that it means an entity that is implicitly racist but this is simply ignorant. The  term "traditional" has many possible meanings most of which don't assert racist attitudes. And there's more that shows the flawed thinking. Here she quotes Stephen Eliot of The Rumpus.....
To be desired is to be fetishized... this idea that I want someone to desire me but not objectify me with their desires is absurd. It's like saying I only want to date someone who is not attracted to people that look like me.Here's the thing, you already are a fetish. You are your lover's kink, exist within their circle of desire, starting with gender, and getting more specific from there." .........."In fact," he says, "there's no bad reason to love a person. A person is not less enlightened if they're only attracted to their own gender, or Asian women, or skinny people, or latex, or feet. You can objectify someone without treating them like an object."
Overall, a thought-inducing quote yet is it true that there are "no bad reasons to love a person"? I'm not sure who Stephen Eliot is, but I'm sure that there are psychologists out there who would disagree with his conclusion. Pedophiles love and fetishize children (and, perhaps, are able to convince themselves that their abuse of children is an act of love), women who have extremely low self-esteem love men who continue to beat the crap out of them because they think that is the best that they can do and some even feel that the beating they receive somehow "proves" their partner's love. There are plenty of examples where one's reasons for loving someone are extremely bad and destructive, yet Chen seems to accept this piece of pop-psych unquestioningly and wants you to do the same. Mothers and Fathers, please don't teach this principle to your daughters - it will make them ripe for abuse. Here's more.....
Long before the White Man set foot in China, having light skin was a sign of wealth and status, as it meant you didn't spend long hours toiling in the sun. Remember, Asian cultures are the ones that mass market skin-lightening creams, where people often get eyelid surgery to make their eyes bigger, i.e. less Asian. 
So what? This doesn't justify one's decision wave away biased attitudes, acceptance of racial stereotypes, and prejudice. All it shows is that Chen (and women like her) haven't, don't, or perhaps aren't capable of, thinking logically and deeply about the choices they make, the attitudes they express, or the prejudices they casually accept and dismiss as being beyond their control.

And this, perhaps is the most problematic aspect of Chen's piece. If we accept Chen's logic, Asian women and the choices they make are dependent on circumstances outside of their power to control; they are attracted to white men because of some television show they used to watch as a child that had a white hero, or they can't be blamed for their biases because they come from cultures that are biased (hey, so did I but I'm equal opportunity in my private life). In short, Chen has comically and unwittingly shown Asian women to be so dis-empowered that they have no control and choice over what they are able to think or do - their "choices" are actually pre-programmed responses to stimuli instilled from childhood. This is a remarkable claim and one that has some far-reaching philosophical and neuro-scientific implications - funnily enough, none of which Chen seemed to be consciously aware of.

So, in conclusion, by debating this undebatable subject, Asian men are helping to set the stage that gives voice and attention to a subject that is fundamentally irrelevant, and gives voice to people who have nothing significant to say at the expense of a nuanced and intelligent discussion of the Asian-American experience.

Don't let the dumb rule.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Another Day That Should Live In Infamy

But Won't......Justifying Nuclear Holocaust.

I stumbled across this blogpost over on the Secret Asian Man blog from last year discussing the perennially topical issue that arises around the beginning of every December on the various justifications for America's use of the atomic bomb on Japan at the end of the Pacific War. As the cartoon strip suggests there is some sentiment that Japan deserved the bomb because of their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor whilst many others credit the use of the bomb as necessary to end the war quickly and painlessly and cite ending Japan's aggression and war crimes as providing a solid moral justification for the bombs. Underscoring most discussions on the subject is an understanding, implied or explicit, that Japan committed an immoral act when it carried out the attack, and that the use of the A-bomb on this day sixty-seven years ago was justified both militarily and morally.

The whole episode of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor has become an event that is etched into the identity of American culture. The bravery and resolve exhibited by the US and its armed forces during the war has come to symbolically represent the character and identity of the American nation and its people, that is, the defenders of freedom and upholders of moral justice. As countless movies, books, and historical commentaries suggest, the war in the Pacific is seen by America as a morally righteous war of liberation against a violent aggressor whose goal was to subjugate the peoples of Asia. Although the US has always had this sense of itself as the bastion of freedom and moral vigor, the Second World War cemented this notion within the identity of America and its culture.

Thus, by definition, the accepted historical accounts remind us that the Pacific war was fought in the name of freedom and liberty, and that using the atomic bombs, by implication, can be justified on these grounds. To my mind, this account ranks as one of the most epic historical frauds ever perpetrated, yet, remarkably, it is accepted uncritically by Western and, even worse, by Asian commentators alike. For mainstream America, this is understandable - the account is a significant reinforcement of American identity, but for Asian-Americans this historical account and its uncritical acceptance (of this and other dubious historical claims) is fundamental to understanding why (despite having such significant intellectual potential) Asian-America up to now, has largely failed to develop a potent cultural voice that is autonomous, original, oppositional, and unique to its own experience. At the same time, if this historical account is false (as I believe it is) then the moral basis justifying the use of the atom bombs fails.

The first thing to remember is that the war in the Pacific was not fought by the allies to liberate Asia, nor was it fought to allow democracy and political freedom to flourish. In fact, this idea is absurd because, with few exceptions, almost every nation in Asia was subjugated by the imperial powers of Europe, America and Japan. Liberty in Asia prior to WWII was a concept that threatened the colonial privilege and thus, any attempts to gain liberty was brutally suppressed by colonial armies. According to the accepted narrative, Japan invaded their Asian neighbours, defeating the armies of Europe and America who were "defending" these nations against tyranny, but the reality is that these armies of Europe and America were occupying forces whose job it was to suppress freedom movements of Asia's native peoples. History focuses on the terrible atrocities these western troops experienced in Japan's concentration camps, whilst ignoring the probability that  some or many of these troops had themselves participated in brutal suppression of native people both prior to and after the war.

The war in Asia was fought by competing colonial powers to assert (in Japan's case) or re-assert (in the West's case) imperial rule over people who were already subjugated. This is an objective fact. The post-war actions of several of these imperial powers is a testament to this fact. After Japan's surrender, with America's financial and military backing, France, Britain, and the Netherlands, all returned to their former Asian colonies and began a war against the native peoples living there - committing atrocities in the process. To add insult to injury, these powers re-armed the Japanese troops who had recently surrendered in order to help them police and suppress independence movements in Indonesia and Indo-China. France even tried to overturn a wartime agreement that they had made with China in the hope of regaining their Chinese territories that they had lost in the war. More Asians in South-East Asia were killed struggling for their independence against their western "liberators" post-war than were killed in the Pacific war itself. That certainly doesn't sound like these nations were fighting the Japanese for my freedom or that of my ancestors.In this light, all moral arguments justifying the use of the atom bomb fail because at the end of the day, both Japan and the western allies were ultimately fighting over who would have the right to deny liberty to Asia.

So, winning the war against Japan simply meant that the US and Europe had one less imperial competitor for land and resources in Asia. What this means is that the atomic bombs simply enabled France, Britain, and the Netherlands to attempt to re-assert their suppression of Asian peoples and allowed them to kill millions of Asians in the process. The use of atomic bombs against Japan can only be morally defended if one does backflips to change history to suit one's narrative needs. Because all sides in the Pacific War were fighting to maintain an imperial system that suppressed Asian freedoms - by brutal means if needed - then no participants have the moral upper hand. Because the war in the Pacific was fought not to free but further subjugate Asian people, the moral premise for using the atomic bombs has no foundation. This shows the absurdity of trying to defend America's use of atom bombs on moral grounds.

The use of the bombs did not end any wars in Asia, but served as the impetus for the West's colonial powers to start more wars against Asian people. It is convenient to re-create history as a way to support the moral argument in favour of the bombs, but the cold hard fact is that America's nuclear prowess was the umbrella under which the old imperial powers of Europe were empowered to wage war against Asia. The war in Asia did not end with the defeat of Japan but continued for decades afterwards as Asian countries fought to win their independence.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Some Olympic Musings

Asian Men Walking Tall.

Although often billed as a gathering of the world's athletes coming together to compete in the name of goodwill and international understanding, the Olympics are just as often a proxy for nations to vent their political frustrations on one another through winning on the field of sport. In some ways and to some minds, winning at competition reflects the superiority of a political, social, or even moral, system of a given country. With this in mind I fully expected these London Olympics to provide us with some tense competition and commentary that reflected the present-day economic and political reality of our times. I wasn't disappointed.

Unsurprisingly, the nail-biting anxiety (and the accompanying xenophobic hostility) felt in the West about China's economic rise and its increasing influence in the developing world has been reflected in reactions to China's Olympic successes. Various outraged (and unfounded) insinuations of doping made against victorious Chinese competitors were a simple reflection of Western society's resentful attitudes towards Asians - it is a given that any success or excellence has to be the result of some kind of cheating or underhandedness. Even worse is the fact that stereotypically weak Asians are proving to be just as physically capable as their non-Asian competitors. It is said that when the human mind is presented with evidence that contradicts what it has believed for its entire existence, it will respond rage against the new information and attempt to find any ad-hoc rationalization (regardless of how irrational or unreasonable it may be) to will enable it to maintain its false belief against all the evidence - then the mind will resent you for making it see a truth it didn't want to see.

This is what has been so clearly displayed at London 2012 - stereotypes about Asians have crumbled in plain sight of everyone and the resulting outrage and resentment in some quarters indicates the degree to which the Western mind that has created a xenophobic fantasy about Asian inferiority that it is unwilling to let go of.

The most charming thing about the Chinese athletes is that they seem oblivious to this negative racialization of their success as they speed past their competitors. They simply don't know that their ethnicity is supposed to be an obstacle to athletic excellence. One way that I have noticed this is in the swagger of the Chinese men's gymnastics team.....


These guys range in height from between 5'3 to 5'6, but they don't seem to have heard that being short and Asian means that they aren't masculine. Their confidence and self-assurance was so jarring because American culture insists that Asian men have no reason to possess these qualities of confidence and self-assurance. Of course, the reason that they may seem so confident is that they haven't been raised in a culture that mocks their masculinity and racializes their achievements and potential - the world has been presented to them in a way that it might not have been presented to Asian men raised in the US, a world in which their race need not influence their opportunities, ambitions, or what is expected of them. The Japanese men's gymnastics team has also performed extremely well, taking the silver in the team event - even though they could have done without the Boy Band feminine hairstyles....

The Japanese men and their silver medal on top of the medal podium.

Having said that, the guy on the right is 18-year-old Ryohei Kato whose looks have apparently caught the attention of thousands of Chinese female fans who have overcome decades of mutual Sino-Japanese distrust to register their lust for him. Women like pretty boys sometimes!

In other good news for Asian men - and for Asian soccer fans - Japan and South Korea have both reached the semi-finals of Olympic soccer tournament. Japan will play Mexico, and Korea will play Brazil in the next round. Although not considered anywhere as important as the World Cup - mainly because most of the players making the teams must be under 23 - the Olympic soccer tournament is still a good indication of a country's pool of talent. Japan have played some really nice football, whilst S. Korea apparently outperformed and outplayed their more highly-regarded British opponents. It is also interesting to note the reaction of a Swiss player to discovering that Asians aren't racially weaker after his side was beaten by the Koreans. People don't like having their strongly held beliefs challenged.

On a final note, it has been interesting to note the success of China's female athletes. For a culture that gave us footbinding - a practice that was ended decades ago, but for which China is still being irrationally castigated - and is held by many as a hell on earth for women, the Chinese seem to hold women's athletics in high esteem, and also seem to be heavily invested in promoting sporting excellence for their women athletes. In this regard, it might even be suggested that Chinese women have greater opportunities in sport participation and success than their Western counterparts. Who knows, maybe China isn't still culturally stuck in the 9th Century like many commentators would have us believe.