Make Everyone Blonde Again Also
But I think the real problem, for me, is that I’m finding this super fucking boring instead of upsetting. The problem for me is I’m that used to it. Asian erasure is so normalized (and much worse, codified in patterns of professional advancement) that I can’t even get my blood up about the idiocy that allowed these castings
Every single word of this piece is worth reading – nay, needs to be read. I am now contemplating how realistic it would be to hand it (as a link or print out, I suppose) to every single person who comes at me with some ill-advised color-blindness mantra.
The objections to young children having any racial awareness were extremely interesting to me. I clearly recall being called “Chinese Rice” at my first elementary school and getting into physical altercations over other racial slurs, a school I only attended through half of the second grade. I don’t know if kids still do it today, but in the early 90s, one of the most popular schoolyard rhymes was “Chinese, Japanese, oh wow look at these!”, with eyes being pulled up and down and then chests grabbed.
At the next school, we wrote, illustrated, and bound our own books as third grade projects, which I always thought was really cool. I re-encountered them at my dad’s house a few years ago, and one particular page from the many self-published books stood out to me. The plot was a bad day I’d had, and one of the scenes depicted me sitting sadly on a playground with the text that “Nobody wanted to play with me because I’m Chinese-American.” Everybody has different experiences, but please excuse me while I personally roll my eyes at your suggestion that children don’t know anything about race. Then go read this.
White parents who objected to the program felt discomfited, fearful that if they voiced their concerns, they would be tagged as racists. They wanted their kids to talk about race, they insisted. But, as with most white liberals, they seemed to prefer to conduct the conversation on an intellectual level, considering it as a problem of history, policy, or justice — the kind of conversation unfolding already in Fieldston’s mandatory ethics classes. The much more intimate, idiosyncratic, lived experience of race — that is a harder discussion to have, especially when it probes reflexive reactions to difference (fear, disgust, mistrust, anxiety, curiosity, eagerness, attraction, admiration) that are sometimes heated, irrational, and not always pleasant. These are feelings the average white Fieldston parent was raised not to mention. This same parent who sends her children to Lower because she values diversity tends not to dwell on the fact that she has few close friends of color; that her neighborhood is almost entirely white; that her nanny or housecleaner or doorman has brown skin. The program at Lower was designed, and is supported in large part, by people who have spent their lives on the other side of that well-meaning silence and can testify that it’s no way to thrive.
This piece from VICE about an unknown plague affecting millions of starfish was equal parts fascinating and horrifying.
It is not uncommon for many species of sea stars to shed their arms in times of stress. When a curious child picks up a star out of a tide pool by one of its limbs, for instance, the star may jettison that arm in an effort to escape and regenerate it later. But Gong quickly understood that this was different. Her stars weren’t merely shedding their arms. They were tearing them off. They were tearing them off the way a man, lacking access to a sharp tool, might tear off one of his own arms: by using one arm to wrench the other out of its socket. “They twisted their arms together,” Gong said, “and they’d pull and pull and pull, until one of them came off. Then the arm walks away because it doesn’t know that it’s dead. It was horrific. They weren’t just dying. They were tearing themselves to pieces.”
For Millennials, racism is a relic of the past, but what vestiges may still exist are only obstacles if the people affected decide they are. Everyone is equal, they’ve been taught, and therefore everyone has equal opportunity for success. This is the deficiency found in the language of diversity. We have spent the post-Civil Rights era concerned with whether or not there is adequate representation for racial minority groups within our existing institutions, not questioning whether these institutions are fundamentally racist and rely on white supremacy for their very existence. Armed with this impotent analysis, Millennials perpetuate false equivalencies, such as affirmative action as a form of discrimination on par with with Jim Crow segregation. And they can do so while not believing themselves racist or supportive of racism.
In an ideal world (hopefully called “the future”), there’d be a constellation of voices, each adding dimension to the broad concept of Asian American-ness so that no single individual would need to carry the weight of speaking for millions of people, many deeply different from himself. Ideally Huang’s memoir would get to keep its illuminating specificity in the same way, say, Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black would. His story wouldn’t have to be stretched thin to mean much more (and simultaneously much less) than it was ever intended to because there would be so many other stories out there to choose from.
Ate here last night – love it so much. Well deserved attention.