Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Eddie Huang Scandal

Reactivism For Its Own Sake

A wave of internet reaction has swept the Asian-American online disgruntled-o-sphere, not, as one might fancifully imagine because of reports that anti-Asian sentiment had seemingly crept into the riots in Baltimore, but because of something that Eddie Huang - of Fresh Of The Boat notoriety - said on Twitter.

I don't know much about Huang, except that he is some kind of celebrity chef/media personality who published a well-received memoir (Fresh Off The Boat), which has been turned into a sit-com. The sit-com has been met with huge support from Asian-Americans who seem happy that we are finally the main characters on an Asian-American-centric show. All that came crashing down over the past few days.

It began with Huang's interview on the Bill Maher show, in which - as you can see in the video linked to below, starting at around 5:20 - he stated that....... 
Asian men have been so emasculated in America that we are basically treated like black women......when I sit on OKCupid no one wants to talk to me either..........
Granted, there is a presupposition on Huang's part that the audience will be savvy to those references, but I see no churlish intent on his part. In fact, the comment is vague - too vague to really draw any conclusions about intent or significance unless one is familiar with Asian-American debate subjects. Huang's comment unleashed a Twitter-confrontation and a storm of condemnation from, initially, several black feminists and, subsequently, Asian-American progressives. The whole back and forth can be read here, at Storify, and was initiated by a black feminist blogger who goes by the moniker of Black Girl Dangerous (BGD). Here's the first few exchanges.....

*  Does Eddie Huang have a twitter account because I HAVE QUESTIONS.
*  When you say "Asian men are basically treated like black women" what are you  saying
*  If the point is that society says both groups are undesirable, you need to do a better job of making that clear.
* Otherwise, it sounds like you're just trashing black women for no reason at all. Which frankly, we've had enough of.
* To go on television and lament being "treated like black women" is misogynoir.
Huang replies.....
* in terms of OKCUPID which is what I was referring to, we are least desired, that's what I said
* no one is saying we have the same struggle. i was SPECIFICALLY talking about parallels re: the way we're
* But you didn't make it at all clear what you meant. Do you think that audience understood that?
* mentioned it because at a ton of my talks i speak about emasculation of asian men and black women in audience sound off too
* And right now, this black woman is sounding off. Black women sounding off is only okay if it doesn't challenge you?
* that's not what anyone said. you trying to argue or you trying to understand?or you trying to get followers
*they also didn't understand my big lebowski jokes. i'm not going to apologize because people aren't aware. i am.
My take is that both are right - Huang was very vague and even though his intent was benign, if he chooses to speak about issues that mainstream America may not be familiar with, he should be less vague. At the same time BGD did seem to be looking to start an argument regardless of what Huang said - it all turned sour after she (strangely) implied that Huang had an issue with her interrogation. Yet, as any reasonable person can read for themselves, Huang seemed pretty open about answering the questions and explaining himself until that point.

All this aside, what has been most interesting for me is the condemnation of Huang by Asian-American commentators. The general tone of these commentaries has been self-righteous condemnation both for Huang's twitter conduct but also for his actual comments on the Mahler show that led to the ensuing twitter scandal. Yet, Huang did seem to be doing the very thing that the progressives who are criticizing him insist that Asian-Americans do when they try to talk about Asian issues - which is to mention anti-blackness. Remember all those posts I've done on Asian-American progressives which criticize any Asian who focuses on Asian issues without mentioning anti-blackness? Well, Huang did just that - he drew a parallel between an Asian demographic's experience and a black one and now he is being called a racist for doing it by the very people who insist we do just that! It would be laughable except that these guys are serious.

As I have written elsewhere, this Asian-American progressive obsession with anti-anti-blackness reactivism itself seems like a lazy piggy-backing of Asian issues onto black suffering in lieu of taking the time to actually formulate an autonomous Asian-American worldview. In this sense, Huang has more integrity than those Asians who criticize him - he is being honest about his adoption of blackness to promote an Asian agenda, Asian progressives are surreptitiously (even if unintentionally or more likely obliviously) adopting blackness to allow themselves to remain racially invisible and avoid a direct confrontation of society's anti-Asianism.

Yet, if I was to criticize Huang, it would actually be because he, too, has fallen into the trap of trying to explain the Asian experience through anti-blackness, when, in truth, Asian emasculation was the essential spark for the genesis of white supremacy itself, and anti-blackness is a sad and sorry by-product of it. As I pointed out here, people have got things backwards - anti-blackness is ultimately the by-product of the feminization of Asia. This means that the emasculation of Asian men is a subject that need not reference the black experience since it precedes anti-blackness and forms the basis upon which European self-conceptions of superiority are based.

For example, contemplate the musings of such influential thinkers like Aristotle....
The power possessed by all of these [non-Greek Kingships] resembles that of tyrannies, but they govern according to law and are hereditary; [20] for because the barbarians are more servile in their nature than the Greeks, and the Asiatics than the Europeans, they endure despotic rule without any resentment. ....[LINK]
The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skillful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically, for it is both spirited and intelligent......[LINK]
...and Hippocrates....
I say, then, that Asia differs very much from Europe as to the nature of all things, both With regard to the productions of the earth and the inhabitants, for everything is produced much more beautiful and large in Asia; the country is milder, and the dispositions of the inhabitants also are more gentle and affectionate..... Manly courage, endurance of suffering, laborious enterprise, and high spirit, could not be produced in such a state of things either among the native inhabitants [of Asia].....[LINK] 
with regard to the pusillanimity and cowardice of the inhabitants, the principal reason the Asiatics are more unwarlike and of gentler disposition than the Europeans is ......the Asiatic race is feeble, and further, owing to their laws; for monarchy prevails in the greater part of Asia, and where men are not their own masters nor independent, but are the slaves of others.....[LINK]
From an Asian-American perspective, it is almost impossible not to notice just how contemporary these stereotypes of "Asiatics" seem to be. Note the feminization of the Asian character? Or the representation of Asians as servile and submissive to authority? How about the cowardly and "feeble" nature of Asiatics' masculinity as reflected in their non-aggressive predisposition? How anti-anti-blackness reactivism can address these philosophically ingrained modes of thinking about Asia that emerged as the very foundation of white supremacist thinking which informed European self-conceptions about their right and necessity to rule throughout the centuries is yet to be explained.

How these ideas have survived and been handed down throughout the generations is a subject of ongoing investigation for me, but it is almost self-evident that these archaic notions of European exceptionalism through the feminization of Asia have persisted over the centuries. The emasculation of Asia has been both the by-product and driving force of white supremacy's proclaimed right to rule and the subsequent wars and colonial endeavours that this ideology has prompted and justified. This means that the question of Asian emasculation must be at the forefront of the struggle against white supremacy, not a mere footnote in Asian-American progressives' convoluted agenda.

Consider this; in Aristotle's age, the Greek states looked out across the Aegean Sea in both fear and awe at the sheer diversity and size of the unknowable Asiatic masses within the Persian empire that stood poised to engulf Greece's way of life. Racial stereotypes arose describing Asiatics' subservient and submissive nature that seemed to serve as both a reinforcement of the superiority of Greek values and a justification for Greece's right to rule and conquer.

Now, over twenty-five centuries later, we in America, look out across the Pacific at the frighteningly vast and unknowable Asiatic masses, content in the superiority of "our" values and way of life which has justified, and continues to justify, our involvement or interference in their societies. We decry their lack of democratic thinking and subservience to authority and dehumanize the enemy by reminding ourselves of their femininity, all the while contemplating and expecting the inevitable war (with China these days) that will once and for all put them in their place. The deja vu is disquieting. 

Clearly, the biggest problem with Huang's conceptualization of Asian emasculation is not that it inappropriately found intersectionality with the black female experience. Rather, Huang simply failed to relate the sheer vastness of the scope of this emasculation and the terrible effects it has had on the world throughout history. The world we inherited today - the existentially grave East/West ideological divide of our modern world is a testament to the vast scope of this issue.

It has to be acknowledged that these lofty concepts are extremely difficult to convey in a seven-minute segment on live television, and really deserves an inquiry that is integral to, and focused on, Asian-American identity itself. But to do this one would have to acknowledge that there exists a fundamental aspect of white supremacy that cannot possibly be informed by anti-blackness. Sadly, we are not allowed to do this because such an Asian focused approach is (inanely) labeled anti-black by our own reactivists.

So we are stuck in a Catch 22 situation; in order to truly understand white supremacy and the feminization of Asia that lies at its deepest root, we have to accept that emasculation of Asian men must become the fundamental concern for Asian-American discourse. Yet, our friends in the world of Asian progressiveness discourage this thinking which not only contextualizes white supremacy throughout history but also anti-blackness itself.

For these reasons it simply makes no sense to criticize Huang's version of masculinity as lacking credibility because it appropriates "blackness" or it tries too hard in other ways, since these same critics insist on avoiding the philosophical and historical evidence that would re-acquaint Asian-Americans with the historical experiences that could form the basis of an autonomous Asian identity that doesn't justify itself by feeding off black suffering.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What Is Wrong With People?

This Week In Asian-American Reactivism.

It has been both interesting and disconcerting to observe events unfolding around the shooting of Akai Gurley by Chinese-American police rookie, Peter Liang. I alluded to the Liang case in a previous post in which I decried the offhanded manner in which Asian-American progressives and self-proclaimed justice advocates have all but condemned him to guilt weeks before he has even had his day in court.

The case has divided, somewhat, Asian-Americans into two camps: on the one hand are those - mentioned above - who seem like a rabid lynch-mob determined to use any media means necessary to destroy the reputation and character of Liang and shape public opinion against him; on the other hand stand Chinese-American FOBs who obstinately refuse to allow the cynical application of justice to go unnoticed and unchallenged. Sadly, in addition to the attempts to taint Liang's reputation and character, Asian-American reactivism has sought to characterize those who support his cause as, by definition, anti-black.

A recent article by blogger, David Shih, that has made the rounds in Asian-American cyber-country, offers some insight into the issue, but doesn't start out well.
As a Chinese American, I know that my racial identity occupies a space in the cultural imagination somewhere between white and black. I know that white supremacy often works in my favor to give me privilege and the benefit of the doubt. I know that the world is this way until it isn't. Peter Liang, who is also Chinese American, must know this too. On February 10, a grand jury ruled to indict the NYPD officer for killing Akai Gurley, who is black.
Unfortunately, the agreed upon facts of the immediate aftermath of the shooting stand in blaring contrast to the above assertions.....
Officer Peter Liang told his partner Shaun Landau, 'I think I'm going to get fired,' moments after he 'accidentally' fired his gun on Thursday evening at the Louis Pink Houses in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and before he was aware of the fact that he had even struck someone with a bullet.
Liang's reaction in the immediate aftermath of the shooting was the complete opposite of what one would expect if Shih's assertion are true. The rookie cop had no sense that he would be the beneficiary of privilege and that his mistake would go unpunished. If anything, in light of the recent killings of black men in the weeks before Gurley's death and the lack of indictments for the officers involved, Liang exhibits an acutely painful awareness that he would likely be treated differently than white officers - and this is before he had even realized that he had shot someone. He certainly seems not to have expected any kind of benefit of the doubt.

In fact, in choosing to serve in the police force, it is possibly far more likely that Liang was acutely aware that he was entering a profession in which has in the past discriminated against Asian officers and in no way shown any proclivity towards "privileging" them. It is simply dishonest - not to mention inflammatory - to make a random generalization about the Asian racial experience, and then assert that this generalization applies to Peter Liang. But the Shih piece goes on in blissful oblivion....
But there should be no confusion: Peter Liang should stand trial. Liang's supporters are asking for the same standard that exonerated Wilson, Williams, and Pantaleo. It is a racist standard.
This is simply untrue, and such an assertion is unbecoming of anyone who is genuine about their claims to stand for justice. According to a press release - which Shih links to in his post and which he seems to not have read - the The Coalition of Asian-Americans for Civil Rights has this to say....
They...announced an upcoming day of rallies on April 26, 2015, to be held in cities across the Nation from NYC to California as a sign of protest against the unduly harsh and unequal treatment afforded the rookie police officer.... 
"The charges in the indictment against Officer Liang is to please the general public. Officer Liang is simply sacrificed for political reason," .... 
“Our community demands Officer Liang receives fair treatment under the law”....
The coordinated protests are a call to action for Asian-Americans, their neighbors, and allies to demand a fair trial and transparency from the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, which has so far failed to address community concerns........ 
“The fact only Officer Liang was indicted raises many questions regarding fairness. Why was there no consideration of an indictment of “NYCHA” for failing to restore the lighting and causing a dangerous condition of darkness in the staircases? Why was only Officer Liang indicted for failing to immediately report the incident when Officer Liang’s partner was also present and also failed to immediately call in the incident?”...... 
“We understand that there's a loss of life. This was an unfortunate tragic accident. Officer Liang's misfiring should have been under NYPD disciplinary actions, not under our legal system. The charges are simply inappropriate,”.... 
“What we have here is a political prosecution,” Queens civil rights activist Phil Gim and Co-Chair of the CAACR said, continuing “the Brooklyn DA’s office thought they would easily steamroll the Chinese community and that we would stay quiet, but they were wrong. We’re standing up for ourselves, and we’re demanding that Peter Liang get the fair, unbiased treatment he deserves.”..... 
“Officer Liang is being used as a scapegoat,” Nassau County Community Leader and Co-Chair of the CAACR Doug Lee said. “As the tragic death of Akai Gurley was clearly an accident, there is no logical explanation for the severity of charges against him and the aggressive manner in which he is prosecuted. This is clearly selective enforcement of the law for political purposes.”....
Clearly, the above statements issued by Liang's supporters are making a far more nuanced argument than Shih seems willing to acknowledge. Instead of demanding that Liang simply not be prosecuted, they are demanding that charges be proportionate to the crime. The sentiment is repeated in an article covering a pro-Liang protest.....
[a protestor says] “I think it was an accident. He deserves a chance. I think his manslaughter charge is too high, but he should be charged with something, but not manslaughter. I think it’s an accident and accidents happen. I feel really sad for the victim’s family, but I don’t feel it is a criminal case. This one is an accident and hopefully the evidence will show that and that’s why we need to support Liang.”
If anything, Liang's supporters seem to have a more reasonable - and rational - grasp of the concept of justice than the progressive justice workers. There is not a single point made by Liang's supporters that has been adequately answered either by the actual prosecutors in the case or the online progressive Asian prosecutors who seem keen on a media trial for Liang.

That to me is big problem: if the points raised by Liang's supporters are valid, then there is no logical reason to oppose their point of view. In fact, some seem to agree that Liang's supporters make good points but then - bizarrely - conclude that the objectively unfair application of justice that has brought his indictment is, in fact, a good application of justice. In order to reach this conclusion, logic and reason are subjugated to ideology.

If we begin from the premise that racism is unacceptable, then it does not make sense for Chinese Americans to rush to the defense of Officer Liang simply because he is a fellow Chinese.
Apart from the fact that this makes no sense, I am horrified that this thinking even comes into the debate. The writer seems to be asserting that race played a role in Liang's actions and the death of Gurley. This is extremely inflammatory and defamatory. Unless our friends in the progressive movement have some hitherto undiscovered evidence of a racial motive for Liang's actions and those of his supporters, they need to control their reactionary impulses and stick to the facts of the case. Remember now, that there is more at stake here than petty considerations of reputations and progressive justice worker credibility.

The problem with both the Racefiles and Shih articles is that there is very little to tie their claims and assertions to the actual case in any meaningful way - they neither shed light on Liang's actions nor on the actions and motivations of those who voice concern that Liang is a victim of injustice. Instead, they construct ideological racial narratives and squeeze the motives of the people involved into it, and present this as facts in the case and reasons why Liang should be unfairly treated. This is clearly - whether they realize it or not - a charge of guilt based on ideological grounds.

Again, there is no evidence that race played a role in Gurley's shooting - unless you choose to suspend intelligence to claim that Liang took out his firearm hoping that it would accidentally go off so that he could shoot blindly into a dark stairwell hoping to kill a black man. Furthermore, there is no merit to the claim that Liang's supporters are motivated by anti-black racism or that pushing for a proportionate application of justice for what amounts to a tragic rookie mistake upholds white supremacy.

Liang's supporters raise compelling points that - in keeping with the custom of ignoring Asian claims of racial injustice - are being ignored. It is the greatest irony that it is Liang's supporters who make no grandiose and pretentious claims of their own justice credentials - and not the self-proclaimed racial justice workers - who are actually challenging the establishment. Meanwhile, the movers and shakers of Asian-American progressive"thinking" can't seem to formulate a meaningful assessment of the case that takes into account the nuances of race and justice. They very literally are unable to think outside of the "black/white" narrative box and therefore are unable to see anything other than black or white.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in an open-letter released on behalf of "more than fifty" Asian organizations calling for Liang to be cynically treated by the justice system.
As Asian and Pacific Islander community leaders and organizations from across the country, we strongly oppose calls coming from some members of the Asian American community to drop charges against NYPD Officer Peter Liang for the death of Akai Gurley.
This demand is misguided and utterly hurtful to Akai Gurley’s family and to communities that have been subjected to discriminatory and often deadly policing practices across the country.
We stand with Akai Gurley’s family and all those who have lost loved ones to police violence.
It is neither accurate nor honest - but it is highly inflammatory - to call Gurley's death an act of police violence or imply that it was in any way discriminatory. We are being asked to believe that opening a door holding a loaded gun is racist or indicative of racist intent and is an act of deliberate violence- and not simply and tragically an irresponsible thing to do. They go on......
 The fact that Officer Liang is Asian American shouldn’t mean that we as Asians and Pacific Islanders support him unequivocally. Quite the opposite — it should compel us to think about what justice looks like and how Asian Americans can contribute to the movement for police accountability and broader racial justice.
Police violence against Black communities is a systemic problem, and when police officers are not held accountable, they are enabled to kill with impunity. Without accountability for police officers who use deadly force and a complete and thorough overhaul of policing practices and other institutional policies in the U.S., we will have more Akai Gurleys and more Officer Liangs, more Mike Browns and Darren Wilsons, more Rekia Boyds and Dante Servins.
This would be laughable if the repercussions weren't so serious. The gist of this statement is that Liang should tried with the actions of specific acts of racially-tinged police brutality committed by people other than Liang himself in mind. Furthermore, justice should keep in mind systemic racism against blacks when trying Liang - in other words, he is to be held accountable for systemic racism even though none of these reactivists have presented an ounce of evidence that race, racism, or systemic racism had a role in Gurley's shooting. Thus, justice for Liang should be disproportionate to his crime merely because others - like Darren Wilson and Pantaleo - are guilty of racist policing and the system is racist.

It would be easy to believe none of the fifty Asian organizations cheer leading for the unjust and disproportionate charges leveled at Liang have even read any of the concerns voices by his supporters. The stated concerns of Liang's supporters show a far more nuanced position than merely one of providing unequivocal support based on race. They are fundamentally concerned that Liang's race is counting against him in the overly harsh charges being brought and the cynical application of justice. One need not even look beyond the Gurley case at the Tamir Rice and Eric Garner killings to notice the unequal application of justice at play.

To me, there seems to be a far more serious legal - and moral - transgression in Liang's failure to provide CPR than in the actual accidental shooting itself. If he had acted, then there remains the possibility that Gurley may well have survived. There were two officers on the scene and neither administered CPR, yet, only Liang is being charged for his failure to provide assistance. His partner - whose name is Shaun Landau  and whom I presume is non-Asian and possibly white - has not been charged.  Forget the failure to indict white officers in other cases - a, presumably non-Asian, officer at the scene who committed the same crime as Liang is not being charged for it.

The point here is that Asian progressives - with their unreasonable and irrational insistence on keeping America's race narrative firmly within the confines of the black/white narrative - seem literally to only be able to think in black and white. They don't seem able to conceive of the possibility that there could be levels of injustice being perpetrated within the same scenario. Charging Liang disproportionately to his actions - if true - is an injustice. To insist unquestioningly on seeing Liang disproportionately charged is not upholding justice, but rather is supporting vengeance at any cost. Liang should not be charged as some kind of pay back for the - far, far more serious police crimes where the intent to kill is objectively more obvious - of other members of law enforcement and the racist system itself. Nor should he be some kind of sacrifice to deflect criticisms away from racist law-enforcement and justice systems that enable it. This seems to be what the seemingly blood-thirsty Asian-American progressive movement is supporting unquestioningly. That is simply unjust.

Those who support Liang have made cogent points and raise some very significant questions regarding the cynical application of justice, and in so doing are challenging the establishment's presumptions and practices. By contrast, Asian progressives with their un-nuanced and childishly simplistic approach are fundamentally upholding the status quo of racial injustice in law enforcement and the justice system.

Akai Gurley deserves justice but that does not mean that it should come at any cost including the cynical, disproportionate application of it. Nor should it mean that Liang should be sacrificed to assuage public anger at other police killings and judicial failures to indict. Liang's supporters are asking the right questions that challenge the failures of the establishment and are calling for justice to be proportionate. This is a far cry from the inflammatory misrepresentation of their stance as merely some kind of racial tribalism. It clearly is not.

David Shih argues the following....
The CAACR claims that because Peter Liang is Chinese American, he is being treated differently from Darren Wilson, Sean Williams, and Daniel Pantaleo. But this possibility doesn't mean Liang shouldn't be tried...........Those supporting Liang only because he is Chinese American should know that they are not fighting racism. If the CAACR truly desires justice, it will not lobby for Liang to be treated the same as the white officers. To do so would be to ask for an ad hoc dispensation from a racist system.......
...which is simply false. As I've clearly illustrated, Liang's supporters have presented a far more nuanced stance than the one Shih misrepresents. As readers can see for themselves earlier in the post, the organization that Shih refers to - The CAACR - is not arguing that Liang not be charged. They are arguing that the charges are disproportionate and overly harsh for what even the prosecutor says was an unintentional shooting. Furthermore they argue that these overly harsh and disproportionate charges are only being - and can only be - brought and made to stick against a minority demographic that has little political influence and is mostly on the margins of the political agenda, such as Chinese-Americans. Furthermore, demonstrators who support Liang have explicitly stated that they believe that he should be charged, but that should these charges should be proportionate to the crime. But that fact does not win brownie points in the narrative.