Monday, January 19, 2015

Loose Lips Sink Ships.....

......Asian Privilege And Self-Sabotage.

Over the past three years or so, a new hope has emerged amongst Asian advocates of a way to wedge the community into the race dialogue without going to the trouble of first formulating a bothersome autonomous narrative of an Asian racial experience. Whisperings and rumors began to swirl of a powerful new entity whose emergence from the light would propel Asians out of the darkness of the facts of their own experiences to morph into a vestigial appendage, like a bubo under the armpit of, anti-blackness. Its name was.....Asian Privilege.

I first became aware of the idea of Asian Privilege back in 2012 from a post in Hyphen Magazine that asked the question; Is There Privilege in Being Asian American? Written by Bruce Reyes Chow, the piece says this......
As Asian Americans, if we are going to stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters, we must not only acknowledge our forms of privilege, but leverage the influence that comes with that privilege in order to serve as allies to Black communities as well as other marginalized groups. There is privilege for many Asian Americans in not generally being perceived as threatening, which allows us to move about public spaces without eliciting suspicion.
My first thought is to wonder why it is so important to "acknowledge our privilege" but seemingly not so important to acknowledge that as beings with agency who make moral choices and utilize reason and rational thinking, that we might have a more sophisticated set of reasons to stand in solidarity with anyone suffering injustice. My sense of justice or altruism alone would surely be enough to warrant a moral decision in favor of standing with any oppressed group against injustice? Aside from that, my sense of compassion, empathy, sympathy, or simple good-will should impel me to side with the cause of justice and fairness.

Privilege - particularly the idea of owning it - simply is not a part of the equation. My second thought on the quote above is how bizarre it is that not being seen as threatening can be conceived of as a privilege. In the context of the Asian-American racial experience a more accurate statement would be to say that Asians are simply not seen, threatening or not - and that is a function of anti-Asian stereotyping. Most interesting, though, is this idea of leveraging this privilege to serve allies and other oppressed groups, particularly when that privilege consists of invisibility. How can a disadvantage - like invisibility - be leveraged to influence anything?

On the whole, the article actually does a fair job of highlighting some of the ways that racism impacts Asian-Americans but never really provides a clear illustration or definition of what Asian privilege is. Mention is made of immigration and academic privileges, but being allowed to immigrate in the same manner as other groups is far from being a privilege, and it is merely conjecture (bordering on inflammatory) to claim that Asians have access to academic settings merely because of assumptions.

This is the general problem that I have with the narrative of Asian privilege; no-one seems able to quite pin down what it means or even give reasonable examples of it in action. Even more importantly, since it is such a vague notion, and little more than a value judgment, the assertion of Asian privilege exists merely as one more sweeping generalization about Asian-Americans.

Since the Hyphen piece was published there have been several articles in the Asian-American media where the existence and notion of Asian privilege has been further referenced, asserted or discussed. Most of the ones I have read take the existence of Asian privilege as a given, although there is still much vagueness about how it manifests, or even why these manifestations should even be thought of as privilege. The basis for this assertion of Asian Privilege seems to lie in various stats that show high Asian college achievement and a healthy income level that, for some Asian groups, surpasses that of even the white community.

But none of these statistical analyses come even remotely close to showing that privileges are somehow imparted to Asians from the white establishment in order to help keep blacks in their place, or even that there is such a conveyance of privilege at all. There is simply no reason to believe that Asians are the recipients of any advantageous treatment at all. In fact, the possibility that Asians are even outperforming whites actually is a point against the notion of Asian privilege since it seems absurd to think that Asians would be given advantages by a racist white establishment that would result in what is fundamentally a disadvantage for whites. In other words, I am being asked to believe that a racist white establishment is driven to undermine blacks so much that they are willing to privilege Asians even over whites to achieve it? That is known as cutting off your nose to spite your face and the mere suggestion of it is worthy only of derision.

Even worse, though, is the possibility that by claiming privilege, Asians have hurt the black struggle for justice. The co-opting of the idea of Asian Privilege by Adam Carolla and Bill O'Reilly last year shows just why Asians shoot themselves in the foot every time they come up with one of these convoluted schemes that attempt to frame the Asian experience of race in the context of anti-blackness. No conservative even thought to think of Asians as having privilege until, that is, Asian-Americans themselves came up with the bright idea of interpreting the various data points of Asian "success" as some kind indication of imparted privilege. Of course, I cannot possibly know whether Carolla and O'Reilly were influenced by Asian-American musings on Asian privilege, but there is little doubt that Asian-Americans themselves bear the brunt of the responsibility for formulating and propagating an idea that has been picked up on and utilized by the very race-baiters they abhor.

The problem is that if Asian Privilege is real, then devoid of comprehensive evidence for it, O'Reilly's inferences are as valid as anyone's. If you can infer Asian privilege from a group of stats, then you can with equal validity infer black dysfunction from the same data set. Even worse, if we infer that the white establishment does indeed proffer privileged treatment to one minority, it is equally valid to infer that such an offer is a meritorious consideration - a clear point in favor of the notion that blacks aren't trying hard enough. In other words, the idea of Asian Privilege undermines the argument that blacks are held back by racism since there is no logical reason for one minority to be elevated over another to the degree that they apparently outperform whites. Again, we have to ask the question; does it make sense that a racist white establishment would privilege a visible racial minority to the extent that they would disadvantage whites?

If Asian Privilege is real, it undermines even the whole notion of a racist white establishment since, if it was somehow privileging Asians it would be unlikely to do so at the expense of whites if the motivation was to maintain white supremacy. If you believe in a racist white establishment then you cannot possibly believe that such an establishment would privilege a racial minority at the expense of its own race. Thus, to believe in Asian privilege undermines the case for racially motivated social injustices since no racist establishment would privilege another race over its own.

Clearly, the notion of Asian Privilege is a piss-poor heuristic that does little to advance understanding of Asian-Americans and even less to understand the propagation of injustices against African-Americans. As a poorly examined, but hysterically embraced, ontology, it obscures both the Asian-American experience, but also over complicates the conversation on race by needlessly making Asian guilt an issue in the race conversation. Worse still, by undermining the case for white racism it implicitly undermines the case for all racially derived injustices - even, funnily enough,  anti-blackness. Good one.

This and my previous two posts have highlighted what I perceive to be a reluctance and even fierce opposition amongst Asian-American commentators to embrace an autonomous Asian-American racial experience, even to the extent that any efforts to focus on Asians are discredited or even derided by Asian-American "advocates". As I hope to have shown, not only does this tendency further marginalize Asian-Americans, the vague and flimsily established notions of the model minority and Asian Privilege that Asians have embraced as the basis for their anti-anti-blackness sensibilities could actually have the potential to harm the cause of anti-racism far more than it could possibly help.

On a final note, I could not have planned it better myself but it says a lot about this supposed Asian privilege that the most widely disseminated discussion on Bill O'Reilly's screed took place between none other than two white men. Yeah, not an Asian in sight to offer an Asian perspective on a subject that supposedly defines our community.


  1. Yup, its all really about Asians throwing other Asians under the bus to give themselves a leg up. The social justice warrior types know that absolutely nobody is interested in any form of Asian advocacy, so in order to make themselves relevant they have to jump hitch themselves to the bandwagons of others. What betrays their motivations is that the compassion and justice they seek for others is almost never sought for their own Asian communities. They are just silent. It is self hate, and selfishness manifesting itself.

  2. I wouldn't be surprised if it's whites dividing and conquering Asian and Black groups with this phantom Asian privilege bs. Of course, they would use dickless shits like Chow to make it seem "grassroots".

    Never trust those white kkkunts. They're stirring shit in the South China Seas by sowing hate by creating a block that includes their former victims of war crimes - Philippines, Vietnamese, and Japanese against China.

    Those idiots trust the same "Christians" who raped and slaughtered them during the 20th century....

    These mentally retarded Asians......! it's like a nightmare that never ends.

    1. I agree with Apollyon here. The Asian privilege trope is entirely an Asian-American progressive concocted fantasy.

  3. Unfortunately in this case, I don't think we need to be looking at whites to screw us up... we are perfectly capable of doing it to ourselves :( Look at the out marriage rates, look at Amy Tan the others... The standard path for successfully integrating into the white power structure is to betray your own people it seems.

    1. It makes me sad, but you are probably correct. It's more than possible.

      On a bright note, the west is about to implode. Look up
      ● petrodollar collapse
      ● de-dollarization
      ● The Geopolitics of World War III

      In a nutshell, usa has been living off of a free credit card called the petrodollar, by passing the costs onto the rest of the world. That system will die as developing countries headed by China and Russia will introduce an alternative and they're dropping usd for trade settlements.

      The only question is will usa fight China and Russia and ensure global suicide. I hope they just roll over and die since they can't win a conventional war..nor have they ever fought their military peers - never mind, two at the strongest forces concurrently.

  4. "being allowed to immigrate in the same manner as other groups is far from being a privilege"
    Yeah, nailed it, exactly. Besides, let's completely ignore all the poor Chinese who came to America as labor workers after the end of slavery to build railroads and do mining in inhumane horrible conditions while being paid less than white people and becoming victims of race riots. Let's completely ignore the fact that Chinatowns became a thing due to the need of a haven for Asians in America so that they could actually feel safe in a community. Let's completely ignore the Asian Americans(Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong) who came to the country as refugees and still to this day suffer from poverty in a lot of their communities. Let's completely ignore the 1.3 million illegal/undocumented Asian immigrants in the country and the fact that Asians constitute the second largest racial group(after Hispanics) to have the most undocumented/illegal immigrants. This nonsense shows so much ignorance and a completely lack of knowledge of Asian American history and current affairs, how could you be an Asian activist when you don't even know crap about your community? When you live in your own little bubble of "I'm upper middle class, my family consists of doctors/engineers, I was raised sheltered and since I'm surrounded by similar people it doesn't occur to me that there are people who look like me but have vastly different experiences".

  5. Also, another thing I want to point out is that while some Asians tend to perform well(Indians are the most educated Asian ethnicity under the U.S. government census, go figure) there's also more poverty overall in the Asian American community in general than in the white American community. More than 10% of Asian Americans live in poverty and surprisingly it's increasing and not decreasing. It really bothers me how little attention these problems get.

    1. Anonymous,

      Good points. A lot of lip service is paid to working class and poor Asians, but the language of Asian reactivism is almost always unnuanced jingoism.

    2. The worst part is that the United States Commission on Civil Rights wrote about these very issues in 1980. Success of Asian Americans: Fact or Fiction?