Friday, November 20, 2015

Asian Guy Nearly Lynched.

Tim Tai Versus Southern Mob.

A recent NY Times article covering the student protests at the University of Missouri brought to light some fascinating aspects of early 21st century racial dynamics. The story goes as follows; in the aftermath of a series of racist incidents on campus in recent years, students have begun staging high-profile protests culminating in the college's fo─▒tball team going on strike and a protest led by a group calling themselves "#ConcernedStudent1950" in which they camped out in a public area of the campus.

It was during this camp-out that the following incident occurred.....


Naturally, the video caused quite the stir, with publications right across the spectrum of political leaning coming out to condemn the stupidly petulant and self-defeating-if-you-want-to-get-your-message-out act of hampering press freedom. From the video, you can see that a herd of rebels without clues attempt to intimidate a freelance photographer into leaving a public space that he had every right to be in, and then use physical force to eject him (which I suggest might be illegal) and deny his rights as a journalist and citizen to report the news.

The reaction of the photographer was admirable in that he refused to be cowed or intimidated and held his ground until he was faced with an increased level of aggression and the very real possibility of physical violence. Although it is racial issues that underpin the whole incident, there are - in my opinion - unique racial dynamics about it that deserve comment but which seem to have flown under the radar of people's awareness.

Keen-eyed readers would have noticed that the photographer was Asian, a guy named Tim Tai, and that his primary confrontation was with a woman named Janna Basler who turned out to be an employee of the school. Towards the end of the confrontation, the intimidation was amplified by a black student whose aggressive posturing encouraged the rest of the mob to increase their own levels of aggression.

During the course of the confrontation, Basler sets the example for the students by standing in the photographer's way and preventing him from getting closer to the camp. Then, she crosses her arms and pushes him - and at this point things become extremely disturbing. Having obviously and clearly nudged the guy - the recording captures her doing so - she immediately replies (lies) that "he had pushed her". Somewhere off camera, a guy can be heard indignantly asking "did he touch her, did he touch her?" What was going on here is clear - some guy was looking for an excuse and reason to be aggressive, perhaps violent towards the photographer.

In and of itself, it is disturbing that a college employee would incite students to violent aggression, yet, in the context of America's race history it assumes an even more dark and disgusting tone. One of the foundational pillars of white racist violence towards minorities (particularly men) has been the inviolacy of the white woman and the drive to protect her purity - as well as the purity of the white race - from contamination by non-white men. The primary way that this was achieved was via anti-miscegenation laws and segregation, but also through social acceptance of violent retribution towards any minority male who loved across the race divide. An even darker aspect of this normalization of violence against minority men, was the phenomenon of the false accusation.

American history is replete with incidences of minority men who had been falsely accused by white women of rape, and violence. This incident is a sinister echo of those dark times and it speaks volumes about the profound scar on America's racial dynamics that even in 2015 a white woman - Basler - participating in a protest against racism could clearly and blatantly lie that a minority man had physically accosted her in some way and have minorities jumping to her defence. There was a time when that would have gotten the photographer killed and quite frankly, it sounded as though there were some guys in that mob who were willing to commit violence to defend her sanctity. It is with the most ironic appropriateness that Basler, when asked by Tsai to reveal her identity, replied "My name is 1950" - a fitting reference to her use of 1950's racial dynamics to intimidate and incite aggression against a non-white man.

What this says about how America's races interact and conceive of each other offers us the opportunity for intriguing analysis. Could it be that despite years of ethnic studies courses, and a greater awareness of racist thinking, we (minorities) are still somehow conditioned to think of a white woman's word as more sacred than that of minority men? Could it be that we (minorities) still place a higher value on white women such that we are willing to ignore her false accusations and be aggressive on her behalf anyway?

But, don't get me wrong here - I'm not saying that Basler was cynically, or even consciously exercising the privilege of false accusation, merely that we as a society may have gotten so conditioned to behaving in certain ways based upon racial hierarchies that we accept the word of white people as authoritative and probably truthful even though our eyes are telling us the opposite. We are simply accustomed to accepting behaviors determined by racial privileges. Perhaps, on some deep level, conditioning leads us to understand that any accusation made against minority men by white people must - by definition - be true. Maybe the minority members of that mob felt some kind of afterglow, or sloppy seconds of white privilege by being allowed to participate in the charade, drawn by the power in knowing that they stood behind someone who, seemingly, had the power to redefine a lie as the truth.

Whatever those involved were thinking, the scenario played out like a classic of pavlovian conditioning in which no-one seemed to grasp that they were actually reinforcing the racial hierarchies of America's past with their unquestioning response to a white woman's false accusations. It, thus, may be no surprise that the group of students, teachers and Basler, for the most part, ignored the white journalist who was recording the incident and focused their aggression and false accusations on Tai - the minority.

As for the overly aggressive black dude at the end, I couldn't help but be reminded of the lyric from this song, and I quote - "black pohleess showing out for the white cop" - in which it is implied that black cops become overly aggressive when dealing with minorities just to impress, or prove their credibility to, their white peers. There is a lot I could say about that, but that is not necessary since it pretty much speaks for itself.

On a final note, it is worth mentioning another dynamic of the incident. Over the past few years, higher education and the courts have been considering the issue of affirmative action. A common refrain amongst supporters of AA has been to push the racist stereotype of the test-taking-wizard-but-unthinking Asian automatons who are unable to think critically, challenge authority, or lack the flexibility of thought necessary to contribute to a diverse intellectual environment that colleges supposedly strive for. Yet, what we see in the above video illustrates more clearly than any study, that it is the non-Asian students - at least at Missouri - who lack the critical thinking skills to challenge authority, and interact with their learning environment in a way that fosters a challenging and progressive intellectual environment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Dalai Lama And The Cult Of The Emasculated Asian Mystic.

A Halo Slips.

Since being forced into exile by communist China in 1959, the Dalai Lama has become probably the most beloved - and accepted - Asian man in western history. His position as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile that opposes Chinese occupation has also endeared him to political elites who oppose and fear China's rise to economic prominence. Most notably, almost alone out of all the world's religious leaders, the Dalai Lama has been publicly embraced by America's celebrity caste whose endorsement of his stated pacifism has been - in my opinion - the driving force behind his elevation to a celebrity himself.

Yet, His Highness's halo seemed to take a knock last month when during a BBC interview he was asked about the potential for a female Dalai Lama in the future and he replied that such a woman.....
"...must be very attractive.."
...otherwise she would....
"...not be much use..."
Naturally, the response from women's rights activists has been one of disbelief and disappointment. For me, it merely confirmed the adage that expectation leads to disappointment - particularly when it is applied to those proclaiming unique religious knowledge. Even though I have no issue with men who wear dresses or with the religious, men who wear dresses whilst simultaneously proclaiming religious piety and spiritual expertise tend to set off my skepticism alert. Thus, the Dalai Lama displaying a distinctly backward and a spiritually archaic attitude towards women merely confirms my suspicions that religious types wearing flowing robes and dresses should not necessarily be placed on pedestals.

What is most interesting here, though, is that the Dalai Lama fulfills the fantasies of America's apparently spiritually bankrupt celebrity elites who seem willing to buy into the stereotype - created by none other than the apparently spiritually bankrupt celebrity elites - of the slightly more than human Asian mystic whose lack of sexual prowess and possession of arcane spiritual knowledge renders void the seeming normative distaste for Asian men that our American culture routinely exhibits.

I have long maintained that the stereotypes of Asian men in American culture reflects a deep-rooted xenophobia that limits acceptable western conceptualizations of us to the harmless mystic who fulfills a spiritual void in the western elites who accept them, and the harmless buffoon type whose antics and fundamental childishness allows them to serve as examples of how men should not be but who Asian men cannot help but be.

Yet, just like all fantasies, these dehumanizing stereotypes distort reality and reflect the depths to which people will go to hold on to their prejudices. In the case of the Dalai Lama, the fantasy of the advanced spiritual Asian mystic has obscured some very uncomfortable concerns about the nature of Tibetan society prior to the Chinese take over. Worse - but strangely unsurprisingly - these distasteful aspects of a society long upheld by western Orientalist fantasists as a utopian paradise on earth, only seem to warrant criticism when westerners (western feminists in this case) have their feelings hurt.

The problem is, that for several decades there has been significant evidence that Tibet prior to the Chinese take over was a theocratic hell that oversaw horrific human rights abuses committed by the religious elite against the extremely poor majority. Don't get me wrong here, I do not accuse the Dalai Lama of committing atrocities against his own people, but merely say that the fantasy stereotypes created by the west of the spiritually advanced mystic which has been applied to him has helped to obscure discussion of a brutal history that is at odds with both the stereotypes of morally advanced Tibetan monks as well as the stated claim of advancing democratic principles for the benefit of the Tibetan people.

Viewing the Dalai Lama through the filter of the racial stereotype of the harmless Asian mystic who will lead his people back to some utopian nirvana only obscures the fact that Tibet was never a utopia but was to many accounts a hellish society ruled by wealthy aristocrats and buddhist monks who kept the vast majority of the population in a condition tantamount to slavery.

An article written way back in 1992 by a man named Michael Parenti outlines the extremely harsh conditions under which the majority of Tibetans were forced to live. Bonded servitude from which there was no chance of escape meant that the majority of Tibetans lived as slaves whose lives and bodies were subject to the whims of their owners. According to Parenti, runaways were treated with extreme cruelty sometimes resulting in death, and thieves and criminals were subject to brutal reprisals that included cutting off of limbs and mutilation. Religious beliefs taught by the monasteries reinforced this social system....
The theocracy’s religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.
It says a lot about the status of Asian people in the west that it is only when the representative of this cruelty "offends" white feminism that the halo of spiritual superiority comes under question - forget the thousands of Tibetans who lived as slaves, that is easily overlooked in a society that normalizes dehumanizing conceptualizations of Asian people. What is important is the fantasy of spiritual advancement that the Dalai Lama purports to offer that can give meaning to privileged western lives.

In some ways the Dalai Lama is the ultimate representative of the model minority; the stereotypes that place him on a pedestal allows those who support him to cloak their virulent xenophobia towards the Chinese just like the model minority stereotype allows the denial of racism in American society. Furthermore, the uncritical acceptance of what the Dalai Lama represents - a peaceful, harmless spiritually advanced society where everyone (every Asian that is) is complacently and unquestioningly contented with their lot in life - seems to act as a counterfoil to the other stereotype about Asian men; wicked, grasping, inhumane and de-individuated hordes who consume everything in their path.

What is often termed as harmless and "playful" dehumanizing stereotypes has manifested in a very concrete way - both as the unquestioning embrace of  spiritual figure whose pre-1950 society seemed as brutally repressive as the communist regime that replaced it and the equally unquestioned acceptance of the Chinese as brutal savages destroying the western fantasy of Shangri-la. Put another way, this juxtaposition of un-nuanced attitudes can be viewed as a reflection of the two most powerful and largely unchallenged stereotypes that have been applied to Asian men. On the one hand we have the stereotype of the harmless, desexualized mystic who is unthreatening and beneficial to white people by virtue of his harmlessness and lack of libido, being played off against the bestial, grasping Asian man whose inadequacies manifest as angry oppressiveness.

As I have suggested, this inability - or lack of desire - to formulate a more nuanced understanding of the facts simply means that the spiritual aspirations of white America, founded as they are on a flawed and delusional historical narrative, supersedes the experiences of Asian men and women who suffered brutal conditions in Tibet's feudal society. This in no way denies that Chinese communism has itself acted with brutality both towards the Tibetans and their own people, it merely acknowledges that the western narrative of the simple dichotomy of good, passive Asian man pitted against wicked, inhumane Asian man is founded on racist thinking that reduces Asian peoples' experiences to figments of the western imagination and in the process obscures justice and truth.

The absurdity of this situation can be summed up thusly; it is through dehumanization of Asian people - since the neutered mystic and the angry aggressor stereotypes are both dehumanizing - that the west seems to somehow believe it can foster freedom and justice.

A more nuanced - and truthful approach - would be to, well, acknowledge the truth; while communist China has acted with brutality in Tibet (just as it has done so with its own people), there is compelling evidence that pre-1950 Tibetan society was as bad if not worse. Furthermore, there is also evidence that Chinese rule has brought benefits to Tibet that are simply too embarrassing for western ears to apprehend, and that the rhetoric of Chinese attempts at genocide are exaggerated if not completely false.

What seems clear to me is that so long as the issue of Tibet continues to be viewed and understood through the implicit framework of racial stereotypes, the only people who will benefit are western spiritual mysticism junkies who seem to think that nirvana can be attained via the practice of ignoring history and the suffering of Asian people under the Tibetan theocracy, but also creating more suffering by upholding racial stereotypes that inhibit any possibility of approaching the subject objectively and with the understanding that all parties involved are human rather than dehumanizing stereotypes.

What has to happen is that our society has to become aware that racial stereotypes are damaging - extremely damaging - by virtue of their very nature and are not only damaging when they backfire and offend white people's sensibilities.