Sunday, May 22, 2011

"My Mom's A Fucking Bitch Too.....!"

Asian-American Get Rich Quick Schemes

The Asian-American blogosphere has been abuzz in the past week over an article written by Wesley Yang in the New York Magazine entitled "Asian Like Me". My reaction to the article is mixed. On the one hand Yang has accurately  described the degree to which some Asian men may feel a sense of disconnect from their own, as well as from mainstream American society and culture. At the same time, I couldn't help but feel that ultimately, Yang hasn't actually said anything substantial to shed light on this state of affairs, choosing instead to apparently allow the overly-dramatic tone of the article to become the content of the essay.

Okay, I get it, some Asian parents drive their kids hard but so what? People of all races experience disconnectedness from their societies, cultures, families, and peers, what is different about the Asian experience that warrants such heavy soul-searching and self-recrimination? Because Yang's article doesn't really shed light on any dynamic that might be specific to the experience of Asian men, I couldn't help but wonder, why on earth did he racialize his essay to such a great degree. To me, based on what Yang wrote, he could have completely left out the racial aspect and been left with a much more powerful human story that would have made more sense.

How can this be? Ultimately, all Yang seems to be saying is "be more like your peers if you want to be more like your peers". Really?! In order to say that, he could have avoided the sappy dramatics and the issue of race altogether because although the article hints at a racial component to the issue, it never really goes all-out to address it head-on. If, as Yang seems to suggest, the race issue is secondary (or perhaps even irrelevant) to the problems he raises, then why bring race into it at all? But this is a dilemma - cultural differences aren't a sufficient explanation for the degree of marginalization described by Yang, but we'll never know because he avoids meaningfully addressing racial issues at all.

In some ways, we could conceive of this approach to describing the Asian-American experience as a  kind of "movement". This movement reflects a worldview and an approach to life and literature that seeks mainstream recognition and success at any cost. We could label this movement, "Kingsto-Tan-ism", in honour of the cultural figurines who modeled and popularized the literary approach of avoiding holding a mirror up to mainstream America's ugliness, and instead creating myths and fantasies based on wishful thinking and ingratiatingly downplaying of racial marginalization of the Asian minority. Ironically, Yang's article effectively perpetuates the process and reality of the feminization of the Asian-American experience by adhering to this philosophy.

Unfortunately, this is what sells, i.e., this is what it is widely believed white people want to read and believe about Asians - that their cultures are so dysfunctional that any racism directed at Asians by mainstream America is actually better for them than what they do to themselves and one another. I would love to be able to say that this is a state of affairs that is inflicted upon us by white hegemony, and that may well be part of the truth. The reality seems to be that Asians themselves play a role in maintaining the delusion because it's a way to sell books, get published, or become the toast of a mainstream that doesn't take too kindly to being called out on its prejudices - especially not by the likes of us.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Google Blogger Problems

Just a note to say that Google Blogger went down for around 24 hours during which time I was unable to access my comments or even sign in. Blogger is now back up and running, but several comments have been lost. So, if you posted over the last few days your comment may have disappeared as a result of the maintenance that Google was performing. Sorry for any inconvenience and thank you for reading.

EDIT: May 23rd 2011. Missing comments have mysteriously re-appeared!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Good Weekend For Asian Sportsmen

Park Ji-Sung And Manny Pacquiao.

As a fan of both soccer and boxing, I was extremely pleased to see what a good weekend Asian men had in both sports.

The English Premier League has become one of the most watched and wealthy soccer leagues in the world. This is an especially exciting time of the year for fans of English soccer as the season is drawing to a close and the fight to become champions gets more intense. This weekend, the two teams at the top of the league - Chelsea and Manchester United - met in a game that turned out to be one of the best of the season. Many believed that whoever wins this game will go on to become champions. As it turned out, the game was won by Manchester United who, barring a major catastrophe, are likely to be this year's champions.

The game aside, what was of most interest to me, was the peformance of Manchester's South Korean midfielder, Park Ji-Sung. As I alluded to here, Park is something of an unsung hero for Manchester United. Despite being embraced by the Manchester faithful, as well as being well-respected by coaches and teammates, Park seems to be unpopular with the media and soccer commentators, who have generally overlooked or dismissed his contribution to the team's success, and even questioned whether he deserves to be in the team.

With this in mind, it was nice to see the press finally take notice of Park's contribution - especially in a game of such significance. Following the match, the papers were full of kudos for Park's performance. The Guardian, talks about Park being the driving force behind the teams success, and the BBC also reports on Park's "peerless" performance. Both the Chelsea FC and Man U websites made note of Park's performance. Bear in mind that Manchester United are one of the most successful teams in the world, and have had (do have) some of the best footballers playing for them. For Park to stand out in a team of stars really does underline his value as a player. I my opinion, Park is a good enough player to make the squad, and maybe the first eleven, of most European national teams - the press just didn't seem to notice.

The other highlight for Asian sportsmen over the weekend was the latest victory of boxer, Manny Pacquiao. Although by no means his best performance, he defeated Shane Mosely - a fighter considered by many to be one of the finest of his generation. In post-fight comments, Mosley highlighted the exceptional speed and power of Pacquiao, who in addition to being arguably one of the best boxers of all time, is a true role model for Asian men.

As I've stated elsewhere, Asian and Asian-American sportsmen are unsung as pioneers in the struggle of Asian men to overcome stereotypes, and limiting ways of thinking. Park is a true pioneer - good enough, strong enough, and determined enough to make it as a regular in one of the world's top soccer teams, and even occasionally standing out in a team of stars. Pacquiao is the "impossible" Asian man - aggressive, fearless, and hyper-masculine, his achievements and conduct in and outside of the ring bear no resemblance to the accepted demeaning stereotypes of Asian men's characters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Angry Asiance Men and Dumb Asiance Women.

A Marriage Made In Heaven. 

Along with nasty viruses that mangle your computer, encountering unabashed expressions of stupidity ranks, in my opinion, as two of the major hazards of internet surfing. The freedom to disseminate and receive information that is afforded us by internet access, carries with it the inevitable hazard of disseminating stupidity on a stupendously grand scale. In fact, as this Asiance article illustrates, the internet has almost become a showcase for respectably veneered stupidity.

As you can see, the article addresses the subject of Asian men's supposed angry reactions to Asian women who date outside of their race. Now, I've been around the internet enough to know that the Asian-American Interracial Dating Disparity illicits some of the most passionate and angry reactions from both men and women. Yet, away from the internet, there doesn't seem to be as much conflict or debate about the subject, which leads me to wonder if the supposed anger of Asian men is somewhat exaggerrated - after all, as I've already suggested, the internet does tend to bring out the stupid and the crazy in people.

If there is any truth to the rumour I'll admit that I don't really care for it. For some reason, I find it hard to muster anything beyond indifference when I see or read about Asian women with white men. This has been a positive thing.

I've come to realize that for many Asian-American women who date outside their race (i.e, white men) the belief in the existence of an Angry Asian Boogey Man who opposes their choice is as essential to their identity as is the dating choice itself. What this means is that true or not, real or fantasy, the stereotype of an Angry Asian Boogey Man must be perpetuated in order to somehow give the dating choice more profound meaning than it might have if the stereotype didn't exist. After all, the idea of overcoming obstacles for love is very enticing, even though the Asian female/white male pairing is and has been the easiest racial barrier to cross for over half a century - maybe even longer - and required little or no activism or struggle to achieve.

I've experienced this in my own life. I have encountered Asian women who have tried to pin the Angry Asian Boogey Man label on me, even though my only reaction to their dating choice has been indifference - sorry, but I just couldn't care less. Even after giving every indication and message that, no, I just don't care about you or who you're dating, some Asian women seemed to need to maintain the belief that I am, or have been, pre-occupied with their dating choices. The Angry Asian Boogey Man stereotype seems to be largely a myth that is required in order to give what is ultimately the mundane act of dating a white man, a more important purpose than it actually might possess - almost like emulating Martin Luther King by dating white dudes. So, just for the record, I - just like tens of thousands of Asian-American men - can't muster the interest to be angry at the dating lives of strangers - especially if they're as seemingly dumb as the lady who wrote the Asiance article.

It's time for Asian women to let go of the tired myth that insists that Asian men are are obsessed with their dating lives - we're not. There are other ways to give their relationships meaning than to believe the myth that anonymous Asian men are out to destroy their dating activism.

And Angry Asian Boogey Men, let it go...........that is, if you really exist.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dialogue WIth Simon Tam

My Response

Thank you for your comment and the clarification of your point of view. Welcome to my blog - and thank you for not starting a war! My response to you in the comments section bacame overly long so I hope you don't mind that I've posted it as an actual blog post.

Let me also start by clarifying. You wrote that I said this......'[I] don't offer any good reasons why I think I should have the right to protect our name and define ourselves by calling ourselves "The Slants."'

Your paraphrase is inaccurate. I wrote nothing like that. In fact, what I actually wrote was this... I couldn't help but notice the irony in the above quote. It might well be true that a government agency shouldn't have the right to determine how a group defines itself, but at the same time Tam doesn't really offer any good reason why he thinks he does. Which was a response to this statement made by you……This is what angers me the most: the US Trademark Office decided that anonymous wiki sources mattered more than the voice of Asian Americans. Why does a government agency that has no connection with APA’s have the right to dictate what is appropriate for our community? Why don’t we have the right to decide for ourselves?

Words are not entities with relative meanings, by necessity they must adhere to some kind of standard in order for language to make any sense. Unless the words that you wrote above have a different meaning to you than they would have for most other people then it is fair to conclude that, clearly, you have decided that a historically derogatory term is an appropriate way to define or label our community. What you have written goes way beyond merely wanting to use an epithet to label yourselves because you are trying to convince a government agency that it is okay to for a society think of dehumanizing terms as positive. That affects the whole community, past, present, and future. I also find it strange that you think that this (or any) government agency has no connection with APAs. Isn't the point of activism and political involvement ultimately to forge connections between individuals, the communities that they constitute, and their governmental agencies? The fact is that all government agencies must and do have connections with APAs whether we like it or not, and whether it is good for us or not. It seems to me that this particular agency is showing great sensitivity toward APAs.

Fair enough, plenty of Asian groups utilize the term "slant" to label themselves, but unlike yourself, they don't seem to have appealed to the general community to support them in trying to convince a government agency in making a term acceptable that was and still has the potential to be used to dehumanize Asian people. Surely the bigger issue is that we do indeed live in a society that shows a proclivity, and desire even, to dehumanize Asians. It seems obtuse and meaningless to argue that "words only have as much power as you give them" or that derogatory epithets lose their power if we understand them in the context of their pure or absolute meaning. This is nonsense. A dehumanizing epithet reflects a social and political reality that places some individuals in a hierarchy above an entire group. So yes, whilst it's true that words in their pure form may not be demeaning, it is ultimately a meaningless argument because it is social and political inequalities that enables such words to have power.

That is what I tried to get across in my post. Derogatory epithets do not lose power because we might "own" them or use them to describe ourselves. They lose power when the structures that enable a given group to utilize them as a means to reinforce ideas of social, racial, and political superiority over another group, are dismantled or are themselves disempowered. This means that racial epithets are not merely intended to offend (that's a mundane and naive perspective) - the goal is not and never has been to bruise the egos of minorities, but, rather, to reinforce the idea of  social and political inferiority by "putting them in their place". This why the N-word can be said to be reclaimed and owned - it can no longer be used with impunity because the structures that empowered it have been and are still in the process of being dismantled. The Asian community is not there yet. This is because so much of the negative attitudes directed at us stem from issues of ongoing economic and potential military conflict that affect the very sense of survival of the American state. That's how deeply ingrained is the fear of Asian peoples.

Perhaps I have underestimated the degree of support that your case may have received from a few bloggers and activists, but that still doesn't make your case any more logical or coherent, and I'm almost never swayed by appeals to popularity. I still fail to see how making the term official contributes to dismantling the structures that empower the usage of the alternatives still being used today. Most mainstream Americans don't even know that Chinese labourers were used as slaves in the 19th century. They don't know that Chinese workers were lynched by bloodthirsty mobs of Americans, and don't realize that quaint Chinatowns began as nothing more than ghettos intended as a means of segregation and a step in ethnically cleansing America of Asians. Most Americans don't know of the brutal and inhuman treatment of Filipino migrant workers in the 1920's an 30's, or the discriminatory legislation that restricted Japanese immigrant's opportunities. They just don't know or understand the extent to which epithets have reflected and reinforced deep seated institutional and personal prejudice towards Asian people.

By contrast, you might well notice that many white Americans are visibly embarassed and uncomfortable when they hear the N-word and might even try to disassocociate themselves from its use. This is because the term is associated with slavery, rape, murder, and inhumanity. This is not the case with anti-Asian epithets which is why it is incoherent to reclaim terms that mainstream America isn't ashamed of. I don't want the term "slant" to have a positive connotation. When people hear it, I would like for them to understand that it means violence, hatred, injustice, brutality, and dehumanization and to subsequently be embarassed because anti-Asian racial slurs are not something silly and mundane like "fart-face" or "dick-wad". They are not the cause of the inequality, but a symptom of it. Many Americans believe that anti-Asian slurs are funny, and that earthquakes that kill thousands of Japs are hilarious. By changing this connotation, you are effectively contributing to the obfuscation of Asian-American history and allowing America to remain comfortable in its ignorance of its historical prejudice towards Asians - a past that still has repurcussions today.

The amazing work that you have apparently done is admirable, but I can't help but wonder if the positive reactions that you receive  from Asians and non-Asians might have less to do with your name and more to do with the actual work and activism that you engage in. In fact, I might even be inclined to believe that making "slant"  a positive thing undermines your real activist work.

On a final note, you have stated in that the term slant is not longer used as an epithet, yet in a post that you wrote for the AALDEF and linked to on the bigWOWO blog I read the following......"But then he noticed some other bands, non-Asians, using the name The Slants, to ridicule Asians". Have I misinterpreted this - are you saying that "slants" is still being used to demean Asians?