a term used to describe Asian Americans as the “ideal” kind of minority population in mostly white countries: “quiet, hardworking but never threatens positions of the white majority.” The term is dangerous to all demographics: it locks all minorities in an inferior status quo, it leads the majority to believe that they are living in a post-racial society. The model second-class citizen: the one who contributes but is invisible.
I’ve never been very comfortable talking about my experiences with racism, because of this “model minority” mentality—apparently I have it so good already as a minority I shouldn’t complain! But these presupposed divisions in minority rights is exactly what prevents racism from being discussed across the board, or at all. When the oppressed ourselves begin to oppress others, the work of prejudice is done.
I am a first generation US citizen. Though I completed all my education in the US, I don’t have an “American” name. This leads to a lot of people being surprised at my fluency in English. “Where do you come from?” they ask. I say, “Boston.” “No, where are you really from?” “Descended from australopithecines?” I get creative because I know what they really want to hear: what’s your ethnicity, what’s your exotic country? One deli clerk even disappointedly commented, “But you don’t look like the Asians I saw in Vietnam. You’re more…built like an American” (what?!?!)
“Ching-chong chinaman” with eyes pulled taut at corners was the constant taunt throughout elementary school, and even in my lovely college prep high school some of the students thought all asian parents owned laundromats or nail salons and that everyone in China wore green uniforms and were starving from food rations. I don’t even know where they get these ideas from. I came from a generation who immigrated to the US for opportunities in graduate education—a well educated, rather privileged demographic, and have been appalled to be treated as second-class people in their new country.
A lot of this is not readily apparent until you reach the achievement gap between minorities and the white majority. Schools differentiate Asians as a “non-underrepresented minority” and either present enrollment quotas or consider them in admissions. Despite high achievement in academics and work, fewer Asians hold positions of leadership. I’ve heard Asians characterized as “book smart, competitive but not ambitious, follower but not a leader” (entire nations can also be characterized with these adjectives—China’s Olympics bid, its economy, etc.). Personal characteristics do not define a group of people, a nation of people, a race of people. They are offensive stereotypes created as a weapon of oppression to lead people to believe that we are satisfied with the lot the white majority has thrown at us, and to create excuses for our achievements so that they seem petty and undeserved.
Sometimes I get hit with racism so blatant I have to storm off and cry somewhere for a while. One time a transit officer screamed at me very loudly and slowly as if I couldn’t understand English because he wanted someone to bully that day. I was held for hours at a Homeland Security checkpoint and interrogated because someone couldn’t figure out I didn’t need a student visa to study in my own country (US Passport = US citizen, omg -_- ). I had a phase where I really wished I was a WASP—the whitest white person you could be, because you’d never have to deal with this shit. I’m not even going to go into Asian fetishism because it upsets me so much.
One time I talked to a (Asian) roommate about my experiences with racism in childhood and how uncomfortable I felt with it, and she replied, “well we all go through it, it’s not like it’s special.” NO. SERIOUSLY, NO. Never be complacent with injustice against you. To be complacent is where racists want you to be: to be satisfied with the King’s New Clothes of “model minority” and settle as second-class citizens. I’ve just written about my experiences with racism as an Asian-American, but this post goes for all minorities, all oppressed, everyone.
Just wanted to second the “NO SERIOUSLY NO” bit. Racism/sexism/any-kind-of-ism are not like death or taxes or thunderstorms. They are not an immovable fact of life that you just have to suck up and deal with. They are things that people choose to do to other people (chosen either consciously or subconsciously.) They don’t simply exist as an inherent part of the universe — they were created by people, and they can also be torn down by people.
pastthestorm replied to your post: About Social Anxiety & Activism via Phone Call: Is this an “it’s okay if you don’t have the spoons” post or a “suck it up” post? I actually cannot tell. This is an “I understand that a lot of people are comfortable expressing outrage over an issue and less comfortable taking action that includes being confrontational, and I understand what it’s like to have obstacles to overcome including anxiety, and I know this because I share the specific obstacles people are talking about, but this is not as scary as it looks, and it’s actually very easy and possible, so while I’m not there and can’t tell you how debilitating your fears are, you also don’t know how debilitating they are until you try to overcome them, and I believe the vast majority of people dealing with anxiety around this are going to be able to overcome it; I believe in the people reading this, and I believe this issue is crucial, so please try, because the worst that happens is that you stammer and feel bad and hang up the phone, and the best that happens is you make a phone call while feeling scared, you refuse to let your fear stop you, and you help so, so many people” post. It’s a “what would my mom say” post, basically. And what she would say is that anxiety can be physically debilitating and paralyzing at times, but in those circumstances where it’s not, you shouldn’t let it stop you from doing what you need to do. You’re more powerful than your fears are.
oh wow, what the fuck. thank you, sady doyle, for being So Fucking Ableist. i can’t believe this shit. how dare you. just. how dare you.
What’s the worst that could happen is not “just a stammer and I feel bad”, it’s a I’m going to have a panic attack (and my panic attacks are bad, filled with not being able to breathe, shakes, and self harm) because I don’t know what’s going to happen, there’s someone on the other line who might not take me seriously, what happens if they ask questions that I don’t have the answer to, holy fucking shit I’m shaking because I’m so fucking nervous, it doesn’t matter if they can’t see me because I can see them in my head and I feel bad. My panic attacks are like triggers. I get in my self harm/self attack mode which has led to thoughts of suicide. I understand that this person is trying to empower people but no, not like this. I’m getting nervous just thinking about it. It’s not as simple as refusing to let my fear take over, because for me, if even a tiny piece of fear or panic comes to mind, it’s hard as FUCK to calm me down for the next couple of DAYS.
Posts like this make me feel even worse about myself because I know what triggers my panic attacks and if making a phone call, protesting, debating (not that all of these do) to the point where I get all riled up and anxious than I feel like I am no longer a participating member of the activist communities. I am not welcome, I am not worthy because I don’t do these things. I am inadequate.
I know what I can do so that I don’t harm myself and I try to do it the best and most effective way I can, if it doesn’t meet up to everyone else’s standards, well I don’t know what to say that.
I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you are a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not.
Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal ‘cultures’ – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using.
What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their ‘right’ to keep a part of the earth untouched – to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen?
Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.” —
Ayn Rand. AHhahahahahahah.
Okay, I’m taking an Amer-Indian History class this semester, and we just talked about this last week, so I’m going to tl;dr at y’all.
The Indians of yore did have the concept of land ownership. They defined very differently from the white invaders, but they did still have it.
Here’s how it worked: If you’re an Indian tribe, and there’s a piece of land that is central to your creation myths and is considered sacred by your people, then it’s yours. Like for the Lakota, it was the Black Hills. Or if you want a rough western analogue, think of Jerusalem for the Jews, or Mecca for the Muslims. For the Indians, the land wasn’t just a resource or a place where they lived — it also had deep religious significance.
Anyway, if you’re an Indian tribe, your sacred lands are the ones that belong to you. However, “belong” isn’t quite the right word for it — it was more like you got “first dibs” on it. On your sacred lands, you had the first claim to the hunting, the fishing, the farming, building your houses, etc. However, it was generally assumed that you weren’t going to be a greedy hog — you were expected to share. Once you had your first dibs, it was taken as read that you would share the land and resources with neighboring tribes, because that was the neighborly thing to do. I mean, what kind of greedy person would want exclusive property rights over a piece of land, amirite?
Furthermore, if I understood correctly, there was no concept of personal property rights, only communal property rights. Your piece of sacred land belonged equally to all the members of your tribe, rather than being chopped up into little pieces with each individual having exclusive control over one piece. Indian society back then was very community-oriented, with the whole tribe owning everything collectively — actually, it was kind of communist in a way. (Except unlike communism, Indian society actually functioned well.) (Zing!)
Anyway, this caused some misunderstandings when the first Europeans arrived with their radically different ideas about land ownership. The Indians were happy to share their space with the colonists — especially when they saw that the colonists were a bunch of smelly, sickly folks who didn’t even know how to farm properly and nearly starved to death because of it — because that was the nice, neighborly thing to do, but that doesn’t mean that the Indians were interested in giving the land to the colonists, nor were they hunky-dory about it being forcibly taken from them.
Also, I looked up the word “savage” in the dictionary; in addition to meaning “uncivilized” it also means “a fierce, brutal, or cruel person.” I can’t think of anything more brutal and cruel than committing genocide against an entire continent of people, stealing their land, slaughtering and torturing their people, erasing their culture and languages, forcing their remaining survivors to live in poverty and alienation, and then trying to pretend like none of it ever happened. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the Indians aren’t the “savage” ones in this equation.
Fuck you, Ayn Rand.
Siiiiiiiigh (via isthatevenlegal)
The fluffery, like public radio and education, support for the arts and sciences, healthcare and maintenance of communities. I see. But let’s make sure we spend another couple trillion dollars on guns.
BITCH PLEASE, YOU GET YOUR GRUBBY HANDS OFF MY NPR AND MY NEA.
Many families in Egypt are fast running out of staples such as bread, beans and rice and are often unable or unwilling to shop for groceries.
“Everything is running out. I have three children, and I only have enough to feed them for maybe two more days. After that I do not know what we will do,” school administrator Gamalat Gadalla told CNN.” —
(Salma Abdelaziz, CNN)
Okay so this is pretty bleak. Egypt imports a whole lot of its food supply, and people living in urban areas acquire basically all their food through shopping, so there’s a whole complicated supply chain upon which everyone is relying, and that’s breaking down. This probably puts a time limit of four or five more days on the current standoff before it becomes completely untenable. (via jakke)