Monday, December 18, 2017

YouTube Creators for Change: Natalie Tran | White Male Asian Female

A Missed Opportunity.

There is a YouTube video by Australian YouTube star, Natalie Tran, that has been making the rounds in Asian cyberspace recently in which she exposed the cyber hate that she receives due to her being in a relationship with a white man.

Here's the video.....


Although Tran's documentary is certainly well-intentioned, and has received some considerable praise, I can't help but feel disappointed.

At the beginning of the documentary Tran shows us some examples of the abusive comments she receives, and declares that ...
...just to add salt to the wound, a lot of these comments come from fellow Asians.....these comments are pretty common. A lot of other Asian women who date Caucasian men, and have some kind of presence online, also receive a lot of these comments as well.....
Neither of these points sit well. The second point is problematic because the implication is that Asian women are somehow uniquely afflicted by this kind of cyber bullying. In fact, there is ample documented evidence that all but proves that any woman of any race with an online presence who dates interracially will be targeted because of it. Plus, because the internet can be anonymous, it is almost impossible to actually identify anyone who posts comments on any site, so we generally have no way of knowing if the people leaving hate comments are actually Asian.

Tran's first point is more intriguing.

According to Tran "a lot" - but not all - of these hate comments are from "fellow" Asians, which makes me wonder why she chose to focus only on seeking answers to why Asians would be attacking her in this way? Is Asian opposition to her personal dating choices somehow a greater crime than, let's say, white opposition? If so, why? Sure, she feels that it is "adding insult to injury" when Asians attack her in this way, but why she feels this isn't clear. If she is suggesting that Asian hate comments are more hurtful because they are a betrayal of some kind of solidarity amongst Asians, then this merely exposes a huge irony that I will expound upon a little later.

During Tran's interview of Asian-American dating coach, JT Tran, he stated that Asian men leave hate comments because of their life-experiences. Although, overall, JT did a great job of describing some of the issues faced by Asian men, I would argue that there is more nuance to the relationship between Asian men's experiences and online vitriol - which I will discuss later. For most Asian men, the racism we experience, and the anger it fosters, motivates us to strive for success and accomplishment in many different areas of life and in no way drives us to become cyber-bullies. The point was overly simplistic, and merely reinforced the the stereotype of loser Asian guys leaving bitter comments on Asian websites.

More significantly, juxtaposing Tran's dating issues with the racism Asian men face creates an implicit relegation of Asian men's experiences to a mere sub-context of Asian female dating choices. The gender-specific racism that Asian men experience deserves to be a significant part of Asian-American thought and dialogue in its own right and not as something that gets spoken about only when it negatively affects Asian women's dating choices. Sadly, we just don't see many investigative documentaries that focus solely on anti-Asian male racism in America. This is the irony of Tran's apparent sense of betrayal that Asians are leaving hate comments: our "community" is a mere apparition when it comes to Asian men's experiences that only appears as part of an apologetic for interracial dating.

There is another irony that is worth noting: Asian men's complaints about culturally induced difficulties in dating are routinely dismissed - mostly by Asian progressives - yet, when an Asian woman experiences opposition to her dating choices, we get a documentary about it. This, perhaps, is another example of how "community" is a poor choice of word.

Furthermore, there is an implicit (although, perhaps, unintentional) shifting of the burden of responsibility to explain the actions of a few Asian commenters onto the entire community of Asian men. It does not logically follow that Asian men would be able to explain the online anti-social behaviour of other Asian men just because they are Asian men. It is the job and expertise of psychologists and behaviourists to explain behaviour and psychological states - particularly when it comes to anti-social behaviour on the internet. It was certainly appropriate to ask Asian men to describe Asian men's anger and experiences, but not to explain the behaviour of online trolls.

There are a number of factors that researchers have discovered contribute to online trolling. These include, a sense of no accountability due to anonymity, desensitization due to a general toxic internet environment, and a lack of consequences. Interestingly, other studies suggest that the general tone of other comments on an issue contributes to trolling behaviour. The ramifications of this highlights the most glaring problem with Tran's investigation: there is a cycle of vicious online commentary between Asian men and women that mutually demeans each other that Tran did not address.

The nature of the sometimes vitriolic dialogue between Asian men and women could be driving hate comments and might not necessarily be the result of anti-Asian male racism Asian men experience in their daily lives. It is mere presumption that those who leave hate comments are actually responding from a place personal pain -  they could merely be responding to anti-Asian male comments left by Asian women on an existing or previous thread .

Instead of an un-nuanced assertion that Asian men's anger about their experiences leads to trolling, it would be more accurate for Tran to have noticed that the hate comments she receives are merely part of an ongoing online dialogue between some Asian men and women that is mutually hateful. In other words, based on research, Asian men who troll Tran, are likely to be embroiled in the cycle of hate comments to which some Asian women seem happy to contribute. This means that the hate directed at Tran is merely a by-product of an online situation created by both Asian men and Asian women. It would have been nice for Tran to have investigated this - significant - aspect of the story. I would have liked to have seen Tran cornering Asian women and asking them why other Asian women leave hate comments about Asian men that contribute to the toxic environment of mutual distrust that is a major causative factor in the hate comments Tran receives about her relationship.

To summarize, Tran's documentary missed the point by not addressing the online environment of mutual disdain and hostility that has been created by some Asian women and men. The hate comments she receives seem to me to be most likely a reflection of this environment than an outcome of how Asian men are likely to react to anti-Asian male racism. By failing to seek answers to why some Asian women post anti-Asian male tweets, write demeaning news articles about Asian men, or generally show disdain for Asian men's humanity, Tran's documentary shed scant light on the issue she was investigating. 


  1. It's ironic that Natalie Tran is upset by the negative comments from other Asians because she expects racial solidarity from them yet at the same time, her dating choices communicate that she is unwilling to reciprocate that solidarity.

    Obviously, cyberbullying is wrong but if she wants to criticize others for not "having her back", she should start by looking in the mirror.

    1. I would agree with JT that it is Asian wimen's unwillingness to acknowledge the privilege that goes along with dating white men that shows a lack of solidarity and tone deafness.

      To be fair, I think Tran was trying to be objective, but not acknowledging that she assumes a position of "power" once she marries or dates white was a major failing of her documentary.

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