Monday, February 22, 2016

Is Donald Trump An Asian-American Progressive?

Asian Progressive Complicity With White Racism.

As the Republican presidential candidate race heated up, Donald Trump's electioneering veered ever nearer to the kind of populist illiberal democratic politicians that have begun cropping up all over Eastern Europe. His most recent affront was to Muslims, but because his rhetoric has become so polarizing and inflammatory, it seems to have been forgotten that Trump started on this path with hostility to China even going so far as to use a mocking Asian accent at one of his rallies. Not wanting to be outdone, Jeb Bush jumped onto the bandwagon by clarifying that Asian anchor babies are less desirable than Hispanic ones - a sentiment which I took as a major disavowal (a.k.a "go fuck yourself") of the legitimacy and sensibilities of the Asian vote.

Of course, Trump and Bush received the most attention for their comments, but other candidates have also veered into xenophobia-tinged campaigning. Starting with democratic presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton - who initiated this election season's sinophobic rhetoric with her outburst about Chinese hackers, and Carly Fiorina who seems to just dislike Asians and views them as cognitively deficient. All of this is unsurprising to me since I have come to expect a rise in anti-Asian rhetoric at election time, and was not surprised by the cynical and unapologetic use of it by presidential hopefuls on all sides of the political spectrum.

From the perspective of Asian-American progressivism, Trump's words especially are of particular interest. Criticizing companies that hire through H-1B visas, he argues that wages should be raised for those employed in these jobs so as to discourage companies from hiring from overseas and, in so doing, boost opportunities for American workers in the field - particularly blacks and Hispanics. The key point here is that the H-1B visa program has opened the door for many Asian immigrants to gain a foothold in America and go on to apply for residency and ultimately citizenship. Thus, encouraging companies to hire Americans implicitly closes a key avenue of immigration for Asians. To me, this is obviously an attempt to pit minorities against one another.

As I have pointed out in a couple of previous posts - here and here - there seems to be a correlatÄ°on between Asian-American progressive discourse and conservative racist posturing, in which conservatives, coincidentally, come up with ideas about Asians that are remarkably similar to those invented and propagated by Asian progressives. In a too-good-to-be-true series of coincidences, white conservative commentators have taken to adopting language remarkably similar to that used by grandstanding Asian progressives who decry "Asian privilege" and make wild, unsubstantiated accusations of racism committed by their own community.

White conservatives have borrowed the claims of grandstanding Asian progressives as a means to defend against charges of white racism - reasoning that, surely, if Asians have privilege then white racism is exaggerated! Even more troubling is that liberals are beginning to adopt a similar practice as evidenced by Bill Maher's recent claim that Hollywood racism can be explained by Asian racism - a claim echoing by the Asian progressive accusations via the liberal media of rampant "anti-blackness" in Asian communities.

Trump's racially polemic scheming on the H-1B visa program voices similar sentiments to those voiced by Asian progressives who view Asian success in education and the tech industry as an act of complicity in anti-black racism. According to these commentators, it is out of unadulterated anti-black racist spite that Asian-Americans pursue higher education and careers in tech. By merely participating in things like the pursuit of a degree, or a job in a field that interests you - like in the tech industry - Asians are upholding white supremacy, and are, thus, complicit in it. Likewise, Trump is also implying that Asian immigration disadvantages blacks and Hispanics.

It follows as a matter of common sense that if - as Asian progressives insist - Asian success in tech is implicitly disadvantageous to blacks, and that Asians are consciously colluding in a process of racial discrimination against blacks, then barriers should be put up that discourage Asian participation in tech and stop the H-1B visa avenue of Asian immigration. After all, who wants to let a bunch of rampant Asian racists into the country whose career choices are implicitly racist?

It could be a mere coincidence that Trump's bizarre and specific focus on the tech industry coincides with Asian progressive condemnations of the Asian presence in the field - yet the very fact that Trump was so specific about the tech industry gives me reason for pause. It strikes me as extremely unreasonably fortuitous that a presidential candidate would draw attention to the hiring practices of the tech industry - it is so out of left field (no pun) that I am left asking why the specific focus on tech? The only other people making any political issue about Asians in tech are Asian progressives. Trump is expressing pretty much the exact sentiments of "unfairness" that Asian progressives claim, but he is taking it to its logical conclusion - exclude immigrants (many of whom are Asian) from the industry.

But that is the natural consequence of pushing the idea that high Asian participation in higher education and the tech industry are acts of flagrant anti-black racism - following this flawed reasoning to its logical conclusion, any achievements made by Asian-Americans, by definition, disadvantage blacks. That is as clear of an anti-immigrant sentiment as it can get - and it is Asian progressives who are pushing the idea on American society.

That is not only dangerous it actually echoes the anti-Asian rhetoric of eras past, that brought about a decades-long campaign of anti-Asian pogroms and attempts to expel Asian communities from America both through legal or violent means. Our progressive friends have seemingly laid the foundation for a new era of Asian exclusion and even - if Trump has his way - expulsion of some immigrants amidst the closing down of a major avenue of Asian immigration.

The question is though, is it reasonable to wonder whether self-righteous Asian progressive rhetoric is informing white America's defence of its own racist attitudes? I think that the evidence is compelling that white America - particularly conservatives are appropriating Asian progressive rhetoric to stigmatize the Asian community, stereotype their attitudes, and use progressives' claims about Asians to defend their own racist attitudes and deflect attention away from it.

For instance, the term "Asian privilege" seems to have been coined by Asian progressives over the past few years and was never - as far as I know - part of conservative America's lexicon. Yet, such luminaries as Gavin McInnes, Bill O'Reilly, and Adam Corrolla have all borrowed the term and concept to defend against charges of white racism. The idea of a culture of rampant Asian racism is another (unsubstantiated) claim made by Asian progressives and recently we have seen Dylan Roof adopting this concept, and Bill Maher using the idea to defend Hollywood against the charge of racism.

Where on earth could these guys be getting the idea of Asian privilege and the notion of an attitude of rampant, identity-defining anti-black racism? As far as I know, there are no reasons to view Asians - particularly Asian-Americans - as especially racist such that their characters and cultures can be defined by it, and the notion of Asian privilege is merely a philosophical generalization. That leaves the anti-Asian rhetoric spewed out by Asian progressives as the likely source of these white attitudes, that enables defenders of the racial status quo to make reasonable arguments to support their claims.

These ideas were never part of America's political dialogue, yet suddenly, after five or so years of Asian progressives making repeated assertions about Asian privilege, and Asian anti-blackness we now see a commonplace adoption of this rhetoric by white commentators to defend white racism. Most importantly, the specific notion that Asian success carries with it an implicit disadvantage to blacks - and that Asians enter the tech industry or seek higher education out of racist spite - is an invention of Asian progressives.

Anil Dash writing on the "Medium" platform has this to say... conclusion that is inescapable: Asian American men who work in tech are benefitting from tech’s systematic exclusion of women and non-Asian minorities.
He continues....
One of the most destructive tropes about Asian Americans is the pervasive myth of the “model minority”.......And this myth is all too often embraced within Asian American communities, making us complicit in systems of exclusion, even though we know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of those same systems.
The problems in these two snippets are manifold. Dash provides no evidence that this "exclusion" is "systematic" nor that it is even real - the statistics that he cites could reflect the availability of potential recruits, meaning that hiring could be a reflection of the make-up of those who actually apply as opposed to any deliberate policy of exclusion. Given the lack of meaningful evidence for any kind of conspiracy that excludes non-Asians and women, and the lack of evidence for the existence of a policy of discrimination against these groups, Dash's accusation that Asian men "benefit" from this unsubstantiated inequality has no merit. Furthermore, one would have to also answer the question of why Asian men are so privileged that these white racists tech companies would prefer them over other white men. It just makes no sense.

Sadly, Dash falls back on the blandly overused, but under substantiated assertion that Asian-Americans embrace the idea of the model minority and that this shows their complicity in anti-blackness. A previous post shows that this is not necessarily the case. As I wrote here, there is good evidence that shows that white people who believe the model minority stereotype also hold corresponding positive attitudes towards other minorities. Why, then, should I believe that Asians would adopt (or implicitly adopt) negative attitudes towards other minorities if they embrace the model minority stereotype?

The problem here is that Dash presumes that all Asians are familiar with the one or two articles that were published in the 1960's that made comparisons between Asians and black minorities and he also presumes that in the present when white people refer to Asians as a model minority, that they are by definition being anti-black. To most Asians the model minority myth may well mean only that Asians are a hard-working community and not necessarily that this implicitly denigrates blacks. That is merely an inflammatory progressive invention. Unfortunately, Dash is not the only one casting aspersions on Asian-Americans.

Writing on the African-American blog "BlackGirlDangerous", another Asian anti-anti-blackness-Messiah-hopeful (Ally Ang) adds fuel to the anti-Asian-sentiment-fire with this unsubstantiated gem....
The harsh truth is that even though we experience racism in deeply painful and traumatic ways, we are settlers on stolen land just like white people. This nation would not exist without the enslavement and subjugation of black people, and we as Asian Americans have often been complicit in the continuation of their oppression..............In two of the earliest Supreme Court cases regarding the citizenship of people of color, the plaintiffs argued that as Japanese and Indian Americans respectively, they were both closer to whiteness than Black or Indigenous people, and they were therefore more suited to be American citizens than other racial minorities. For many years, Asian Americans have attempted to claim whiteness and “model minority” status, often throwing black people under the bus along the way.
Ang's self-righteous indignation and moral grandstanding is cloying, not to mention morally suspect. The first issue is that Ang suggests that the very presence of Asians in the US is an implicit reinforcement of white racism -  which is silly. I could argue the point, but since Ang does not bother making a meaningful argument and merely asserts her claims, that would give her charges more credence than they deserve. It is the sentiment that is important here - Asians are complicit merely because of the fact of their presence.

The second issue - and this is slightly off topic - is that she looks down her self-righteous nose at the actions of people who lived at a time when everyone (even those with black heritage) was trying to pass for white. Her moral condemnation of people who lived under circumstances that we cannot even come close to imagining is simply sickening because it is so obviously a self-serving attempt to elevate her own delusion of moral superiority.

Another piece written by jazz musician Vijay Iyer, implies a similar embrace of white supremacy by Asians merely via the act of succeeding...
Whether you attribute it to some mysterious triple package or to your own Horatio Alger story, to succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America—which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.
I grant that Iyer's piece is more sophisticated and nuanced than some others that I have read, but even in this case, the theme of an implicit disadvantage for blacks when Asians succeed creeps in. It should be mentioned that everyone has to make peace with America's ugly past - if they did not, they would leave or withdraw from the game - the problem with Iyer's claim is that he conflates America's past with the "idea of America", and concludes, nonsensically, that to embrace one is to accept the other.

Over and over again, we see Asian progressives asserting or implying that Asians succeed at the expense of blacks and, worse, that this success is achieved with sneaky complicity and collusion with white racism. Of course, none of these assertions are ever supported by evidence of any kind, and at best, Asian progressives will gift us with a personal anecdote to buttress their claims.

Given the ubiquity of these kinds of articles, it is far from unreasonable to consider the adoption of similar rhetoric by white conservatives and right-wingers as connected in some way, after all, they didn't start bringing all of these ideas into their dialogue until Asian progressives started spewing it first. The problem is that if our Asian advocates are correct in their claims, then Donald Trump is justified in seeking to limit Asians in tech by abolishing the H-1B visa program and Jeb Bush is correct to question things like Asian anchor babies as being specifically detrimental to America - after all, even though Hispanic anchor babies are more numerous, no one is claiming that the mere presence of Hispanics in this country is implicitly disadvantageous to blacks.

Friday, February 5, 2016

When White Racism Turns Fatal....

...Asian-Americans Change The Subject.

A reader sent me an e-mail drawing my attention to yet another Asian-American article on the apparently rampant anti-blackness within Asian-America. It was nice to hear that there are others out there who agree that Asian-American progressive thought has become complicit in white supremacy and largely irrelevant as an advocating force for their community.

The piece, written by Kim Tran at the "Everyday Feminism" (also on Hyphen's Facebook) website is titled "6 Ways Asian Americans Can Tackle Anti-Black Racism in Their Families", and illustrates what is so wrong about Asian progressive thought.

She begins thusly.....
The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ty Underwood, Mya Hall, and so many others have brought waves of protesters to the streets................Yet many of us who have our boots on the ground in solidarity with Black community dread the prospect of bringing our anti-racist work home to our parents, siblings, and friends......... 
What a strange juxtaposition of ideas; police killings of unarmed African-Americans, and alleged anti-black racism amongst Asian-Americans. It's almost as though Tran is presenting her case in a way that seems to elevate this unsubstantiated Asian anti-blackness to the same level as extrajudicial police killings. She goes on.....
Asian Americans have a different challenge than other non-Black people of color when it comes to uprooting anti-black racism. The model minority myth and the criminalization of Black and brown folks in our communities have given many Asian Americans a false sense of honorary whiteness and severed us from building coalition with other communities of color.
Of course, it is never a good idea to make assertions about people's motives unless you have solid evidence to prove it. Sadly, Tran fails to present any actual evidence to show that Asians have adopted this sense of "honorary whiteness", or even that this is the reason for this apparent barrier that prevents Asians from towing the progressive line. Whilst it would be silly to deny that there exists a fair degree of separation between Asians and blacks, Tran offers little evidence for the implication that Asian attitudes are largely responsible for it. Assertions don't count as evidence. As one might expect, Tran fails to mention the "other", perhaps, more significant, factor that leads some Asian-Americans to, apparently, assume honorary whiteness.

Does it really require explaining why this is such a poor start? Tran has diverted the conversation away from an extremely serious issue (police killings of unarmed African-Americans) and implicitly elevated this supposed Asian anti-black racism to an equal parity with what some are calling extra-judicial murders. Even worse, perhaps, Tran makes sweeping, but unsupported, assertions about the motivations and attitudes of Asian-Americans in a process otherwise known as racial stereotyping. How any of this helps to address the far more serious issue of murder is never specified by Tran.
Almost impossibly it gets worse......
A surprising aspect of the class was troubleshooting about how to bring anti-racist work home. Within the specific context of Ferguson, we wondered how we could shift the “vandalism” or“looting” narratives popular in news coverage........Finally they were frustrated enough to ask, “What would make you angry enough to break a window?”
I don't agree that news "narratives" about "looting" were actually mere "narratives", but the problem here is that several local business were looted  and destroyed and there is some suggestion that Asian stores were specifically targeted whilst black-owned stores were spared. Tran seems to suggest that those Asian business owners who lost their livelihoods over incidents that they had no part in should merely be thought of as necessary collateral damage. We should avoid all of the clues that at least in some cases, there may have been racial motives in targeting Asian stores.

Thankfully, Tran is willing to ignore it all on behalf of the looting victims although I doubt that she ever bothered to actually go down to these neighbourhoods to investigate these "looting narratives" or even to speak to any of the Asian business owners whose ruined livelihoods she seems so willing to gloss over. In short, I suspect that Tran has absolutely no idea what actually happened in any of these neighbourhoods - nor what the day to day experience of these Asians who live there might be - but while she decries "narratives" as mere "narratives", she seems to create one of her own off the top of her head that dismisses both the experiences of Asian victims of looting and denies them a voice in their own story. Asian business owners be damned - sad, but too bad.

Tran goes on to suggest that Asian progressives bombard their racist families with stats and history lessons, tailor their assaults to each family member, and to be persistent! Being around Tran sounds a lot like being around an uncharismatic, pushy, Evangelical Christian Amway rep who tricked their way into your house with the promise of salvation but then assails you with a sign up spiel that suggests that multi-level marketing is closer to Godliness. I would not be surprised if family gatherings at the Trans' are becoming few and far between as family members politely decline the invitations to be around such charming company.

One point in particular stands out for me. Number five reveals, perhaps, more than Tran expected. Under the title "Tailor that shit!", she says.....
Who is your mom, aunt, uncle, parent? If the fancy numbers, data, or plain ol’ anger don’t work, consider what makes sense with this specific person? What resonates with their story?
Here’s my all-time favorite personal example. Once I was talking to my mom about welfare when she went on a super anti-black racist rant about a time she was in line at the social services office. There was a Black woman in line behind her who she said was “lazy.” Swerve.
The thing is, the only reason my mom even had this story was because she was in the welfare office herself! Collecting a welfare check!
The mental gymnastics required in that moment for my mom to stigmatize someone in the exact same situation as her took her a minute to realize, but when she finally came around to seeing the personal similarities, the tide of the conversation began to shift.
Finally! Tran tells us the nature of this insidious anti-black racism that runs rampant through Asian veins - and to be quite honest, it's extremely difficult to muster too much worry for such a trite example. Yes, Tran's mother goes on a rant about a black woman being lazy so let's shift focus away from police killings of unarmed people and talk about this serious problem!

Another problem here, though - and perhaps more significant - is the swift over-simplification of the motives and drives of Tran's poor mother. Based on Tran's tale, I can see several different interpretations of this event - perhaps her mother feels embarrassed and ashamed to be drawing welfare, or views it as some kind of personal failure, or maybe she simply feels some sense of injustice at being in a circumstance that she feels is undeserved. Perhaps Tran's mother's words reflect a need to separate herself emotionally from such a humiliating situation, perhaps she was merely projecting onto others what she thinks people might be saying about her.

Of course, I cannot possibly know what prompted Tran's mother's words, but I do know that it seems as though Tran has ignored these possibilities and ridden rough-shod over the nuances of human drives and motivations in her efforts to label her mother (her poor, poor mother!) as an anti-black racist whose actions (like ranting about someone at the welfare office) warrant shifting the focus of our attention away from extrajudicial police killings and charging entire swathes of our community as racists - all without a shred of evidence to support her claims. This is known as dehumanization.

That, ultimately, is the issue that Tran seems to not even bother trying to overcome - she never once makes a successful case that Asian-American attitudes towards race (particularly towards African-Americans) are driven by any internalization of white racism, any appropriation of the model minority stereotype or whiteness, and she certainly provides absolutely no evidence that there is a problem of rampant anti-black racism amongst Asian-Americans that comes anywhere near the kind of racism that prompted the formation of the BlackLivesMatter movement.

Despite Tran's grandiose, quasi-messianic claims to possessing special knowledge on how to bring Asians to atonement for their supposed anti-blackness, she founders on this foundational concept in her failure to provide any support for the claims she makes about the inner workings and psychological framework through which Asians form their attitudes towards blacks. She simply cries racism and makes up a causal relationship between various aspects of the Asian experience and anti-black racism and asserts that this is the truth.

The relationship between blacks and Asians and any tensions arising from it are far more complex than Tran and other Asian progressives would like us to believe. It is not only dishonest, but it is morally questionable to address any black/Asian subject matter by hand-waving away the Asian experience and hence the Asian voice. Even worse, is the absurd brow-beating of Asian immigrants with a progressive ideology that itself marginalizes and, often excludes, Asians.

Just like all the other Asian progressives I have written about, it seems as though Tran cannot be bothered to actually do the work necessary to understand the Asian community. Instead, such progressives merely rely on stereotyping of a community that has very little media opportunities to answer the charges being made against them. In that regard, Asian progressives are becoming the main source of negative stereotyping of Asian-Americans such that both conservatives and liberals draw on this myth of rampant Asian racism to push their agenda, allowing white America to shift attention away from its own deeply rooted racism.

It is no wonder that, thanks to our friends in the progressive movement, white supremacists - and Bill Maher - love Asians. The shrill manner of Asian progressive unsubstantiated assertions of anti-blackness within our community provide a superb excuse for white America to deflect attention away from their own racism. If I wasn't a rational person, I could almost ponder the possibility that Asian progressivism might actually be a Ku Klux Klan funded infiltration movement charged with the purpose of changing the focus of the race dialogue by accusing Asians and providing an excuse for white racism to rationalize its existence.