Monday, July 20, 2015

Asian-American Complicity In Anti-Blackness!

Asian Connivers And Schemers.

I came across an article written for Al Jazeera by Julia Carrie Wong that illustrated perfectly why I view Asian-American progressivism as a vapid and intellectually bankrupt vehicle for shameless self-promotion rather than a legitimate ideology that contributes valuable insights into America's racial dialogue.

In short, the piece explores the concept of "whiteness" arguing that it is an artificial racial category designed to construct a social hierarchy that associates whiteness with "goodness" and non-whiteness with whatever remains. According to Wong, whiteness only impacts race insofar as it delineates between black and "non-black". Contrary to what I had presumed were established historical facts, the article claims the following......
But the induction of Asian-Americans into whiteness doesn’t alter the meaning of whiteness; rather, it’s a reminder that whiteness has never been defined by a person’s country of origin or genetic makeup.
Wong's belief that Asian-Americans have been inducted into whiteness stems from a television show and a solitary study of the demographic makeup of the tech industry that actually cannot reasonably be said to shed light on the racial attitudes of anyone. Worse, whiteness has very much been defined by country of origin and, indirectly, genetic makeup - this is a simple fact of history. "Whiteness" has largely excluded those of non-European origin, explicitly denied the humanity of those of Asian, African and Native-American origin, as well as excluded non-European Caucasians. Clearly, "whiteness" has been founded on an inclusiveness based on genetic makeup and country of origin.

Of course, the problem is that Wong has tied herself up in intellectual knots from which she cannot extricate herself. Since she has claimed that whiteness has no real definition, she cannot really expound on what whiteness entails. If we follow her reasoning to its logical conclusion, then whiteness is a useless heuristic by which to discuss America's race issues - which is blatantly absurd.

Yet, I cannot help but think that this vagueness is deliberate and that this fuzzy definition of whiteness suits Wong's agenda - whatever that may be - because it allows her to make sweeping generalizations and wild claims about Asians without actually having to apply any kind of intellectual rigor to the process. By obfuscating on what "whiteness" means - and I admit, I don't know myself - then it makes it easier to deflect attention away from Wong's shaky reasoning.

While vagueness about what whiteness entails seems to suit Wong's skewed reasoning, it also happens to suit the racial status quo that exists in America - by placing (inaccurately) Asian-Americans in the role of co-conspirators Wong is effectively deflecting attention away from an insistence on white self-reflection and action. By unreasonably inserting Asians into the power dynamic of whiteness, she affords it the luxury of avoiding its own culpability. This goes beyond merely acknowledging racism within Asian-America - it actually deflects attention and resources away from the very source of America's racial injustices. Ironically, this is Model Minority behaviour at its finest - it protects white supremacy by passing, or sharing, responsibility for it to Asian-Americans. Bill O'Reilly could not have done a better job himself.

Of course, the assertion that high Asian-American representation in any particular field - Wong cites the tech industry - is somehow an indication of an induction into whiteness is itself an extremely fuzzy claim. This vagueness is fatal to Wong's thesis since it is almost impossible to decipher what she is trying to say. What it seems like she is saying is that Asian success is implicitly racist and detrimental to African-Americans or she is merely arguing guilt by association - Asians are well represented in an industry normally the reserve of "whites", therefore, whiteness? Asians are complicit because they succeeded? Disturbingly, this sounds like the reasoning and rhetoric of California's 19th Century white nativist bigots who cited the acceptance of low wages amongst Chinese immigrants as a sign of complicity in Capitalism's war on the white working class and utilized this slander to justify the pogroms against Chinese workers all over the West Coast.

The main problem with associating tech industries with whiteness is that it ignores the historical contributions made by Asians in the field and in so doing bypasses the fact that Asians have been present and innovating in the sector since long before it became racist for Asians to be well represented in the industry. FurthermoreAsian countries have also contributed to the conceptual progress of the industry. So to imply that Asians are somehow interloping on a white industry at the expense of blacks and Latinos is beyond absurd - Asians have been integral to the development and growth of the tech industry right from the get go and bear a not insignificant responsibility for its existence as a viable avenue for enterprise for a community that believes that prejudice has limited the options available to them in other industries.

What this means is that Wong's piece is clearly not about relaying facts, but is about rhetoric, hence the use of the term "complicity".

Complicity in this context is an extremely inflammatory term - no doubt deliberately so - that asserts, without offering a shred of evidence that Asians are actively and intentionally engaging in "anti-blackness" by being so well represented in stem fields. A look at some synonyms for the word illustrate this....
Complicity - the state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing: complicity in a crime.
And a couple of its synonyms.....
Connivance -  to cooperate secretly; conspire
Collusion - a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy
What is most noticeable is that these words - slurs if you will - have featured extensively in both the philosophy and specific episodes of anti-Asian sentiment. The notion and belief that Asians are implicitly sneaky, conniving and treacherous are foundational concepts in justifying anti-Asian hostility, exclusion, and, also, drives xenophobia in foreign policy considerations. The idea that Asians are untrustworthy is as old as anti-Asian racism itself and is a prejudice that continues to haunt Asian-Americans. I would actually feel better about Wong's utilization of this fundamental element of anti-Asianism if I thought that she was being deliberately polemic, but I just don't see that degree of intellectual sophistication in her piece or her reasoning.

It has to be said that any discussion on the phenomenon of high Asian representation in the tech industry - and STEM fields in general - is meaningless without mentioning the prejudices and racism that motivates Asian families to push their kids to pursue these careers in the first place. One reason that Asians are encouraged to enter STEM careers - as opposed to the arts, for example - is because of the belief that the greater subjectivity in assessing capabilities in many non-STEM fields leaves Asians more vulnerable to prejudices and disadvantage than in STEM where capabilities can be more objectively assessed. The experiences of aspiring Asian actors and the hostility directed at Jeremy Lin lend credence to this belief.

To me, this is a significant aspect of the phenomenon of the high representation of Asians in STEM. Just as in the past, sport - particularly boxing - was seen as a way for young black men to circumnavigate racism and achieve social mobility, STEM has come to serve that same purpose for the Asian-American community that faces a subtle, poorly defined, and easily denied prejudice in industries where success and ability are measured more subjectively.

This illustrates the grand opportunity that Wong - and Asian-American progressives in general - are squandering with ridiculously childish reasoning and juvenile moral proclamations. There is value in pointing out that it is anti-Asian racism that influences the decisions of many Asian-Americans to enter STEM fields, and that we can, and should, widen the dialogue on race to enable us to include this hugely significant fact. Asian-American progressives seem unable to intellectually juggle the multiple perspectives that America's racial story requires.

There is no conflict of interest to say that in order to create more room for under-represented minorities in STEM we should concurrently put forward ideas for policy drives that creates avenues of opportunity that promotes and encourages Asians to enter non-STEM fields. In other words, instead of labeling Asian-Americans as racist and connivers in "whiteness", why not actually consider ways to create opportunities for Asians outside of STEM fields where the casual racism and exclusion in industries, like, for example, acting, are mitigated. Instead of smug presumptions about the motivations of Asian parents, why not actually put forward ideas for how we can make non-STEM fields less prejudiced towards Asians and create programs that target Asian-Americans for industries outside of STEM?

Unfortunately, this seems too conceptually difficult for Asian progressives to imagine. Their uninspiring answer is to cut Asians out of STEM - where they do not belong -  and let them end up anywhere but "here". It's time for Asian-American activists to start exercising their minds instead of their mouths.

Putting forward strategies for addressing the anti-Asian racism that impels Asians to enter STEM fields is implicitly beneficial to the cause of fighting anti-black racism. If you expand opportunities for Asians in non-STEM careers and address prejudices they might face there that are disguised as "subjective criteria", then you create more room for African-Americans in STEM.

That should be obvious to any reasonable person, why hasn't Asian activism made the connection?

Finally, it needs to be noted that the major elephant in Wong's article is her omission of any commentary on high out-marriage rates of Asian women to white men - yes, The Disparity! - as an indicator of "complicity in whiteness". According to social scientists, inter-marriage is the primary indicator that an ethnic or racial minority has  integrated into the majority culture.

Wong writes.....
The cost of becoming white is hard to measure. It is ethical rather than material. By passively accepting the privileges of whiteness, Asian-Americans become complicit in America’s present system of hierarchy, a system in which the nation’s institutions inflict ongoing injustices on a racial underclass.
What greater acceptance of the privilege of whiteness can there be than to be inducted into intimate union with the group that holds the most privilege and power? What greater complicity could there possibly be? Don't get me wrong here, this is not a diatribe against IR, I am simply holding Wong's reasoning up for analysis and finding it inconsistent. If the cost of becoming white is ethical more than material, then surely there is a greater ethical cost required of those millions of Asian women who are in intimate union with whiteness and who, therefore, have greater opportunities to sway it?

Yet, I do not see - and have never seen - any "progressive" purveyors of the notion of Asian privilege and complicity point the finger at the 30% or so of Asian women married to white men (plus however many are in intimate partnerships) and tell them they have to use their unique position to speak out on racial injustice. There are no other minority demographics of any persuasion in a better position than those Asian women married to white men who can utilize the power of the privilege when - literally - being in union with whiteness to "change the status quo".

If high Asian representation in tech industries is - as Wong suggests - synonymous with whiteness and its anti-black sensibilities, then how much greater must be the implicit racism of high Asian representation in intimate partner unions with whiteness. There is no implicit acceptance of whiteness in striving for a good education and a successful career. There is, however, a hugely implicit acceptance of whiteness and the privileges it confers when one marries or dates into it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Getting Up On Whitey.

Black/Asian Tensions - A Convenient Euphemism?

An article in an online mag called "Mic" that covered the recent Akai Gurley killing by Chinese-American cop, Peter Liang, caught my attention recently. The piece makes the argument that it is the social and political dimensions of the death - rather than the specific circumstances of the incident - that should persuade us against supporting Liang. Furthermore, supporting Liang, the title of the article suggests, will result in "worse racial tension". The article does not explain why this should or would be the case, and neither does it question whether such a reaction would be reasonable or ethical.

Instead, the implication is that such an outcome - i.e. worsened racial tensions - is both natural, reasonable and possibly acceptable. Sadly, justice is not served by committing further injustice. Levelling disproportionate charges against an offender because it satisfies political requirements (which is the fundamental concern of those who support Liang - and not racial prejudice on the part of his supporters) and assuages our frustrations about historical and ongoing racial injustices is as unjust as not indicting policemen who commit brazen murder.

For justice to be justice, the social and political conditions that gave Gurley his hand in life cannot play a role in how Liang is charged or tried. Liang is not guilty of creating the housing projects, nor of their state of disrepair, nor of racial inequalities that makes those living in poverty more likely to be black. If those factors are considered in the case, then justice is not served. Those who support Liang are demanding that he be tried not with social and racial injustices that are beyond his control in mind, but that the specific circumstances of the incident be given the utmost consideration. But the Mic piece fundamentally argues that we should overlook the injustice of charging Liang disproportionately because  there exists so much racial injustice in society. That sounds more like vengeance and scapegoating and less like justice.

Nowhere in the piece is this idea of scapegoating more clearly illustrated than in the words of New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres whom the Mic piece quotes thus...
"If we were as aggressive in policing the housing conditions as we are in policing the residents"  [this might have never have happened.]
This would be hilarious if it did not come on the tail of such a tragedy. The New York City Council bears the sole responsibility for approving the city budget and also monitors the performance of city agencies - which includes New York's public housing authority responsible for the maintenance of the high-rise project where Gurley was shot. How does the New York City Council doing a piss-poor job of ensuring decent housing conditions in its jurisdiction have anything to do with the charges levelled against Peter Liang? In effect, what is being said here is that a membere of the NY City Council admits that it failed in its responsibilities to the people who it represents, contributing (greatly) to the circumstances that led to the tense situation that resulted in the death of an innocent man, and maybe even contributed to the manner of, and raison d'etre for vertical patrols. Yet the implication is that these factors should be considered in Liang's case. This is as unfair as institutionalized racism itself.

Yet it is the dramatic title of the Mic piece - "Supporting This Chinese-American Cop Who Shot a Black Man Only Makes Racial Tension Worse" - that I find to be most disturbing. The idea that an entire community will experience negative outcomes from the actions of a few of them is a classic example of racist thinking. More specifically, it is an acknowledgment that there exists an intolerance amongst blacks for Asian-Americans such that their merely voicing a different opinion of advocating against possible racial injustice against Asians is sufficient to make racial tensions worse.

It looks worse when we consider that Chinese-Americans account for a mere 20% of the population of Asian-Americans and that those who seem to support Liang account for a fraction of that. Yet, their actions will serve as the catalysts for "worse racial tensions". I cannot think of a more clear example of racist mob reasoning. Furthermore, I wonder if - but doubt that - the piece would have been published if it had been directed at white-Americans.

In the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting, there were no commentators claiming that Ferguson's white residents' support for Darren Wilson would worsen racial tensions. Yet, here, in the Liang case where there are, objectively, several reasons to be concerned that justice is being twisted for political expediency, we are told to expect a potential worsening of racial tension possibly because those questioning the indictment happen to be Asian. Why, then has no (as far as I know) African-American commentator published an article warning of worsening racial tensions when whites support white cops who kill? Whatever the reasons, there seems to be a clear message that - unlike Asian-Americans - the entire white community will not be held accountable and subject to worsening racial tensions because a minority of them supported killer cops.

An examination of the nature and character of black/Asian tensions might provide some insight to this disparity in attitude. In short, "black/Asian tensions" means two different things to each group. For Asians, these tensions are often experienced as violence. Whereas Asian on black violence is almost unheard of, black on Asian violence seems to be far more prevalent. By contrast, African-Americans seem to experience black/Asian tensions most often as a series of interpersonal slights that are perceived to be an affront to dignity and pride. African-Americans complaints of anti-black violence committed by Asian perpetrators are rare, but there is a long list of Asian victims of violence - ranging from school children to the elderly - at the hands of black perpetrators. Clearly, there is a vast difference in how these "racial tensions" are experienced by both groups.

In the context of the Mic article, to say that there will be an increase in racial tensions could - and should - be viewed as a way of saying that the experience of these tensions by both groups will be intensified. Or, put another way, blacks will experience more hurt pride at the hands of Asians and Asians will experience more hostility and violence from African-Americans.

On the other hand, white-Americans hold most of the power in society and violence between the black and white communities is more mutual. Asians possess no such institutional power. Thus, it could well be that this idea of worsening violence towards Asians reflects a belief that it is less likely to be met with the kind of potential for retaliatory violence that would arise from white society. If not, why were there no commentaries proclaiming the prospect of worsening racial tensions in the aftermath of violence against Asian children and the elderly? The answer is that there is no expectation or probability of anti-black violence to flare up amongst Asian-Americans, and at worst Asian store owners might commit more acts of effrontery to African-American pride.

But it is not just that there seems to be a proclivity towards a casual attitude when it comes to anti-Asian violence in black America. The increasing presence of African-Americans in positions of political and social authority has altered the landscape of black and Asian relations in unexpected ways and there is another extremely disturbing phenomenon that seems to be emerging in the saga of black/Asian relations that goes beyond mere "tension" and hints at more deep-rooted anti-Asian racism in black-America.

In many of the communities where some of the worst and most violent incidences where "black/Asian tensions" have been reported, African-Americans hold influential positions as local politicians, heads of police, heads of school boards, school principals and so on. This means that in many of the spaces where the lives of many Asian immigrants and African-Americans intersect, it is African-Americans who often wield the power of America's institutions. This has not always turned out too well for Asian-Americans.
Council Member Inez Barron and Assembly Member-Elect Charles Barron will be holding a press conference at 12 noon in front of the Brooklyn DA’s Office, following a meeting with District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Office, regarding the shooting death of Akai Gurley, by Police in the Pink Housing development. - See more at:

The Liang case produced its own example of a skewed application of institutional power.....
Council Member Inez Barron and Assembly Member-Elect Charles Barron will be holding a press conference at 12 noon in front of the Brooklyn DA’s Office, following a meeting with District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Office, regarding the shooting death of Akai Gurley, by Police in the Pink Housing development.......“We are calling on the arrest and indictment of Officer Peter Liang,” says Charles Barron.
This seems like a blatant case of elected officials endeavouring to influence the judiciary to bring about a criminal prosecution - charges which could, objectively, be viewed as disproportionate and biased. After all, why hasn't Liang's partner - Landau - also been charged for not calling in the shooting and not administering first aid? Aside from the fact that democracy itself is predicated on the principle of the strict separation of powers and that there seems to have been an open and unapologetic flouting of this principle to target an ethnic minority individual, the idea of institutional power of elected officials targeting an Asian policeman while ignoring the fact that a white officer also neglected his duties reeks of racial bias. The words "persecution" and "bias" come to mind here.

Even worse, here, these local politicians explicitly stoked, and threatened to stoke, the flames of violence if the judiciary failed to bring the charges that they wanted brought against Liang...
"Unlike my colleagues, I am not calling for peace and calm. I’m calling for us to be hot,” state Assemblyman-elect Barron said, standing beside Gurley’s gal pal, Melissa Butler, at a press conference outside the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.....If you want somebody to be peaceful and calm, tell the police to be peaceful and calm!.....He also demanded that Officer Peter Liang, who fired the single shot that killed the 28-year-old Gurley on Thursday night at East New York’s Louis Pink Houses, be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
To paraphrase this, an elected official insinuated the use of populist violence to pressure the judiciary to bring specific charges against an accused man. Oddly - but not surprisingly considering that the accused is Asian - no one seems disturbed by this abuse of institutional power. At least I have now learned not to expect Asian advocacy to take note, saving me from disappointment that always follows in the wake of expectation.

Sadly, there are several cases in which Asian-Americans - most often immigrants - living in neighborhoods where much of the power of the local institutions rests in the hands of African-Americans find themselves on the wrong end of institutional apathy and apparent bias. The racial targeting of Asian immigrant students by their African-American peers at South Philly High School several years back was investigated by the Justice Department after claims that the victims' reports to school administrators went ignored by the principle and the District Superintendent, both of whom were African-American. The Justice Department found in favor of the Asian students, finding that the district abused their civil rights and engaged in racial bias against them.

More recently, Rochester, NY has seen another explosion of violent racism against Asian immigrants perpetrated by African-Americans under the apathetic eye of African-Americans who hold positions of institutional power. According to the victims, their reports to the police were ignored or not taken seriously even after community leaders held a meeting with police officials.
The anger [of the immigrants] is fueled, he and more than a dozen other residents interviewed say, by hundreds of incidents of robbery and violent and verbal bullying in recent years.......they kept loose documentation of some 300 incidents before a meeting with police two years ago, and hundreds more since, only to see nothing change.........The refugee community typically doesn't report crimes to police because they either fear retaliation, they don't trust police (sometimes because of conflicts with authority in their homelands) or don't think police take their plight seriously.
So, according to the immigrants, the violence cannot be put down to crimes of theft against a vulnerable community - the verbal and violent bullying adds a dimension that goes beyond mere criminal opportunism. The comments of the former African-American police chief - John Sheppard - who met with community leaders are far from inspiring.....
Sheppard described the immigrants as easy targets for crime because they stand out from the rest of the community because of their lighter complexion and facial features.......They may dress different, they may talk different, they tend not to fight back and so that just made them easy victims, easy to identify and the fact that they didn't call police that just made it happen more often.
...that's also known as racism. But it gets even less inspiring. Another officer suggests the following.....
Police Lt. David Gebhardt, who was at the meeting two years ago, said police offered safety classes following the meeting to help the refugees make themselves less inviting to criminals and to become more street smart.
As though somehow the victims of racial violence can change racially motivated crimes by altering their own behaviour. Maybe one of the suggestions to make themselves less inviting to racially motivated crimes might be eye surgery? But Sheppard adds the following.....
There was a time when a lot of Southern blacks were moving from Florida and South Carolina into the Rochester area looking for jobs and they went through the same cycles of discrimination and having to fight back and get a foothold. Then, when they established a foothold, other groups came in whether it was Puerto Ricans or other nationalities and they had to go through the same rites of passage.
This is disturbing to say the least. The idea that racially-motivated violence is some kind of normal rite of passage meted out by African-Americans for newcomers to this country is merely a way of avoiding condemnation of racial prejudice directed at Asians by elements in the black community. No one would dare to make such a suggestion if the perpetrators were white, so why do African-Americans get a pass? Furthermore, the very suggestion that the way to resolve violent racism by "fighting back" avoids the social and political conditions that foster anti-Asian sentiment, but also is an explicit endorsement for the perpetuation of violence - all from the mouth of law enforcement.

In Baltimore itself, despite early indications that there would be targeting of Asian stores, the black mayor of the city did and said nothing to stave off any potential racially-motivated looting - even as the police failed to respond when Asian business owners reported that looting was taking place. These examples illustrate that Asian immigrant experiences of black/Asian tensions engender a gamut of circumstances from black on Asian violence all the way up to apathy and bias amongst African-Americans who hold institutional power that - either by design or unintended consequence - enables or encourages aggression and intolerance of Asian-Americans.

The Mic piece seems to casually accept this aspect of black/Asian tensions and implicitly endorses classic self-righteous racist reasoning that places the blame for racial intolerance on the targets and victims of it. This is not only reprehensible but also extremely disturbing that such an attitude could be expressed and not challenged for its implicit endorsements of racism. Of course, since black/Asian racial tensions manifest most dramatically as black on Asian violence, the article implicitly justifies anti-Asian violence.

This is worrying to say the least, but in the present climate when Asian-American progressives have been prominent in voicing their support for black causes, participated in anti-anti-blackness protests, and shown a willingness to castigate (but also exaggerate) racism within their own community, it is beyond disappointing that those efforts have not translated into a more tolerant and nuanced approach in this black commentary. As Jeff Yang points out (in an article that would have been better suited as a response to the Mic piece), there are many examples of black/Asian cooperation and mutual support, the question is, why is this cooperation and community building between the two groups so easily tossed aside when some Asians voice opposing or unpopular opinions?

If the author of the Mic piece believes that support for Liang will worsen racial tensions, then fine - that may be objectively true - but the passive acceptance of this possibility without any questioning of its rationality or fairness merely serves to justify anti-Asian racism in black-America.

There is nothing implicitly anti-black about the concerns voiced by Liang's supporters - rather, they have highlighted some extremely problematic aspects of the case. Framing their activism as racist - apparently to justify ratcheting up the violence - is the kind of simplistic racist thinking common to all bigoted thinkers. And I'm sorry, but I just don't hold to the notion that racial oppression can justify racist thinking or that those whose communities are heavily victimized by it should be given space to express it uncritically. This would be like saying that we can somehow end racism and racial injustice by being racist and unjust.

This might make sense to some people, but I see no sense in it at all. If a white writer had penned the Mic piece, then I have absolutely no doubt that our advocates would be jumping up and down decrying its implicit endorsement of racial violence. But Asian-America has gotten itself into the habit of dismissing incidents of anti-Asian violence committed by African-American perpetrators out of hand - see Jeff Yang - as though it is a necessary by-product of the fight against anti-blackness. Of course, this merely legitimizes anti-Asian violence and normalizes it as an implicit aspect of the black racial experience. 

Asian-American advocacy's apathy on the plight of the violence against some of the most vulnerable members of our community is a huge dent in the credibility of its pretensions of intersectional activism. There is no logical reason to exclude Asian victims of black racial violence from considerations of justice and failing to do so only reveals the extremely flimsy ethical and intellectual foundations of Asian progressiveness. After all what credibility is there in raising one hand in a fist proclaiming "anti-anti-blackness" whilst flipping the bird at the vulnerable immigrant victims of anti-Asian sentiment with the other?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Anti-Asian Pogrom?

The Looting of Asian Businesses In Baltimore. 

The high-profile shootings of unarmed black men by the police in recent months has brought the state of black/Asian relations to the fore of progressives' discourse - at least for Asian-Americans. Although much has been written over the past several months by Asian-American commentators - often with titles like "Why Asians should care about such and such a black issue" - attempting to forge a narrative of a common black/Asian political and social agenda, it has been noticeable that pretty much all of the commentary to forge this partnership of visible minorities has been done by Asians, with apparently little being said by the other half of the alliance.

Perhaps there does exist an extensive body of work and conceptual analyses that envision a mutual black/Asian power block from an African-American perspective, but so it seems not to be a high priority for them. It seems as though Asians are more invested in the alliance than their black counterparts. The one area where Asian advocates and their black cohorts seem to be in perfect alignment is in their response to reports of anti-Asian sentiment that seemed to creep into the Baltimore riots following the killing of Freddie Gray. In short, the reports of alleged targeting of Asian businesses and the subsequent destruction of many of them have largely been ignored by both Asian-Americans and African-American commentators alike.

The first report that hinted that Asians were being targeted came from the respected news source, NPR, whose piece, although brief, offered a clear picture of the tensions that seem to exist between Asian merchants and the black community in some parts of Baltimore hit by riots. The NPR article notes that although there are those in the black community who have positive and even close relationships with Asian shopkeepers, there are others who harbor resentments and view Asians as interlopers who "give nothing back" to the community.

At least forty-two Korean-owned stores were looted and/or destroyed in the area whilst reports suggest that black-owned businesses were protected and spared. It could certainly be argued that evidence for racially driven looting is inconclusive, although the  main reason for that could be that there seems to be little interest or motivation to actually thoroughly investigate either the experiences of Asian merchants, or claims of racially motivated targeting of their stores. But most noticeable of all is that Asian-American advocacy seems to have no stance, opinion, or point of view regarding this apparent targeting of Asian stores by some black locals.

The best that we seem to have come up with is the effort of progressive CNN writer, Jeff Yang, whose piece seems more concerned that America will get the wrong impression about the character of the riots whilst completely avoiding any hint of empathy for the Asian-American victims of a brutal and terrifying pogrom. It is this disconnect between those who act as spokespeople for Asian-Americans, and those Asian-Americans who have the least political and social clout but who find themselves in the no-man's land of America's racial dialogue that I find troubling.

This disconnect allows Asian merchants - who are most often immigrants with poor English language skills, and who are amongst the poorest and most vulnerable group within Asian-America - to be repeatedly excluded from the dialogue on their own experience. Instead, their experience is lost and diminished (and even "gaslighted")  in narratives put forward by progressives such as Yang who exhort us to accept the big picture that effectively leaves targeted Asian merchants as necessary collateral damage in the fight against anti-blackness. Yang quotes Jennifer Lee  thusly....
..the mainstream media continues to pit minority groups against one another to draw attention from larger structural problems that plague poor, disadvantaged communities. By directing our attention to interminority conflict, it directs blame away from the structures that perpetuate gross inequality and toward individual problems.
As you can see, there is no mention of the human tragedy experienced by Asian merchants nor of their looted and destroyed livelihoods - it seems to be forgotten that Asian immigrants often count as poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable. It is probably true that the media promotes this narrative of inter-ethnic conflict - most probably because it makes for exciting viewing as much as for the purpose of deflecting attention away from real social issues - yet, that does not mean that we should ignore the very real possibility that there are elements in black America who harbor racial bias and hostility towards Asians.

The problem is that there is no reason to believe that any anti-Asian sentiment would be assuaged by an improved economic situation, or even that such sentiments are the result of dire economic circumstances. Adhering to this belief ignores the larger picture of xenophobic anti-Asian sentiment in American society that blames Asian economies for taking jobs, resources, and prestige away from Americans who are more deserving of it. The parallels with sentiments expressed by African-Americans are striking - the idea that Asians are taking an economic slice of the pie that rightfully belongs to African-Americans by operating in black neighbourhoods, Asians are taking jobs from locals by unfairly self-employing, and Asians are flaunting their prosperity by looking down their noses at locals, all speak of an entitlement complex that is too similar to mainstream America's negative attitudes towards Asia to be so easily dismissed.

....there's little evidence to suggest a pattern in which Asian businesses have been actively targeted out of racial animus.......Instead, it seems as if Asian-owned stores have experienced damage partly because they make up a portion of establishments operating in the most economically vulnerable and socially volatile of neighborhoods. In other words, they were collateral damage, along with other stores in the vicinity of riots.
This is extremely insulting to those Korean-Americans whose stores were destroyed in Baltimore. Does there have to be a pattern of racial animus for racist hate-crimes to be considered as such? The NPR piece that Yang is responding to explicitly reported eyewitness accounts where Asian stores were the only ones targeted.....
But on this particular stretch - picture three treeless blocks of row houses, a lot of them boarded up - the only shops that were targeted were ones owned by Asian immigrants - mostly Koreans.
Speaking of racial animus, one local had this to say......
It's almost like payback, I guess you could say.......For all of the unspoken things that has happened between those businesses and our people, I feel like it was payback.
So, yes, the NPR piece does provide us with sufficient reason to believe that (at least in some cases) Asian stores were specifically targeted and that it was the result of racial animus. Whether or not this constitutes a "pattern" of any kind is completely irrelevant and I think Yang is intelligent enough to know that just because not all looters were targeting Asians stores does not remove the possibility that some were. The absence of a pattern of racial animus in no way precludes incidents of racial animus.

What I find most appalling about the Yang quote above is that he seems perfectly happy to hand-wave away these possible incidents of racial animus (that destroyed people's lives) in order to refocus our attention on what he terms the "real issues". In case he hasn't noticed, racism in America is a real issue and for those Koreans whose stores do seem to have been targeted, it was a very real issue, but Yang has presumed the moral authority to school us on what should really matter to us and whose suffering we should prioritize. That's easy for him to say and it seems his conscience permits him to view the livelihoods of targeted Korean merchants as a price he is willing to pay - all, I suspect from the comfort of a safe neighbourhood that is patrolled by a racist police force. The Koreans on the other hand might not be so thrilled and I don't find this sanctimonious posturing to be particularly ethical either.

Yang's piece gives absolutely no indication that he knows enough about the circumstances of the people or circumstances of that community whose experiences he, remarkably, presumes to be knowledgeable enough of to frame for us. He simply does not seem to have sufficient information to dismiss any reports of racial animus or what seem to be reports of clear incidents of targeting of Asian stores.

Yet, he has presented his piece (and himself) as authoritative on what was happening in a community which he seems to have no first-hand experience of nor does he seem to have actually gone to Baltimore to investigate whether the claims made by NPR are true or not. Thus, I fail to see on what grounds he was able to so thoroughly dismiss the NPR report. His only argument seems to be that we should dismiss claims of racial tension in Baltimore since the media has in the past - and does still - stoke the flames of urban violence with hyperbolic reporting on inter-ethnic tensions, 

It should go without saying that hyperbole does not mean untrue and that just because tensions are melodramatically reported, does not mean they should be dismissed outright.

Interestingly, the NPR piece is actually far from being hyperbolic - if anything it seems balanced and presents several different perspectives. What the NPR report showed was that there are African-Americans in the community who view Asian merchants with great fondness, while others are hateful. No hyperbole there.

I genuinely believe that most African-Americans - even in poor neighbourhoods that are subject to oppressive policing - do not harbour anti-Asian hostility. And I would even suggest that for many (hopefully most) African-Americans, these Asian-owned stores provide an important and convenient service to the local community. If this was not the case, then it is hard to explain how some of these Asian stores could remain in business for the years and decades that they have if they were such terrible racists as some locals suggested. But Yang's approach to frantically dismiss any and all suggestions of racially motivated looting merely plays into the hands of the hyperbolic mainstream media.

It could be that be that one reason the media is even able to stoke racial tensions between blacks and Asians is because prominent Asian-American journalists like Yang marginalize the racial experiences of Asian merchants in black neighbourhoods. The vacuum is naturally filled by the mainstream media. As far as I know, no prominent Asian-American journalist has even bothered to report on what these 42 Korean merchants went through. So don't complain and freak out when the mainstream media does the work of giving these marginalized, invisible, and neglected members of Asian-America a voice and then shape what they say to suit their own racial agenda (although the NPR piece didn't actually do that). Maybe, if Asians themselves were to include these merchants in the narrative of vulnerable communities then the mainstream media would not have the opportunity to take advantage of their invisibility?

I don't agree that Yang's proclaimed "real issues" should exclude the suffering or hardships experienced by Asian merchants in depressed areas. If people are looking to these merchants to be part of the solution to urban dysfunction then it is logical to include them as part of the "real issues" - particularly when their stores are targeted by resentful looting mobs. Losing your livelihood is a real issue and, by its silence or casual dismissals, the Asian media is complicit in protecting, defending, and excusing those who perpetrate these kinds of crimes against Asian merchants.