There’s always one

Remember the Miley Cyrus picture where she and her friends are making the racist “slant-eye” gesture?  Poor old Chuck is the lone Asian in the photograph.  But that made it okay, because Hey!  An Asian guy is doing it too!  Miley can’t be racist–she has an Asian friend!  He obviously has a sense of humor.

There’s always one.

From Tufts comes a college freshman who created a poster playing off one made by an Asian American running for the Tufts senate.  His poster reads “squinty eyes.  BIG VISION,” “Kimchi!” and “Prease vote me! I work rearry hard!”  (Both posters shown here.)

The creator of the poster is In-Goo Kwak.  Here’s what he has to say:

“Though this was a satire of [Pang’s] poster, this was not a personal insult in any way,” Kwak said. “I thought it would be funny to satire the oppressive environment of political correctness at Tufts. I think it’s unhealthy that people feel afraid to express their views.

So dude bought the whole line of excuses:  It’s satire. The political correctness at Tufts is oppressive. And people are afraid to express their (racist) views. Imagine!

But as commenter Elton notes, “Real satire typically aims to subvert power structures by poking fun at the powerful, not taking advantage of the oppressed.”  Kai over at zuky has this to say about political correctness:

As it’s commonly used, “PC” is a deliberately imprecise expression (just try finding or writing a terse, precise definition) because its objective isn’t to communicate a substantive idea, but simply to sneer and snivel about the linguistic and cultural burdens of treating all people with the respect and sensitivity with which they wish to be treated … the conceit that “political correctness” constitutes a violation of free speech is particularly zany; as though society’s marginalized groups wield oppressive power over the dominant mainstream.

(Go read the whole thing, you really need to.)

In my experience, many white people aren’t particularly afraid to express their racist views because they typically don’t meet challenge.  Rather, they meet with agreement or sometimes apathetic acceptance.  Because when people simply do nothing about racism, they imply approval.

And folks of color are often welcomed for their racist views, because they make for good ventriloquy:  Hey!  An Asian guy said it!  Not me!

I note also that Kwak probably isn’t Asian American, since one article notes that he is from Korea.  You can never be too sure about that, though, because Asian Americans are forever foreigners in their own country.  And certainly I’ve met enough American-born Asian Americans who subscribe to the same views.  It’s the pressure of the majority.  It’s often easier in some respects.  Because which viewpoint do you think is more likely to gain majority approval?

Kwak also understands racism in terms of hurt feelings rather than systems of oppression:

“I apologized to Alice and I told her that it wasn’t a personal insult and she acknowledged that and accepted my apology,” he said. “I apologize if I personally offended anyone.

Of course, he thinks that it is “oppressive” to require civility. But hey.

I was also a little stunned to read this quote from Rosalind Chou from Inside Higher Ed:

“You have to commend [Kwak] on his bravery to do this act of resistance, and you have to commend Tufts for reacting quickly and having its students feel comfortable enough to have a dialogue about it so soon,” Chou said. “Not to take anything away from the individuals who this may have brought pain, but there are some positive things about this. Of course I don’t condone actions like this to where it hurts feelings and brings pain, but it says something that the envelope can be pushed at Tufts and they can use it as an opportunity to talk about race. If this had happened here at Texas A&M, it would have been swept under the rug immediately.… If we want racial progress, we have to talk about these things.”

I’d like to hear more from Chou, because I don’t think Kwak was particularly “brave” to do this. Nor do I view it as an act of resistance.

4 thoughts on “There’s always one

  1. Damn, so many thing bother me about this from the “satire” excuse to the classic non-apology apology. The real slap in the face is fact the guy is Asian.

  2. oh, but it gets better… I made the mistake of reading comments on the Tufts Daily article. It’s rampant with the typical commentary you’d expect, one of my favorites: “it’s a joke, get over it people!” sigh

  3. i read the comments too, more blah blah blah same old stuff.

    i recently read on my little kid’s books, it included Alan Says, “Grandfather’s Journey”, and how he describes people as white, black, yellow, and red, took me by surprise, his books get raving reviews, and it doesn’t look like the book was written that long ago.

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