Monday, September 30, 2013

What Would You Do?

....Marginalizing Asian Men In The Fight Against Racism.

In a previous post wrote about an incident in Korea in which a couple of western ex-pats made a video of themselves harassing and abusing a Korean woman in a nightclub. It has since come to light that the video is most likely staged by actors, but that, in no way, changes the gist or points that I made in the original post, about the way that the incident was reported and how it seemed to deflect  responsibility back onto Koreans themselves. With that in mind, at the end of the Washington Post article was this paragraph.......
It’s not clear that the woman in this video was seeking out Western men — if anything, it looks like she was minding her own business when they set upon her — but it’s difficult to imagine what it must be like for other Korean women who see the video online. First they watch the young woman being harassed by two Western men, pushing her around like a disobedient animal, then they see her scolded on Korean social media and Web discussion boards, told by Korean men that she deserved what she got. The moment when she stands up and brushes off her assailants — with no help from anyone in the bar, it’s difficult to miss — is the closest this story gets to having a hero.
It is the final sentence that piques my interest;
"the woman brushed off her assailants, without help from anyone in the bar."
Thinking about what I would have done - that is, questioning whether I would have "helped" -  if I had witnessed this situation made me realize the depth of the divide between Asian men and women in America. I will be honest and say that I second-guessed myself about a situation which if it had involved any other demographic, I would likely have been far more certain about what I would have thought of as the "right" thing to do.

In light of previous posts that I have written, that deal with the dating choices of Asian women, specifically with regards to the degree to which some seem willing to overlook racialization or trivialize anti-Asian racism, this question of "would I have helped", requires a complicated answer. The two posts linked to above, in addition to other commentaries by Asian women seem to make it clear that some Asian women (with access to publications that can mainstream their bizarre ideas) view white racism and the struggle against it drastically differently than Asian men view it.

It has been plainly stated by some Asian women in mainstream and non-mainstream publications alike, that racism and demeaning racist behaviour are not necessarily grounds to reject romantic advances which, effectively, leaves anyone hoping to make a stand against it on shaky ground. Some Asian women seem to actually welcome anti-Asian racism as an opportunity to further territorialize the fight against it and expound on their views of Asian men as disruptors of the dating choice. For others, as in the case of the Jen An piece, the implication is that Asian women can overlook racism by adopting racist attitudes themselves and finding dating joy.

Here is the dilemma; for any Asian-American to "help" in a situation like the one portrayed in the video (where the Korean girl is being abused), one would have to consider this aspect of the situation. To me, this illustrates how making light of anti-Asian racism, or even racial slurs has damaged the credibility of Asian-American claims of prejudice - if Asians themselves present an ambivalent attitude to racism, and are even willing to forgive (or participate in) racism for the sake of a date or financial reward, then mainstream America cannot in all fairness be faulted for any ambivalence towards anti-Asian racism.

On a deeper level, these types of accounts and the resulting ambivalence, and casual dismissal of anti-Asian racism, that it creates, is simply another aspect of the process of feminization of the Asian-American voice. By creating this ambivalence, the masculine aspect of Asian resistance to racism is confounded and pacified - that is it becomes feminized in the worst possible way; the passive and co-dependent "I can change these men" way. So what would have been the "right" thing to do? I still don't really know because the way that some Asians themselves mainstream their ideas about racism, renders any notions of what is "right" into a far more ambivalent place than it might be reasonable. Seemingly there are some Asian women who accept a racist partner in the same way that they might accept a messy one - as little more than an annoyance.

At the end of the day, I think that we, as Asian men, are required to address this kind of racism - even when (perhaps, especially when) it might be unwelcomed as interfering in someone else's dating opportunities. The reason is that non-one - not even Asians themselves - has the right to tell us that there is "acceptable" racism. Most importantly, we are attacking this racism not on behalf of Asian women but for ourselves. Asian women are free to overlook or participate in anti-Asian racism if they want, but that doesn't mean that we have to accept it when they allow it to become a normalized, mainstream narrative.


  1. There is only one correct response. Always fight aggression against racism especially for our own. By fighting back you tell the world:

    1. You don't mess with Asians
    2. You don't mess with Asian women or women in general.

    This is important because:

    1.Racists are cowards and after seeing some fighting spirit, they'll think twice before attacking again.

    2. Women (especially Asian women) will see we are not like the spineless losers portrayed on tv and I'm sure it will help unbrainwash them and the more we do this the more our image changes.

    When we act like spectators then the opposite happens:
    1. We reinforce the idea that we're just a bunch of push overs and racism will continue.
    2. Women use it as proof of our worthlessness.

    There is no savior. WE have to fight back otherwise our descendants will face the same hell.

    So, we have NO choice in the matter but to fight back.

    1. Yun,

      Exactly my conclusion! Fighting racism supersedes most other considerations. I think it is well worth remembering that the ambivalence of some Asian-Americans in their attitudes towards some kinds of racism justifies mainstream ambivalence amongst well-meaning non-Asians about anti-Asian racism.

  2. I meant "fight against racism"