Thursday, October 26, 2017

Worse In Asia...Because Asians.

The "Us Too" Affliction.....

It has come as no surprise to me that the recent revelations coming out of ultra-liberal, yet, unapologetically, anti-Asian Hollywood exposes a culture of abuse and sexual exploitation of both vulnerable women, and even men, over a period of decades. The man at the center of these revelations, producer, Harvey Weinstein, has been exposed as an alleged serial molester/rapist, who allegedly used his power and influence to make or break the careers of women in the industry to allegedly satisfy his allegedly perverse sexual appetite.

Yet, as I have come to expect, almost as soon as this story broke, up steps an Asian-American focused article that seemed to exist merely to imply that the West isn't that bad since - as we all know - Asia is always much worse. The article appears in an Asian-American online magazine called "Resonate" which purports to be a..., entertainment and blogging website that provides writers with a platform to discuss topics that strongly resonate amongst East Asian communities in the West. 

Also on the "About" page, you can find the following statements....
The representation of East Asians is unreasonably disproportionate within politics, the film industry, music industry and the media in general. For example, when East Asians are represented in the film, they are often represented through takeaway owners or martial artists.
‘Resonate’ actively encourages positive representation in the media by making your voice heard by delivering interesting articles from your own perspectives to actively engage wider audiences.
Instead of a piece that conforms to the stated aims of the publication to represent Asians more roundly, the article actually does the opposite and relies on old tropes of backward Asian deference to authority to racially stereotype Asians as passive. 

The Resonate article reports that.....
Asia’s “conservative attitude towards sex” and “fear of consequences” prevent abuse victims in the Asian entertainment business from coming forward.
..and that....
it was “highly unlikely” that Asian actresses “will come forward in the way that their Western counterparts have” like the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
To be fair, the piece is quoting an article from Variety, written by Hong Kong journalist, Vivienne Chow, which actually makes the melodramatic (but unsubstantiated) claim that Asian actresses don't come forward [like their western counterparts] for fear of jeopardizing the lives of their families. As if that was not enough, yet another article appeared, this time on the YOMYOMF site that also cited the same Variety piece. YOMYOMF is another Asian-American interest site that also wants to improve representation of Asians in the media

Whilst I don't challenge the claim that there may be some alleged abuses going on in the "Asian" film industry, the problem here is the Variety piece's assertion that western culture has somehow displayed a more open or healthy response to allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and the abuses he is alleged to have inflicted on several women. The truth seems to be a little more complicated.

As we have now learned, Wienstein's actions seem to have been well known throughout the industry, amid allegations that some of Hollywood's A-list actors, directors, and producers had knowledge of the issue but chose to do nothing about the alleged abuses, or even actively worked to prevent Weinstein from being exposed. Sadly, dozens of female and male victims were ignored, or, for reasons of not wanting to hurt their careers, remained largely silent.

Ironically, this fear of, and deference to, authority displayed by both victims of Weinstein and those around him who lied on his behalf, or those who simply knew what was going on but refused to speak up, runs counter to the image portrayed by Hollywood - and tightly interwoven into the fabric of western cultures - of the western maverick individual who lives to swim against the current and push against the grain. To be clear, I am not blaming the victims here in any way, and my point will become clearer later in the piece. Yet, it is a pity that the Variety "exposé" on the Asian film industry seems to do just that - imply fault on the part of Asian victims of sexual violence.

The point is that Asians have been stereotyped - by the media, especially Hollywood - for years as naturally subservient to authority. We are supposedly from cultures that produce weak individuals with hive mentalities who are unwilling to stand up to injustice, or authority, and who definitely would not speak up for themselves, or others, as individuals. Oh, we're money driven, too.

Sadly, the Variety article seems to play upon these tropes, implying a different cultural mentality that restricts the ability of Asians to speak out against injustice whilst also implying that a greater courage exists amongst westerners to do just that. It doesn't take an epic feat of observation to notice that this simply did not happen in Hollywood, and that there was clear deference to authority amongst those who were not victims but who knew, but also amongst the victims who, for whatever reason, chose to stay in line and not come forward.

The Variety article was written by a Hong Kong journalist who may not know, or care, about the nuances of racist stereotypes in the western media. The YOMYOMF and Resonate platforms that both carried the story should know better. With the stated aim of improving representation of Asians in our culture, it seems oddly cursory that there would be an uncritical re-posting of an article that plays upon racial stereotypes that form the basis for poor representation of Asians in the media. Surely, the first step in improving representation for Asians would be to be capable of recognizing the stereotypes that lie at the root of it?

A deeper issue here is that not only does the Variety piece play into negative stereotypes of Asians, it seems to uphold the positive, overbearing stereotype of Caucasians as dynamic, fearless, individuals who brazenly speak out against injustice. Staying silent for decades is not dynamic individualism, nor is it brazenly anti-authority. Again, YOMYOMF and Resonate should recognize this principle at work here as part of their stated aim to improve representation for Asians - racist stereotypes of Asians are merely the worst traits of Caucasians projected onto others. So far, I've seen few examples of brazen Hollywood individuals having made a stand against Weinstein - or the numerous others of his ilk. In fact, no one that knew came forward on behalf of the victims for decades even though it is alleged that his actions were well known throughout the industry. Hardly a shining example of maverick individualism pushing hard against authority.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hair Is Anti-Black.....

Jerry's Dreads.....

Just when I thought that Asian-American progressivism couldn't get more mundanely absurd, a new source of angst has arisen over Jeremy Lin's racial offense of Donning Dreadlocks While Asian. The kerfuffle started when former NBA player, Kenyon Martin, voiced racially insensitive criticism of Lin's dreadlocks, seeming to take offense that Lin had a "black" hairstyle.

Lin's response was classy....
Hey man, it’s all good. You definitely don’t have to like my hair and [are] definitely entitled to your opinion.......Actually I [am] legit grateful [for] you sharin it [to be honest]. At the end of the day, I appreciate that I have dreads and you have Chinese tattoos [because] I think its a sign of respect......And I think as minorities, the more that we appreciate each other’s cultures, the more we influence mainstream society. Thanks for everything you did for the Nets and hoops…had your poster up on my wall growin up.
Martin subsequently did some backtracking - of sorts - but true to form, and as predictable as an Asian anti-white supremacy, anti-anti-blackness crusader who only dates white dudes, a grandstanding Asian progressive gets pulled from the anus of the white liberal media to spout meaningless rhetoric that lacks any logical cohesion or consistent train of thought.

Published in the ever more seemingly anti-Asian, xenophobic, liberal news site, the Huffington Post, Asian, Jessica Prois, and a black colleague, Lily Workneh join forces to enlighten us on the wrongness of Lin's hair and his response to Martin's attack.

The article's gist can be summed up by the following excerpts...
Neither of their actions ― culturally appropriating tattoos or dreads ― were signs of “respect.".......Yet there’s a certain reality that belies the accord the two reached: There’s a false equivalency in saying Chinese tattoos on a black man and dreadlocks on a Chinese-American man are the same type of offense...........................But borrowing a cultural marker like dreadlocks, which embody both joy and struggle unique to the black community, is not the same as having a Chinese tattoo, a symbol that doesn’t carry the same weight of oppression. Yes, appropriating Chinese culture through a tattoo is exoticizing and insensitive. But the the act of putting on and taking off dreadlocks ― which are related to the systematic economic and social oppression of a racial group ― demonstrates a greater level of disregard. 
What we have here is a failure to present any logically reasoned points in an article that makes sweeping assertions without offering any meaningful supporting argument. There are a couple of points forming the premise of the piece, which I have read as follows.....

  1. The use of dreadlocks by a non-black person is more heinous than Chinese letter tattoos on a non-Chinese.
  2. Dreadlocks are an embodiment of a political and social struggle unique to the African-American community.

The first point reflects the paucity of critical thinking exhibited by modern-day progressives in general and Asian-American progressives in particular. The assertion that wearing dreadlocks or sporting Chinese character tattoos are "offenses" is itself problematic, but the claim of a qualitative hierarchy in the severity of these supposed offenses is merely a subjective opinion elevated to an objective fact by virtue of mere assertion. The second point is a textbook example of irony.

The claim that dreadlocks somehow "belong" to black culture is simply untrue and ignorant. This is what the article says....
Dreadlocks, which are essentially twisted locks of hair, are more than just a hairstyle. They have become symbolic of blackness and black culture and while some wear them for aesthetic reasons, others can have a deep cultural and spiritual connection to them. The style itself is widely worn by many Rastafarians, a religious movement bred in Jamaica, and, for some among them, it can represent a resistance to Western or Euro-centric hairstyles while honoring their roots. 
Although it is true that dreadlocks have "become symbolic of blackness and black culture", how this argument supports the notions that Lin committed some kind of offense is not clear, since the article doesn't explain its claim. A key word here is "become". A simple google search of the term "dreadlocks" would have revealed that members of human societies have been dreading their hair for millennia and that this style has never been exclusive to black people.

Statues, hundreds of years old, exist of Buddha sporting what look like cornrows and dreadlocks, and an easy to find Wikipedia entry provides a brief overview of the use, and significance of, dreadlocks across diverse cultures throughout the ages. Of course, African cultures have used dreadlocks for thousands of years and for longer than there has even been such concepts as "Africa" or "Europe".

The irony here is that to give ownership of this practice to one specific group, existing at one particular time in history to symbolize their specific and unique experience dispossesses these other groups of their history and experience and excludes them from their own cultural rights. This process is only possible because of an attitude of Euro/western-centric primacy, made possible by an overbearing western media and culture whose influence is a residual outcome of colonialism.

This is a classic case of colonial appropriation that attempts to artificially give one group hegemonic ownership of a cultural practice that has diverse origins and arose independently across different cultures. While the use of dreadlocks has pre-dated the idea of the west, Europe, and Jamaica, it is merely by virtue of the fact that the use of dreads amongst Caribbean blacks in the west in modern times that makes it possible to claim ownership of this practice. It is because of the power of the western media and an overbearing culture that this idea of dreads rightfully belonging uniquely to black westerners exists. 

I can almost see the funny side to all of this - Western media power is utilized to dispossess numerous cultures of their historical cultural practice and give hegemonic ownership of said practice, all to promote the narrative of an oppressed group using a hairstyle as a symbol to resist hegemonic cultural ownership of their bodies and culture. You can't make this stuff up.

The HuffPo article exemplifies the reasons I can't get behind Asian progressivism, even though I consider myself liberal. There are simply major flaws in Asian progressive thinking due to an intellectually lazy reductionist pursuit of a black/white narrative to explain America's racial issues. Poor reasoning, flouting of logical thinking to avoid addressing facts that conflict with the narrative, all characterize progressive commentary, and I just have a general sense that Asian progressivism is driven by a fear of stepping outside the black/white dichotomy of the race dialogue, to the detriment of an autonomous Asian voice.

Pois and Workneh could so easily have conducted a simple internet search to learn that dreadlocks are a hairstyle that have spiritual, political, and stylistic significance for numerous cultures throughout history. Instead, they opted to stoke the flames of racial tension by claiming that Jeremy Lin had committed a racial offense because he chose to style his hair a certain way.

The article's authors, perhaps, did not notice that the interaction between Martin and Lin was, actually, of a mundane tone that ended with what seemed to be an acknowledgement of mutual respect, and an agreement of respect for each other's space and right to have an opinion that the other disagrees with. But, the article merely reinforces my observation that when it comes to promoting an Asian identity or point of view, Asian progressivism has little to say of value, and is, thus, largely irrelevant - even when it comes to a subject as mundane as a hairstyle.

Aside from the article's lack of basic research about the subject, the piece exhibits the same, tired, droning, lecturing, poorly reasoned style that is common to the vast majority of Asian progressive commentaries in the mainstream liberal media. Worse still, the article illustrates the most significant problem of the Asian progressive movement: an unwillingness, or inability, to uphold the voice of Americans of Asian descent. Asian progressivism can't even muster the courage, or intellectual nous, to make a stand for an Asian-American even concerning the mundane act of choosing a hairstyle.