a photoblog about my feet (a day in the life of dan le)
a response to being called out. addressed to my asian american brothers (and occasionally sisters).
I recently caught wind of ether choi’s blog post “ending white supremacy does not begin with controlling asian women’s decisions” and felt moved to write. Thank you for calling us (Asian American men) out. It’s true that the voices I commonly read or hear with critical tones about ending white supremacy and racism against Asian Americans usually come from Asian womyn. Specifically in regards to the recent polarizing tidal wave of anti-Asian sentiment on the web, I haven’t heard much from my Asian American brethren besides the more-often-than-not reactive, one-liner tweets. Why aren’t we speaking up with the same lament or deep, thoughtful criticism of the structures that perpetuate our brothers’ and sisters’ oppression?
While the civil rights movement and movements to end the American War in Viet Nam of the 1960s and ‘70s was no stranger to the presence of Asian Americans, that time now seems like a forgotten, bye-gone era. During that time, we know about badass womyn like Yuri Kochiyama and Grace Lee Boggs and what about brothers like Philip Vera Cruz and Chris Iijima who were also outspoken? Let’s face it brothers, we’re more concerned with whether the current profile picture we have up on our facebook pages reflects our identity and maintains our manhood rather than making our voices heard on a substantial, meaningful level. We don’t want to sound like we’re “complaining” so we don’t critically bring up issues that affect us directly. It’s like we’re in a life-sized concentration camp and we’re those folks who are thinking to ourselves, “maybe if I don’t make any waves it’ll all be over soon and we’ll be out of this cage”. Asians have been residing in North America as early as 1587, yet, take a look around, we’re still trapped in this box.
I get upset (kind of) and riled up when I see horrific displays of so-called “music” that degrades Asian womyn, not to mention us men, everywhere. And while trolling the internet and reading blogs (angryasianman.com, colorlines.com, democracynow.org are often a daily routine) stirs up a flurry of emotions that makes me shake my head in disbelief, I’ll also admit that a nervous fear glazes over me when I think about contributing a thoughtful examination and deconstruction of the “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (bell hooks) structure that preserves racism against Asian Americans. So when I read Ms. choi’s piece, I felt she was calling me out personally and I like being called out.
It’s sometimes difficult for me to seriously write about topics that are related to race and gender and maybe this is because I’m a man. When a racist event blows up on the blogosphere, a three-step process that leads to an internal, immediate, knee-jerk response I have to bullshit, such as the racism against Lorde and her hot Asian man, usually goes something like this:
And it usually ends there. Not going further than this has to do with avoiding conflict but I also realize that I question my agency in these situations. Firstly, I feel that if I were to write something, I’d think to myself, “it’s probably been written” and stop right there.
“if not you, who?
if not now, when?”
So, in the case of Levy Tran and her performance in the Asian Girlz “music” video—sure, what she did for that horrible “song” was a terrible decision. I remember my initial reaction was, “how could she do something like that! doesn’t she know she’s further orientalizing Asian womyn? wow. I can’t believe she’s Viet as well. Her and Tila Tequila make Asian American womyn look bad everywhere. *sighs*” However, bashing them doesn’t alter the systems of oppression in place that seek to objectify Asian womyn (as well as us men) in the first place. I particularly resonate with Ms. choi when she writes that judging Asian womyn and “lecturing” you further marginalizes your plight, furthermore my doing so only promotes to sustain patriarchy—the same system that also seeks to emasculate us Asian brothers in the process. When we bash, placate, and “slut shame” (I despise this term) our Asian womyn, we only perpetuate the system that wasn’t made for us in the first place.
Take for example this Viet brother who’s suing the NYFD because his colleagues called him “charlie”, “chink” and “gook”. Firefighting ain’t an easy profession to get into (even though it’s a typical American boy’s dream) and having to deal with blatant racism like this is just outrageous. Let’s face it, we’re not accepted by white supremacist racist patriarchal Amerikkka. Where are we in popular media? Okay, John Cho and Far East Movement have made it mainstream but as a whole Amerikkka still feels “uncomfortable” with our existence. So, why are we seeking to perpetuate the same system that excludes us?
Ultimately, my sisters, what you do is your business. You’re responsible for yourself, your actions and how you decide to act. I can critique your actions, but I recognize that it’s not my duty or place to lecture you on your relationships with non-Asian partners (I’ll let Julia Oh do that). What’s funny is that we’ll root for you when it works in our favor or supports and benefits us directly, but if it doesn’t serve us, we won’t. We’re also hypocritical in that we’ll praise our brothers who’ve snagged a white sister and maybe, if we were in Levy’s shoes and afforded the same opportunity, we’d be eager to perform in a video by a white female band that exotifies and hypersexualizes asian men. We’re jealous, aren’t we? Kristina Wong put it best when she said, “[asian women] are the hottest thing on earth”. We just wish we were.
The point I’m getting at is that we need to recognize that we’re in the same struggle—the struggle to dismantle white supremacist racist sexist patriarchy that affect people of color everywhere—together alongside our sisters. If we’re angry, let’s start making more movies that feature more of us, weave our critiques of white supremacy into our comedy routines, and/or writing more—blogs, letters, poetry and books that express how we truly feel. So, to answer your final question Ms. choi, I’m with and support you.
Now brothers, are you down?