Take a good look

Installation by Gardar Eide Einarsson

Visibility. It’s often mentioned as one of the issues faced by Asian Americans.  Because we’re so often left out of discussions about race.

But visibility is an issue for marginalized groups in general.  Because of the white lens.  We see ourselves, sometimes, as they see us through their racist imagination.  And we see ourselves, sometimes, through the lens we have internalized.  We see ourselves through the media, which promotes Amy Chua as our representative.

But we think critically, and we try to unpack the racist garbage that has been stuffed into our heads.  And we reject the Shelby Steeles and the Michelle M@lkins.  We know that despite the brown faces, they are not our sisters and brothers.

It’s easier with the overt supporters of white supremac!st thought.  Identification is easy.  Five minutes of Chua and you’re handed a bag of shit so big you can’t easily deny the stench.

So I initially felt pleased to receive a Chinadaily article link about the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick (although I have some trouble with that hashtag, which I may or may not elaborate upon later) with the byline of Kelly Chung Dawson.   But then I read the darn thing.  And then the follow-up.

Because the articles are just plain irresponsible journalism.  (I should note Dawson probably isn’t a journalist.)

In “A tricky conversation for Asian-American feminism,” Dawson uses a somewhat questionable Twitter user as the sole example of backlash against #NotYourAsianSidekick.  She writes the following:

Among the critics of Park’s Twitter-propelled movement was user …

“Critics” plural.  Yet no other critics were mentioned in the article. The quoted Twitter user raised all the red flags that Abagond lists in his post about black sock puppets.  One additional identifier that I’d add would be the frequent mention of EBT (the U.S. system of distributing financial aid for food).  This from somebody allegedly living outside the U.S.

Sorry, but when people argue in bad faith and additionally use words like ch*nk and talk about putting people in ovens or tiny penises or how people should stop invading our country, they cease to be legitimate critics.

Dawson goes on to write “Many of the #AsianPrivilege-tagged tweets were posted by users identifying as black feminists, who earlier this year had as a group popularized the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen …”  But that was not the case.  The majority of the tweets came from trolls.  I was particularly interested to encounter this particular user, since he was wearing a face I recognized:


Because “Kenneth Nguyen” is using a photo of Tak Toyoshima, perhaps better known as the Secret Asian Man:


If I had to write a list of descriptors of Asian sock puppets or trolls, I’d include use of Chinese words despite the apparent ethnicity of the poster as well as including racial insults of white people.  “Kenneth Nguyen” uses “gweilo.”  Probably he’ll trot out “big nose” or “round eye” as well.

There were a couple of other trolls whose profile pictures I recognized.  One used a picture of Trayon Christian.  A couple of others used photographs that led me to believe they are comic nerds.  A quick image search shows #Asianprivilege racists using names and faces that would appear to be African American, Latino, Asian or Jewish, but their photographs are stolen from other sites.  A Twitter user named truthbomb posted screenshots of a forum where this was discussed.  A quick poke around the net found others.  Hints are given about how to make your account look realistic.  Readers are encouraged to “just make n*gger accounts” [original text not masked] to post about Asians.

But African American feminists?  Not so much.

So I am confused about why Dawson chose to portray the backlash against #NotYourAsianSidekick as coming from African American women.  But I feel it was additionally irresponsible.  Irresponsible because it was sloppy and lazy.  Irresponsible because it could not bother to find a better example of a critic of so-called “Asian privilege.”  Irresponsible because words create public perception, especially when writing on a topic that is largely ignored in the mainstream media.

Bad enough that somebody out there wants to pit us against each other and will make a concerted effort to make us racialize their white supremac!st thought.  Turn us against each other.   But Dawson’s article reinforces it, without even offering any evidence.

Then I went on to read the follow-up article, “Why black-Asian tensions persist,” and I had to smack my head a little harder.  Because this is just a mess. It also privileges the Asian and white view.

I tried to have some empathy for Dawson, because it’s a tough subject.  I tried to write about Latasha Harlins and really struggled with how to capture the incident without bias.  I’m not sure that’s possible.  I watched the video again and I tried to write what I saw, recognizing the entire time that what I saw and what I think and believe sometimes think they are the same thing.

How can I write about this and not mention how shooting somebody in the back of the head is violent beyond belief?  When I contrast how I think about this to how I think about Trayvon Martin’s murder, I am stunned.  Maybe even more so because Latasha Harlins was a young girl.

I struggle to write about this issue, because what I feel like I want to say is how can we see beyond race and see the people inside?  While I know that transcending race is bullshit.  While I know that we see some people as people and other people, not so much.

It used to continually annoy me when white people recommended Shelby Steele or Michelle M@lkin because they wanted me to know they thought critically about race and read writers of color.  Which they didn’t and they did.  Because just like those puppets, folks with an Asian face or a black face can still spout the stuff that comes out of the mainstream.

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