I strongly oppose the use of native imagery and racial slurs as team mascots and nicknames. These displays are in no way “honoring” any Native American, living or deceased.
For the past few weeks, we’ve convened a conversation about romance across racial and cultural lines. Some of the most eloquent accounts we encountered came from a Bay Area junior high school teacher named Noah Cho. We asked him to expand on some of his experiences in this essay.
It’s an odd feeling, as an adult, to look at a photo of your parents and feel perplexed by it. As a young child, I believed that most sets of parents looked like mine — a Korean man, a white woman — and it never registered to me that other parents looked different, or that their love could be something culturally undesirable.
But as I have moved through 32 years of looking at myself in the mirror, a time in which the vast majority of interracial couples I have known have looked nothing like my parents, I have come to see their love as something rare. Most men in interracial couples I have encountered do not look like my dad. They do not have his skin tone, or his combination of dark hair and dark eyes. My mom often tells me stories about when she began dating my father in suburban New Jersey in the 1970s, and I could only infer from her stories that her predominantly white community felt confused and unsure why a white woman would find an Asian man attractive.
I learned, slowly, painfully, over the course of my life that most people shared the opinion of my mother’s community. I know this, because I look like my father.
When I look in the mirror, I do not see someone that I understand to be handsome by Western standards. I look mostly Asian, and like so many other heterosexual Asian males before me, I have internalized a lifetime of believing that my features, my face, my skin tone, in tandem, make me unattractive and undesirable.
I am certainly not the first heterosexual Asian male to arrive at this realization, and I do not doubt I will be the last. I know where my insecurities originated. I know that a lifetime of being a pop-culture nerd has placed me at the center of a media universe that has repeatedly sent me the message that a male that looks like me is incapable of dating anyone that doesn’t.
Hearing my mother’s friends imitate my father’s accent after he died, making it ever more exaggerated, high pitched and feminized, reinforced this.
Overhearing female friends from every background and race discuss how they would never date an Asian man reinforced this.
“I wanted, desperately, to look whiter, because I wanted to know what it felt like to be attractive. … So, at the age of 18, I dyed my hair blond and placed green-tinted contacts into my eyes.
Seeing no one in my life that shared my cultural makeup and background until college reinforced this.
And even when I made friends who shared my racial makeup — an Asian father, a white mother — I didn’t look like them. A good friend of mine had a Chinese father and white mother, but he was tall, his hair lighter, his eyes more of a hazel color than the burnt coffee that inhabited my face. His skin was paler, whiter and his voice deeper. From my narrow, image-conscious point of view, it seemed like everyone was attracted to him. And no one was attracted to me.Courtesy of Noah Cho
I tried to “fix” this, once. I wanted, desperately, to look whiter, because I wanted to know what it felt like to be attractive. I wanted to know how my friend felt, how being closer to whiteness, and therefore beauty, could make me see myself as handsome. So, at the age of 18, I dyed my hair blond and placed green-tinted contacts into my eyes. I was trying to make myself look more like my mother, even though I have always and will always look like my father. But in the end, no amount of bleach I put in my hair could alter the tone of my skin or the shape of my eyes. I may be half white, but no one will ever see me that way.
It is not a fun thing to feel unattractive. My wife, who is Japanese and Chinese and has been my partner for 10 years, tells me that she finds me attractive. It breaks her heart that I won’t believe her. It breaks mine that I can’t.
I wonder, though. If I had grown up now, I wonder if things might have been different for my self-image. I grew up in Orange County, Calif., in racially diverse, but segregated Anaheim. Koreans stuck around Koreans, Latinos around Latinos. I didn’t see myself, or my parents, in the couples walking around Disneyland or the faceless strip malls that dominated my youth.
Since moving to the Bay Area a few years ago, I’ve started to see my parents more often. I saw them, young and vital, walking down Market Street holding hands. I see them having picnics in Golden Gate Park or waiting in line at food trucks in Oakland. I see them in the faces of the parents of the students I teach. And then I look at my students and I am surprised to find that occasionally I see a face that looks like mine, born from love like my parents’.
I am even more surprised to sometimes see my students fawn over the images of K-pop stars and hear them practice words in Korean, and for a moment I am struck by the thought that had I been born 20 years later my appearance might have made me an object of desire in this country. But then I look in the mirror again, and I see not the slim faces and chiseled body of those stars. In that moment, I understand that there is likely no standard of beauty, in either of my parent’s countries of origin, that would make me feel like I could possibly be desirable.
I wait for the day that I can look at my own face, and see something other than disappointed eyes looking back at me. I long for this, as much as I long to look at that photo of my parents, and finally see that it was nothing more than two people, in love.
First and foremost, thanks to Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang and composer/lyricist Timothy Huang for bringing this to attention.
Alexis Fishman, at first sight, seems like a perfectly average woman. She graduated in 2004 from a performing arts school in Western Australia and went on to pursue a career in the arts, now ‘based permanently in New York’, as per her official website. Her performer’s page is professional, her website is tastefully metropolitan, and the posts on her personal Facebook give no indication of strange or deviant social behavior. She is, in essence, the typical young woman trying to make a name for herself in the performing arts industry. Why, then, has she created a Facebook profile dedicated solely to the enthusiastic spread of what amounts to racist garbage? Internet, meet Arexis Fongman.
What a disgusting human being. You can give her a piece of your mind here.
“Do some Kung Fu moves, like Jackie Chan! “
It happened when I went to elementary school; I must have been about seven or eight years old. While I was standing on the playground in recess, some kids from my class started to gather around me. “Can you do some cool moves, like Jackie Chan?” I was intimidated by their request – I notoriously sucked in PE, and I had never tried any martial arts. But I knew why the other kids asked: because I was Asian. I was the only Asian kid in my year. I felt all kinds of awkward and alone.
Growing up with Vietnamese parents in a German town with a population of 17,000 was not always easy. The feeling I recall from those times was loneliness. Given that I was a weird child who was not too good at socializing (I still am not) but being one of the few Asians in the whole town made things even worse. Of course, there were a handful of other Asian families: Chinese, Korean, Philippino, some even Vietnamese. But the difference between them and us couldn’t have been greater. “Don’t play with those children”, my mom used to say, “They’re not refugees like us – they came as communist contract workers.” To my parents the Cold War had never ended, and there was a strong divide between the “good” Vietnamese and the “bad” ones. So I only had white middle-class friends.
“You speak such a fine German!”
The feeling of alienation stayed consistent during my whole school career: I was frequently questioned by teachers and other students how I could speak such good German. How I could ace in German because I was, you know, not German. The nationalistic view that you can only be German if your ancestors were German is still alive and kicking. Hence I was not German. In order to prepare me for the hardships of being a foreigner, my mom taught me: “We are outlanders, the Germans look down on us. So you have to prove them wrong, you need to do everything perfectly.”
I resented being different: Why couldn’t I just be like all the others? My skin and my hair color felt like a constant source of embarrassment. The fact that my parents don’t speak German very well was even more painful. “I have a hard time getting everything your parents say,” one of my best friends once confessed. So as a way of compensating I did everything to perfect my German. I read canonical German literature, from Goethe to Heine to Jelinek. My sentences were filled with the rarest German words imaginable – words that the average German would have to look up in a dictionary.
You can read part two here.
ok. addressing the elephant in the room on christmas
unfortunately, i’ve offended my asian brothers & sisters with an IG post which i made during my recent tour of japan. in that post, i likened a japanese department store employee’s vocal intonation to that of a (church) deacon speaking in tongues. clearly, i didn’t intend to offend anyone (asian or otherwise), clearly, i *thought* that comparison was funny-cute
… and clearly i thought wrong.
in hindsight, it’s easy to see how my post was yet another example of the ugly, american flipping yet another ugly/racially/culturally insensitive script. so, let me make this abundantly clear….
THE ISH THAT I SAID WAS DUMB (PERIOD).
And no, it wasn’t Duck Dynasty/Phil Robertson mean spirited-xenophobic dumb (but the last time i checked, sleep was still the cousin of death)
—look. i’m a human being and dumber yet, i’m a public figure. if you’re lucky enough to be either of the aforementioned, then not only should one stay clear of saying or writing hurtful things, one should actively work against feeling comfortable, thinking hurtful thoughts. given that black culture consistently finds itself at the butt end of so many offensive “outsider” jokes, I should be way, way more sensitive (after all, who’s zooming who). I for one, should never allow my cultural bias to take precedence over my “examined life” (clunkers be damned). i know the whole kinder and gentler thing reeks of a self serving political correctness, but eff it, it’s “all me”.
so, here i am once again, publicly coming to terms with some more of my stupid “say, say, say” ish. allow me to ask for forgiveness and understanding from anyone that i’ve offended. I will be better in 2014 (i promise)
A pretty damn good apology from The Roots drummer, Questlove, who made some pretty racist comments on his IG this week along with Padma Lakshmi. Lakshmi added in, ““and I get a yellow pass anyway”. Interesting.
However, some commentary from community organizer and spoken word artist Bao Phi on this:
OK, ?uestlove and Padma made fun of “Asian” accents. While ?uestlove has apologized, there seems to be a lack of discussion and awareness about how that clowning is rooted in a xenophobic anti-Asian racist history that includes among many other things forced assimilation to whiteness and the naturalization of our “other”ness. I’m not trying to demonize either of them - rather than participate in the theatrical rhetoric of “calling people out” in the name of self-righteous exceptionalism, I’d love to see a constructive, honest dialogue about how even people of color can participate in a particular anti-Asian racism that is a fundamental logic of white supremacy. Not with the language of “we have it worse” or with the intention to guilt, but in the interest of cross-community solidarity and transformative change. Peace.
What are your thoughts?
My name is Juliet Shen and I am the Professional Development Coordinator for the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) National Board. As a national, student-leader run organization, ECAASU’s mission is to inspire, educate, and empower those interested in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) issues.
I wanted to let you know about two of ECAASU’s initiatives to connect with students, the Campus Ambassador Program (for individuals) and the Affiliate Organization Program (for organizations). These programs would be a great start to working with others and other organizations that work on AAPI work across the East Coast.
The Campus Ambassador Program allows students across the East Coast to network and organize on national and local scale initiatives actively contributing to projects, campaigns, coalition building and grassroots activism through ECAASU National.
The Affiliate Organization Program aims to connect organizations directly with ECAASU and other student organizations on the East Coast. Additionally, this program will work as a resource on how to successfully organize Asian American and Pacific Islander focused events and programs on both a national and local scale. The deadline for this application is October 27, 2013 11:59 PM EST. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or concerns.
Please visit our website at www.ecaasu.org to learn more about our organization and programs and share this opportunity with other student organizations that have an interest in being more involved with the AAPI community.
We are currently accepting applications for these programs, and I didn’t want you to miss the chance to apply!
Please share this opportunity with other students who may be interested. We hope to see your application.
When I was five I was put in a different school because there was an ESL (English as a Second Language) program there. You may be wondering, “what’s wrong with that?” Well, for starters, I was born in Ohio and English was my native tongue. I was reading novels by kindergarten (totally spelled that wrong the first time, fail) and I prided myself on the fact that I had an extensive vocabulary for a toddler. I had been speaking English with exquisite finesse up to that point in my life (okay, that may all be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point). So I didn’t know why I was being put in an ESL program, but I didn’t argue because who’s going to listen to a five year old? At that age, you don’t question things, you just accept. I carried forth with my days throwing raisins at the teacher and drawing cartoon characters on the desks. It wasn’t until later in life I tried to analyze the situation and came to this conclusion: I was put in that program for one reason, I was a shy Asian girl and everyone jumped to the conclusion that I couldn’t speak English. I know I tend to joke about this story, but there’s a lesson to be learned.
As a young child, I didn’t understand race or skin color. I assumed everyone was white, including me. I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shatterning moment in our childhood when we realizewe’re not white.
You can take it two ways: embrace that you’re not white or try everything in your power to become white.
You start to realize that wearing shoes in the house wasn’t that big of a deal and not everyone ate rice for every meal. That when some people speak slowly to you, it’s not because they’re trying to be articulate, but it’s because they think you don’t understand English (as if speaking English slowly to a non-English speaking person helps). You notice that not every grocery store carries Pocky and not every family speaks a different language at home. You also realize that it’s not that common to call everyone who’s older than you Uncle or Aunt. When you learned about the Civil Rights movement again, you start to wonder what happened to Asians during that time or when people are describing you, the first thing out of their mouth is that you’re “oriental.” (On a side note, I hate being described as oriental. It makes me feel like a spice or dish).
Being Asian-American has always been a difficult part of me. I was (and am) proud of my heritage and how far my parents have come, but I had a hard time feeling as if I belonged somewhere. Experiencing first hand segregation and racism has made me despise my race for many years.I was trapped between two worlds.
Racism isn’t just black and white. In my experience, all my classes about race are taught by a black professor. I remember sitting in one of my media classes discussing race; we had spent weeks on how blacks and whites are portrayed in the media. As my professor went on and on, I sat there wondering when she was going to bring up Asians, Hispanics, or Middle Easterners. Finally, as if God had heard my plea, a thankfully inquisitive student in the front raised his hand, “What about Asians?”
There was five minutes left in class, and all she said was, “Well, they tend to be the ‘model minority,’” and carried forth with the discussion on blacks and whites.
Model minority?!?What about the shocking statistics of1.3 million Asians that are undocumentedor the fact thatSoutheast Asians have the highest high school drop out rate?
I’m not going to lie, I was flattered in high school when people I’ve never talked to asked me to be part of their group for a project. I felt included and thought they wanted to be friends, but I soon realized that many of them only picked me because I was the “Asian kid,” and instantly categorized as the smart one. My favorite (sarcasm) was when my peers would ask me how I did on a test expecting me to say “A,” or ask me to help them with their math homework… and most of the time I was just as lost as they were. But none of that mattered to me, I liked the attention and appreciated that people thought I was smart.It wasn’t until I couldn’t live up to the stereotype that the pressure truly manifested.I wanted to write stories and make music for a living or design t-shirts and play soccer, not become an engineer, doctor, or lawyer.
Now, I understand why the discussion on race tends to be about blacks and whites. America’s darkest days were about slavery and the civil rights movement. There’s a lot to be said about the resilient nature of the African-American people. Schools teach to let usnever forget where America came from and from the mistakes of our past, we can learn justice and tolerance. However, even to this day, as sad as it is, we still struggle with racism among the two.
But if race is such a huge topic in American studies, why is it that I never learned about the Asian & Chinese Exclusion Acts in my classes or the fact that we only briefly touched on the Japanese Internment camps?
Why is it that after the Virginia Tech shooting there was a huge controversy and focus on the shooter’s ethnic heritage. With racists slurs and comments being brought upon Asians in that time. Whereas race wasn’t ever thought about in other horrific school shootings committed by white people?
The very first day of college a young and bright lad who is going to go far in life (sarcasm again) asked me, “Why do Asians always travel in packs?”
Literal face palm. I snapped back with “Because of people like you. Let me ask you, why do white people always travel in packs?”
We’re not friends.
I digress. Let’s shimmy back up to the beginning. How did I respond to that decision I had to make during my life-changing epiphany? Growing up as a child of immigrants I felt trapped between two worlds. I guess for me, I tried both. I ignored the fact for much of my early life, just living life colorblind. But for a brief (let me stress brief) time in middle school I embraced my full on “Asianness.” I hung out with mostly Asians, I watched Asian dramas and listened to Asian music. I got bangs and camera-whored with a peace sign. That quickly ended when I realized the facade of it all. Yes, ethnically I’m Asian, but culturally I’m not. I can squeeze my way into that culture by learning it and copying it, but I’ll never trulybeit because I did not grow up in it. Visiting my parents’ homelands was a huge disappointment because people there did not accept me as fully Chinese. They could tell I wasn’t local just by looking at me. I had all the stereotypical facial features, but my composure, dress, and attitude was basically the equivalent of me wrapping myself in an American flag. Even my extended relatives joked about my American accent or lack of cultural respect. I’m Chinese, but I’m not.
After that heart-wrenching revelation, I betrayed that identity and landed myself on the flip side. I stopped speaking in Chinese, tried my hardest to erase my memory of those embarrassing Asian-washing times, and tried my best avoiding all FOBs (for you politically correct people, it’s a slang, and actually somewhat offensive term for immigrants: fresh-off the boat). I would tell my parents to keep quiet in public in attempts to save my face and stray from being different because I was scared their accent or what they say would embarrass me. My dad caught on to this pretty quick. Before I left for college he told me, “Hey, be nice to the international students, I was one of them.” It got to the point where I was making fun of the FOBs (but of course only Asians were allowed to make fun of Asians).
I thought this was all going well for me until one day in college, my friend runs up to me saying, “Connie! I just met the Asian version of you!”
After a few giggles and punchlines, I started to wonder. Why is it that I had to assimilate myself to become “white” in order to make friends and not the other way around? Why do people say “it’s ok, you’re so white-washed” as if it’s a good thing? Why do my friends and I think it’s funny to speak in an Asian accent? Why is it that the “tiger-mom” parenting tactic is so-called “bad”?
I believe that as Americans, we’re scared to accept difference, even in this day and age.We tell ourselves that we are more tolerant and accepting, looking to how far we have come, but in reality,we’re currently stuck in a rut.The ones who fall victim to this hallucination are actually the young people. We think we are America’s next great hope, blaming the intolerant ones on the older generation, when in reality we’re just as foolish as the generations before in relations of race.
All this is so counter-intuitive. America prides itself on being a melting pot (or for those who are really specific, tossed salad). So why is it that the whole image of the “ideal American” is, dare I say, white? I’m tired of taxi drivers asking where I’m “originally” from. If we’re being truly honest here, a white or black person may say they’re from Chicago and that’s the end of that, but I always get the followup question… “but where areyourpeoplefrom?” and then they go on forever about how much they love China. Let me ask, if a foreign European were to walk the streets of America how many times would they be stopped or stared at for being “foreign”? How many “Go back to where you came from”s would they hear? Just because I don’t look Anglo-Saxon or black, I instantly get an extra inquiry: immigrant, foreign, or native?
It’s no wonderJulie Chenfelt the need to undergo the knife to advance in her white-male dominated industry. Which, by the way, I totally understand her decision and don’t expect her to have to apologize for it. She did what she had to do and by coming out about it,she opened many more doors to the truth about racism toward the Asian-American culture.
In the end, I’ve decided that being Asian-American is all together another race and culture.We are the ignored minority.We currently don’t have a place in middle school textbooks or in sociology. Not enough people walk on eggshells when talking about the Asian race. I’m not going to apologize for the scent our food makes when we’re cooking (which is heavenly by the way), or that we do get a little overly excited when we interact with our loved ones. On one side, the Asian culture has taught me respect and honor for authority, to be self-less and encounter a holistic approach to life. I have learned to value education and diligence, to be resourceful and never wasteful. On the other hand, the American culture has taught me independence, consideration for even those I don’t know, and the importance of having goals in life. It has introduced me to diversity and faith into my life (but I’m not saying those who aren’t Asian-American haven’t learned this). Being Asian-American, is a world all in itself, and since we are a fairly young race, we’re still figuring things out, I’m just asking for a little acknowledgment from the rest of America.
So to the Asian-American awakening, Let this be the moment when you realize you’re not white nor are you solely Asian, you’re Asian-American (and cue cheesy sap music).
I connect with this a lot.
What was your Awakening moment?
"This article studies the intersectionality of race and gender, examining it through the lens of Western imperialism. Even though both critical race and feminist scholarship have addressed this intersectionality, few if any offer a precise theory for understanding the imperialized experience. This article seeks to fill that void. The social inequality minority women face, in particular those of Asian descent, can be best articulated by a theory this article calls white sexual imperialism.
The history of Western imperialism in Asia and its lingering effects present the greatest source of inequality for Diasporic Asian women today. White sexual imperialism, through rape and war, created the hyper-sexualized stereotype of the Asian woman. This stereotype in turn fostered the over-prevalence of Asian women in pornography, the mail-order bride phenomenon, the Asian fetish syndrome, and worst of all, sexual violence against Asian women. These issues are each duly explored in the article, drawing on Professor Catherine MacKinnon’s dominance theory to support the white sexual imperialism principle.
The ultimate purpose of this article is to gain greater recognition from both critical race and feminist theorists of imperialism’s role in race and gender inequality.”
“I love Asian women!” “Asian women are so hot.” “Japan, Korea, China?” “Asian women know how to treat a man!”
Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If they do, congratulations, you’ve come across (or you are) a man — probably white — with so-called “Yellow Fever”.
As an Asian woman living in a country full of white men, I meet these guys a lot. You know, the ones who blurt out all of the above sound bites, who try to guess what ‘type’ of Asian I am, whose favourite actresses are Gong Li, Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi, who insist on discussing Korean/Japanese/Chinese dramas with me despite me not having seen the series in question, who tell me about all the other Asian women they’ve dated, who complain about how ugly white women are and why Asian women are so much better, and who try to get me to tell them that white men are so much better than Asian men.
Of course, such exotifiying sentiments are meant to be complimentary. After all, the patriarchy asserts, what could be higher praise for a woman than the approval of a white man?
Only…it isn’t praise. It is patronising and dehumanising, and inextricably bound up with the social power of race and gender. To them, ‘Asian’ is our defining characteristic, in a way that ‘white’ would never be used to define themselves. When the “Yellow Fever”ed men speak to me, they aren’t speaking to me, they’re speaking to their idea of an Asian woman, their fantasy made flesh. They’re speaking to every Asian woman they’ve ever seen in the media, every Asian porn actress they’ve ever leered at on their computer screens. My personality tries to push itself forward, but is rendered invisible, obscured by the lenses of racial stereotype.
And what a horrifically misogynistic stereotype it is too. Have a wander round any online dating site or Internet forum discussing Asian women, and you’ll notice that one of the most attractive things about Asian women, according to white men, is our apparent ability to “treat our man right”. But what does “right” entail? Well, to put it simply, “treating a man right” is to treat him as superior. Time and time again, Asian women are lauded for our supposedly meek and gentle natures, for our submissive attitudes, for our rejection of feminist values. (Hah!) Through their fetishisation and racist assumptions about Asian women, they reveal their attitudes towards relations with women in general: one should be quiet and meek, contented with a subordinate status, and eager to serve.
How, you may ask, do these men reconcile their ideas of Asian women with the existence of Asian feminists? Easy; they decide that she has been “brainwashed” by Western feminist values, has been contaminated, and has neglected her cultural roots. The fact that they assume submissiveness to be so inherent in Asian women that any feminist ideas must be mere parroting of the ideas of white women, is insulting in the extreme. Nor do I appreciate their assumption that Asian culture is static. I would love for them to cast their eye over their own cultural history, going back hundreds of years, and then tell me — what is “Caucasian culture”? And by rejecting the values their ancestors espoused, have they betrayed their cultural roots?
So please, men with ‘Yellow Fever’, stop objectifying, fetishising and exotifiying us. Instead, try seeing us as individual human beings with individual, unique personalities. Cool idea, no? And next time you have the urge to tell me about all the Asian women you’ve dated and how much you loved Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Memoirs of a Geisha — don’t.
Last week, Walmart pulled a Osama bin Laden-themed Halloween costume from its website under pressure from members of the Sikh community who say the product is offensive to 9/11 victims and perpetuates stereotypes and spreads further ignorance about turbans and beards: Osama Bin Laden Halloween Costume Removal Demanded By Sikh Advocacy Group In Letter To Walmart And Amazon.
In letters to Walmart and Amazon, the Sikh Coalition — the largest Sikh American advocacy organization in the United States — requested removal of the product, saying the costume “perpetuates negative stereotypes about turbans and beards that have led to violence and discrimination against Sikhs and other minorities.”
Think that’s bullshit? Tell that to Prabhjot Singh, the Sikh Columbia University professor was assaulted last weekend in a violent hate crime, by attackers who called him “Osama” and “terrorist.”
The Turban & Beard Instant Costume is manufactured by Fun World Costumes, which makes outrageous outfits of all varieties, including the super-fun racist ones. I skimmed through the Fun World website’s wide selection of Halloween costumes, and picked out just a few of my racist favorites:
Really? It comes with a fake hard-on, towel, shirt, and lotion.
"Dream Catcher" YAY FOR SEXUALIZING AN ENTIRE PEOPLE
"Kung Fu Master"
what is this