Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Defence Of White Anti-Blackness..

Acts of Contrition In Asian Progressivism.

In my previous post I suggested that Asian-American progressivism and so-called advocacy seems to be pushing a narrative that exaggerates alleged anti-black racism in Asian communities and elevates it to a level that is equivalent to the white racism that seems to be at the root of the oppressive policing in black communities. I came to notice how Asian progressive commentary in mainstream media outlets seems to be little more than a tactic of deflection away from the far more serious and deadly issue of white racism that supports a contention amongst some ethnic minorities; white liberals and the liberal media are merely racists in denial.

How else can one explain the platforms given to Asian progressives that have little to say about the deep-rooted anti-black prejudices in police forces that seem to induce unreasonable levels of violence towards blacks, and lenient local judiciaries that offer impunity to police officers who engage even in obvious abuses? A recent article in the Huffington Post gives such a platform to white liberalism's latest Asian-American Progressive Useful Idiot to divert attention away from white racism.

Entitled "What Asian Americans Owe African Americans", the piece - written by Christopher Punongbayan - serves as an example of what is wrong with Asian-American contributions to America's racial discourse.

The first point is that it is difficult to determine how to categorize the piece. It cannot be called "news", or "investigative" since it provides no news per se (i.e. we are not being informed of an event or series of events, and neither are events being described), and there is no evidence of an investigative element - i.e no information was gathered and presented as an argument that makes the case for the piece.

Instead, what the piece presents is an inflammatory generalization about Asian-Americans - with a heavy implication that it is Asian immigrants (yes, the wicked FOB's again!) who are being referenced - that asserts the existence of a "problem" (Asians "distancing" themselves from killings of unarmed blacks) but never gets around to specifying exactly how, where, or when this "distancing" has taken place. It never builds a case to support that initial assertion, choosing, instead, to assert - again without a supporting argument - a vague claim that Asian-America "is what it is today" because of an African-American led civil-rights movement.

Finally, the piece ends as it started - by not making any sense and without any kind of significant conclusion. Having riled up its readership with wild, unsubstantiated claims of Asian-American distancing from black suffering and (of course) a general attitude of anti-blackness within the community, the article leaves us limp and flaccid by offering absolutely no meaningful solution to this apparent problem.

In other words, having made inflammatory statements about Asian-American racial attitudes - that are never substantiated with meaningful examples of how this hurts African-American prospects in society - the article has nothing useful to say about how Asian-Americans can approach this problem and find a solution. The reason for this is obvious; Punongbayan has presented no reason to believe that his assertions are true or - even if they are true - that they have any detrimental effect on African-American social and economic aspirations. Thus, without a rational and reasonable argument to support the case that "Asian distancing from blacks" is a real phenomenon, it is impossible for him offer any real world remedy.

Put plainly, Punongbayan has presented an article that serves no purpose, has no meaningful input into real-world solutions to America's race issues, seems not to be even capable of presenting a rational (or intelligent) description of his own community's racial attitudes. Furthermore, he seems to have only a very rudimentary and simplistic understanding of the complicated racial and geopolitical circumstances that informed America's shift towards liberalization of its race and immigration policies.

What can be taken from Punongbayan's piece is that it reinforces two negative aspects of the Asian-American racial experience: firstly, it utilizes the same racialization strategies used by the mainstream by making wild, unsubstantiated generalizations about the community and representing them as facts; secondly it reinforces the notion of Asian immigrants as insular ignoramuses who have no concepts of justice and equality - like the Asian cultures they come from - and who are thus, different in fundamental ways from the Americans they live amongst.

I would have loved to have been able to dissect  Punangbayan's piece point by point, but sadly, he has not made any reasonable arguments that can even be seriously addressed. This makes me wonder who the article was aimed at. As the Executive Director of the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus I have to believe that Punagbayan is well acquainted with the history of Asian-America's contributions to the civil rights struggle and thus should be aware that other Asian-Americans would find his contentions troublesome.

Yet he seems to willfully ignore the significant contributions made by Asian-American civil rights activists since the early days of Asian immigration independently from the black struggle which laid the groundwork for many of the subsequent rights enjoyed by Asians and non-Asians alike in addition to laying the groundwork for non-European immigrants to be given the same rights to citizenship as their European counterparts. It can be easily argued that Asian activism was a major factor in bringing about the liberalization of America's draconian and racist immigration laws that has benefitted millions of non-white immigrants - mainly non-Asians.

Since it is already obvious that the gist of Punangbayan's piece is not to advance any positive perspective on Asian-Americas, or their contributions to the civil rights struggle, then I can only assume that his article is aimed at non-Asians who are not interested in the Untold Story of the independent Asian civil rights struggle. Worse still, Punangbayan seems to want to reach an audience that comfortably accepts wild generalizations about Asian people told in a manner that is insulting to both rational thought and intellectual integrity.

Punangbayan claims the following.....
The 1960s is perhaps best known for laws like the Civil Rights Act. But 50 years ago today, on October 3, 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was also passed in the midst of the social upheaval of that period. This immigration law has been absolutely transformational for American society because of the drastic demographic shifts that were brought about in its wake. 
From 1820 to 1965, only 1.5 million Asians immigrated to the US. After 1965's immigration act, more than 10 million Asians have immigrated to our shores. Were it not for the centuries-long struggle led by African Americans on behalf of all excluded communities, we as a nation would not only have a lot fewer civil rights, we would not have nearly the racial diversity we do today.
The irony here is that Asian-Americans are almost never included in questions of diversity when it comes to America's race dialogue. In fact, Asians are explicitly and unabashedly excluded from considerations of diversity when it comes to issues such as college admission and attendance rates and diversity in the tech industry. If anything, the significant presence of Asian-Americans in education and the tech sector are largely viewed as not reflecting diversity at all and even viewed by some as an impediment to "true" diversity.

More pertinently, the subject of the liberalization of immigration policies carries a far more nuanced history than the article would like us to believe. Punangbayan's piece does not deserve a reasoned rebuttal on this subject since it offers no reasoned case to support its single-minded focus on the black civil rights movement as the primary reason for immigration reform. Suffice it to say that I would suggest that other, equally necessary factors influenced the US administration of the time to appear less despotic in its racial attitudes towards non-white immigrants.

Furthermore, it is Hispanic immigration that has seen the most dramatic increase since 1965 - surging past Asians to the tune of 55 million. Thus, by Punangbayan's reasoning Hispanic's owe a huge debt to black America. Of course, though, Hispanic's seem to never be invited to publish articles in mainstream liberal publications that deride their own communities and make gross generalizations about them. The reason for this could well be that Hispanic commentators don't seem to generally have negative perceptions of their own community and they are able to place the Hispanic experience into a reasonable context of the human experience that is sympathetic to the concept of an autonomous Hispanic identity and worldview.

Asian progressive commentators eschew this kind of self-conceptualization and condemn it as implicitly anti-black. Hence, whilst proclaiming diversity, Punangbayan effectively diminishes diversity by ignoring diverse historical experiences. Thus, the question of who is the target audience for the piece becomes one of great importance that sheds light on the limitations that seem to shape the content and scope of Asian-American commentary in the liberal media.

To answer this question it helps to point out that Punangbayan's points are fundamentally trite. What could possibly be a more significant issue than extra-judicial shootings of unarmed citizens and the failure of the courts to provide justice for victims and their families? What could be more significant to all communities than the failure of our democracy to insist on accountability of those entrusted with carrying out law-enforcement? According to Punangbayan - and other Asian progressives - an equally serious problem is the "distancing" of Asians from blacks that has to be addressed, thus diverting the discourse away from the actual issues. If it was not as serious as extra-judicial killings by law-enforcement that has equally deleterious effects, then why write about it at all as a related subject to these killings?

It may have escaped Punangbayan's notice, but since the spate of high-profile shootings of unarmed black men - and women - by the police in recent years, Asian-Americans have been (cloyingly) prominent in speaking out against it, participating in efforts to organize and attend demonstrations, and have dedicated the efforts of many of their "justice" organizations to supporting black rights.

Yet, Asian progressives consistently engage in self-righteous moral grandstanding in mainstream publications insisting that anti-blackness in Asian-America is a peril that threatens to swamp our society. This is insulting not only to the FOBs that progressives continually target for character assassination, but also for those Asians - and they are many - who do and have supported the black cause.

What all of this is suggesting to me is that the liberal media seems intent on pushing a narrative that elevates claims of anti-blackness in Asian communities - which to be honest upon investigation appear to be trite and parochial prejudices - to the same level as police shootings and alleged judicial complicity in enabling them. What this looks like to me is that there seems to be a process within the liberal media to create a "liberal model minority" that shares the burden of white accountability through primally screaming the apparent horrors of Asian anti-blackness. Yet, never are we made privy to the actual incidences that provide us with a reasonable cause to believe that "Asians distancing themselves from blacks" has anywhere near the detrimental effects that Asian progressives and their white liberal media johns seem to want us to believe.

I happen to believe that alleged police oppression and unexplained killing of unarmed citizens is a serious issue that deserves thorough investigation and that nothing should deflect attention away from the main issues. Yet, trite and nonsensical moral grandstanding by Asian progressives that actually permits the discourse to be shifted away from the issues at hand seem to be the custom of the liberal media. Not only is that insulting to our intelligence, it is a morally reprehensible act of self-aggrandizement,

Thus, whereas conservative media only mentions Asians when their experience can be used to bolster claims that racism is no longer a factor in our society, the liberal media permits Asians to have a voice when they somehow agree to make fantastical insinuations that Asian anti-blackness is as serious an issue as police murders of innocent people. In other words, articles like Punangbayan's serve only to deflect attention away from far, far more serious issues of racialized social injustice and suggests that the liberal media is equally invested in using Asians to deflect attention away from white racism. Fortunately for them, there seems to be no shortage of Asian-American useful idiots willing to act as the assuager of America's racial sins. Salvation through Asian progressive idiocy, indeed.

But, there is another potential outcome that I find extremely disturbing. The narrative of Asian immigrant anti-blackness may be sowing the seeds for more racial discontent between black and Asian communities and exposing Asian immigrants who do business in black neighborhoods to more violence and hostility than they already face. Whilst self-righteous Asian progressives cast judgement on working class immigrant Asian communities from the comfort of their safe-neighborhoods that are well-protected by predominantly white police forces who may well use the tactics of intimidation and harassment of blacks passing through in order to "keep the streets safe", it is the working-class immigrants who live and work in poor black communities who will no doubt bear the brunt of any negative reactions to these sweeping moral proclamations.

It is becoming ever more apparent that hostility to Asian immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment is an implicit part of Asian progressive discourse. The relentless (but never substantiated) accusations of endemic anti-black racism amongst Asians has placed the Asian progressive movement into a strange position - claiming to be speaking up for the the black victims of police violence and murder, instead it deflects the dialogue away from that very issue by making a mountain out of the molehill of "Asians distancing" themselves from blacks. This places them very firmly in the category of de facto apologists for the racism that makes police abuses inevitable.

But none of that matters, let's just point the finger at the Asian FOBs - it is easier than actually formulating an original perspective on America's race discourse.


  1. The very foundation of Asian activism is flawed. It appears to be based off of other movements rather than being able to stand on its own. Their main affiliation is with these liberal circles like feminism, anti-blackness, anti-racism, etc, while being an Asian activist is secondary. It's as if these Asians just realized they were Asian so felt an obligation to focus on Asian issues except their heart isn't really there. Maybe a non-Asian fellow activist asked them "How do you people feel about..." which empowered them to feel like an authority on all things Asian.

    They then become the distorted window for non-Asians into Asian culture. And since Asian activism is second to whatever bigger movement they're part of, their views often end up selling out Asians to win points with their main cause, like in the article you linked, the many recent articles about Kpop reappropriating hip-hop, articles on feminist sites painting Asians as patriarchal and misogynists, affirmative action, Asians are white, etc, without a hint of nuance. They abuse their Asianness and will write articles on subjects they have no business exploring yet act like they're the preeminent expert. Asians can call these people out on their lack of research and credentials, but it doesn't matter because actual Asians don't matter as long as members of their main liberal group pats them on the back for a job well done.

    Good work Christopher Punongbayan. You won points with the blacklivesmatter crowd. Thumbs up on your Twitter or Facebook.

    1. Anonymous


      Yes, exactly. Asian advocacy has painted itself into a corner by destroying its foundation as an Asian advocacy movement - it has relegated the Asian voice to a mere echo of other groups' issues. It simply has nothing to say that is original or inspiring.