Thursday, July 3, 2008

On Interracial Relationships: Part II (From the Outside)

On Interracial Relationships: Part II (From the Outside),

So now that I've laid out my opinions (and personal demons) about how race falls out in my own personal romantic life, it's time to move on to the fun part: stating my opinion on OTHER people's relationships. That's right - I don't consider myself a gossip-y type of person, but I sure seem to enjoy talking about what I think other people should or shouldn't do.

Anyway. We'll start with the basics and then move on to the juicier stuff. First of all, I am a result of an interracial conception (as I stated before), and I am very happy with the distinct experience that has brought me. I believe it has made me better able to understand racial dynamics (on all sides) in this country, and I would never ask to change that (even on the days when it causes some grief). Therefore, I am obviously all for interracial relationships, on a very general level. I think this world could use some more mixed progeny out there.

That said, it's not so simple as that.

I think about racial fetishes a lot (NOT in that way - damn). My mother is Asian (Chinese). My father is white. That's not a very shocking combination for an interracial relationship (for those familiar with any of the statistics or just the common debates). So, accordingly, I often wonder if my father has (or had) an "Asian fetish." His first wife was also Asian. She went on to be with another white man later on. There seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence here.

However, one thing has always stood out to me about my parents' relationship - they love each other. Truly. I'm very cynical when it comes to love and marriage in general, but I have always held my own parents as the exception to the rule. So - can it be a fetish when they are very much in love? Or - if it actually STARTED as a fetish, but then led to a loving relationship, does it really matter? Arranged marriages can end up in love, so can they be all that bad? That's the question.

And I go back and forth on my answer. Because I definitely find myself mentally tsk-tsk-ing when I see an Asian woman out and about with what I perceive to be a white boyfriend. I find myself automatically assuming that the guy has an Asian fetish, and that the woman isn't attracted to Asian men. I condescendingly nod to the couple and tell whoever is with me, "See? White man and Asian girl - again."

So why do I do this? It seems so ridiculously hypocritical. Because I'm definitely not one of those Asian men who feels like the white guy is stealing "my" women or my chances to get that particular girl. I've found that my mixed-ness has made me relatively "accessible" in terms of interracial dating (I have pretty much been the "first" Asian and/or mixed guy that ANY of my past romantic interests have been involved with - aren't I just "breaking down barriers" one woman at a time?).

So - what bothers me? Mostly - and this can be applied to any white man/non-white girl couple - it's my assumptions about the man's respect for the woman. I assume that the man just thinks "Asian women are hot" - that whole exotification thing - without being able to see beyond that. I had a friend who had a definite Asian fetish (he told me so) to the point where he LITERALLY thought EVERY Asian woman he saw was hot (linking to the "they all look the same" theory). I assume that the woman lets that happen because she has (consciously or no) bought into the mainstream distaste for Asian men.

And I don't think that that is a stretch, every time. I've known plenty of white guys who tell me how they are just attracted to "exotic women."* And I don't think they mean that in terms of cultural respect and without stereotypical assumptions.

Then there are the guys (and girls) who say things like, "I can't be racist, my girlfriend/boyfriend is - fill in blank with non-white race." My dad even said that once. And that makes me sicker than any of the rest. The perceived use of an "exotic" trophy-girlfriend to carry as a banner to prove the white partner's "open-mindedness."

These are my hang-ups. They pop into my head almost every time I see an interracial couple. And I know it's ridiculous (because I've known couples that are nothing like this, I've been PART of couples that are not like this), but it's still there. I don't necessarily ACT on these split-second reactions, thoughts, and assumptions, but they hit me every time.

So then - how does this particular bi-racial boy want to see interracial relationships fall out? Based on my own experiences, from how my parents have done it right (and wrong), this is what I've come up with:

First - there HAS to be respect, and a true, full desire to bring things equal. What I mean is that there must be a leveling of racial understanding - and a lot of that is going to fall on the white partner (if there is one - if it's an interracial relationship with no white partners, though, these rules still apply). Both partners need to be willing to both share their backgrounds and experiences fully, while simultaneously giving up some of that access in order to try to better understand where the other person is coming from - and their experiences and culture.

That means that if your partner is Chinese, for instance, you best be fully willing and wanting to go to China with them. To study up on Chinese history. To be uncomfortably non-Chinese amongst your partner's all-Chinese family (or friends). It means that both partners need to be willing to carve out a social existence on their partner's cultural terms (which is generally harder for the white folks). BOTH people need to embrace the uncomfortable exclusion from the other side - because that's how shared understanding is going to happen.

And that's how it's going to be for the kids. This, of course, is where it gets super-personal for me. Both parents of a mixed child need to be fully involved in the OTHER side's experience. For instance (to continue using myself as an example), it can't be "the job" of the Chinese parent to initiate Chinese-language lessons. It can't just be the Chinese parent that brings the kid into Chinatown to see relatives. There are certain levels where the non-Chinese parent obviously cannot share experience with the mixed kid, but they have to BE THERE. They have to be willing to give themselves over to half of their child's life and experience - no matter how uncomfortable or out of place that makes them feel. And neither parent can simply "give in" to the other's culture, keeping one half (or more) from the child).

And both parents need to understand that their child will never be able to fully walk in either side's racial world. No matter how hard the parent tries, the kid is going to be left out, in some way. They are going to be treated differently. And - unless both parents acknowledge that - the child is going to be largely on her/his own in building their racial understanding of themselves and the world around them. Parents need to ask the child questions about how they feel and are experiencing certain situations - and they must encourage questions from the child.

At least - that's what I THINK would work (judging from what did/did not work in my case). At least, it would seem like the best chance at working and being fully respectful and truly equal. Again, I stress that these are mostly things that are/would be difficult for a white partner in a relationship. Automatically, a non-white American knows what it is to be uncomfortably out of place and on somebody else's terms. White Americans do not (in general) and are often VERY hesitant about being in that situation.** And that's something that both sides need to be fully cognizant of and communicating about.

So there are the CVT's rules (and judgements) on interracial relationships and parenting. Take it with a grain of salt, and feel free to set the record straight on any number of areas I stomped on.

* Side note - I had one "friend" who asked me if I was into "exotic" women - to which I answered, "I don't know - am I exotic?"

** This is why white folks are always arguing against all-black fraternities as "racist." Claiming how "unfair" it is if they go to a party that is pre-dominantly black and "everybody is staring at them just because -gasp- they're white." White people out there - see how uncomfortable that makes you? Use a little bit of logic, then, and see that that is EXACTLY why there ARE all-black fraternities (and people of color like to hang out in crowds that look mostly like them, at times).


Jennifer said...


For what it's worth, I have the same hypocritical reaction when I see Asian American women and white men. And for me it's just as problematic as for you, because I AM an Asian American woman who is dating (and who has dated in the past) a white man.

Is this self-hatred? Hypocrisy? Denial?


But I think your mentioning of fetishes hits the nail on the head. I've been on the other side of being the object of someone's fetish and it doesn't feel good. I'll probably end up blogging about this next week, because I want to continue exploring inter-racial relationships [by the way, before I forget, I'd love permission to link to your blog and to plug it, if you like, esp. these series of posts].

The knee-jerk reaction I have when I see an Asian American woman with a white man is something I've been working on for a while now. So I no longer try to point out this pairing to my partner--and when that partner was a white man, he, understandably, felt confused or angry (in one instance) or thought I was being silly/hyporitical.

I try not to be judgmental because of course I recognize that there are many loving relationships btwn AA women and white men (as your parents demonstrate)--and that I feel like I am in an open and loving relationship with my boyfriend--and that he is aware of my issues surrounding this gendered and raced pairing, because of my personal experiences and my academic reading (I did a whole undergrad thesis on this topic) and because living as a person of color aware of race and racism in this country makes you slightly paranoid and aware and your partner, regardless of what their background is, has to also be someone you trust will understand these issues--and really get them.

Anyway, my two-cents for the day.

Great posts CVT--I really appreciate your voice in these issues--and I hope you get a lot of readers--they need to hear what you have to say!

CVT said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one with these reactions (and "reactions to my reactions").

It's a strange path race in this country makes us tread - to the point where we still strongly doubt the intentions of people in situations that our personal experience tells us can actually be positive. I think we can mostly thank the media for that one.

And I'm glad you're appreciating the posts (and commenting). You can definitely link to this site - I want to get a bit of traffic in here (hoping other folks will start commenting and maybe get some dialogue going).

d.k. said...

I think the issue of Orientalist fetishization and stereotypes is only the tip of the iceberg with respect to Asian American interracial relationships.

The underlying problem is that America is a White supremacist country in which the very standards of attractiveness (not only physical but cultural), beauty, and social capital/prestige serve White mainstream interests.

Some Asian Americans have been effectively indoctrinated into this White worldview and, as such, choose their romantic partners accordingly.

Compared to Blacks or Latinos, Asian Americans have yet to develop an *oppositional culture* in resistance to this White dominated culture. Thus, "White is Right" for these people--politically, culturally, socially, and even sexually.

To be frank, the mantra that "Love is Colorblind" is largely a copout--an evasion to avoid confronting these uncomfortable issues of power, culture, and racism in the self-proclaimed Land of the Free.

CVT said...

@d.k -
Thanks for the comments. I agree with you, to a large extent. I think there's also some of the inherent feelings of racial superiority in a lot of Asian cultures (I'll stick to Chinese here, because that's what I know best) that makes it very difficult for "traditional" Asian folks to ally with other people of color. Since, in that hierarchy, white is better (although, not always "best"), it's not surprising that that is how things fall out, romantically.

As for Asian-Americans not having an "oppositional culture," read my newest post (Mixed, Triumphant) for some evidence to the contrary . . .

d.k. said...

Whatever the rationalizations, Asian Americans--let's face it-- are largely a "House Negro" minority.

It would be comical if it weren't so pathetic--these Asians tripping over themselves to pimp for White Supremacy.

But these days, it's not politically correct to state this reality. After all, gotta maintain that propaganda illusion of America as the land of racial equality, justice and other deceptions.

CVT said...

@d.k. -

I think I know what you're getting at, but I would disagree a bit. I think a lot of what looks like Asian folks "pimping for white supremacy" is more related to the strong (immediate) connection between Asian-Americans and the immigrant experience. As a large portion of Asians in America are only a couple (or less) generations away from immigrating, that changes behavior and "ideals" in this country.

Immigrants, in general, tend to have come to this country to get away from something "worse" (at least perceived to be so). They are appreciative of the opportunities presented to "work hard" and maybe send some money home, bring family to the States, etc. They also tend to carry a low profile - when this isn't your native country, it's not your language, etc., you're not exactly going to "make waves."

A few generations out of that is when folks start getting a little more restless. When the only "homeland" for comparison is this one - the U.S. Then, what before looked like a better opportunity becomes more obviously a fixed competition that's unfairly biased, and that's when people start to get more vocal, more likely to act, etc.

So I would argue that you are confusing "Asian Americans" with "Asian immigrants" - which are two VERY different groups in this country (as any first-generation Asian-American can attest). Just as African immigrants and African-Americans find themselves - often - on opposing cultural sides, at times - due to their vast cultural differences - it's not SO different with Asians and Asian-Americans.

So - again - I get where you're coming from, but I think you're mis-reading the situation (to some extent), and lumping in various "Asians" (obviously, a ridiculously broad category) together. More recent immigrants to the U.S. - of ALL ethnicities - are going to tend to be less oppositional and to seemingly favor white American culture (as that is the only way they can truly "make it" here). Only after the generational memory of that immediate struggle fades can a group broaden the scope of the fight to race struggles.

Jennifer said...

I just want to echo CVT's notes and to add that one of the main problems with representations of Asians and Asian Americans has to do with invisibility and silence--and it comes both from within the "Asian American" community. I also agree with CVT that this term is so large and unwieldly and encompasses such a broad range and diversity of people that it's hard to really think of Asian Americans as a cohesive group.

And that, perhaps, is the problem in a nutshell. Asian Americans don't really have a single common bond/experience that unites them as a political entity. Individual ethnic groups have united and worked cross-racially and ethnically, but by and large there is just so much diversity to the idea of an Asia America that uniting these groups in the U.S. and trying to give Asian AMERICANS visibility and voice is just damn hard.

Finally, as one of the "house negroes" that you refer to--ie: Asian American woman dating a white man, I don't know that you intended to be offensive to those of us working as conscientiously as we can on anti-racist education and reflecting on our own relative racial privilege (relative to other non-white racial minorities) but I have to say that that phrase/comment really hit me in the solar plexus. I'm not about to say that my love is pure or unmotivated by political factors. But I do think that of the people I know in interracial relationshps, none of us did it for conscious white privilege and all of us (and 3/4 of my friends and half my family are in interracial relationships) are aware of the potential problems and pitfalls of dating/marrying across a color line.

Being conscious of the politics and history seems to be key--and name calling just doesn't seem to empower anyone.

CVT said...

@Jennifer -

My apologies in not touching on the use of the term "House Negro" and the suggested tone behind it. I'm just getting used to having real opinions on my blog comments (and, as of right now - I'm not moderating my comments), but that needed to be addressed, and I'm glad you did.

Hopefully, dk will pop back in and respond soon.

Big Man said...

That House Negro comment was crazy.

I came to your post from your comment on Racialicious.

d.k. said...

I was not confusing Asian Americans with Asian immigrants. I was talking primarily about native-born Asian Americans.

In general, Asian Americans politics is not as oppositional as you believe. In most cases, it is dominated by reformist AA community organizations that are financed by the very same American establishment (in the form of the American State, private foundations, and corporate "philanthropies") that maintains White power in the USA.

Granted, one could say this is increasingly true for all minority political movements and organizations in the USA since the 1960s/1970s--the last great period of rebellion in America. Back in the day, these types of community organizations were called Poverty Pimps because their primary function was to gobble up US federal or establishment money in order to 1). Enrich themselves as organizations 2). Act as a political safety valve to channel political dissent and discontent right back into "working within" the American system.

This is the primary function of the so-called Civil Rights movement today: To offer limited reforms to community problems in order to prevent more radical political opposition from emerging. Not coincidentally, the primary beneficiaries of this arrangement are minority class elites, who are more interested in advancing their own dreams of upward mobility than anything else.

Indeed, the Civil Rights Industry, as I call it, represents the political interests of middle-class minority elites--NOT the community as a whole--though the former have pretensions of leading the latter. Make no mistake, the rising Black, Latino, and Asian American middle-class elites are ambitious to climb the American socio-economic food chain.

Is this not the political role that the proverbial House Negro played in the era of slavery--a kind of go-between (or Model Minority) who acted as a political buffer between the White Slave masters and the slaves in exchange for his own relative privilege?

This is why I believe the term House Negro is more than appropriate in describing both Asian Americans and indeed the broader Civil Rights Industry. Moreover, if you believe that the term "Asian American" is too broad or general a category to use, you can analyze individual Asian ethnic groups in the USA, and I believe the characterization still generally holds true.

If people are offended by the term House Negro, perhaps they should take a more critical look at the reformist nature of minority politics in the USA today.

CVT said...

d.k. -
Thanks for the further clarification. I'm glad you came back to continue the discussion.

"This is why I believe the term House Negro is more than appropriate in describing both Asian Americans and indeed the broader Civil Rights Industry. "

I think my current disagreement remains the relatively broad generalization of "Asian American." I get exactly what you are saying about most large-scale civil rights organizations, and I largely agree. If you stuck to referring to "large-scale Asian American civil rights organizations having a House Negro mentality," then I think I could accept that.

However, generalizing ALL Asian-Americans by the organizations that (do not) represent us feeds the same stereotypes so many of us are trying to fight against. My point was that not all Asian-Americans are passive and feed the white power structure. There are many grass-roots, small-scale organizations meant to combat exactly that mentality (and to blow up the stereotypes that we are quietly submissive to the American "status quo"). The rising presence of Asian-Americans in underground hip-hop is one example representative of that.

So - just as many black folks would take offense if generalized and lumped in with everything the NAACP or Al Sharpton chose to do, I am pushing back against using "Asian-Americans" interchangeably with the organizations that - again - don't truly represent a large portion of our community.

And, again - "Asian-American" is so large a community (and diverse - whether other people are aware of that) that broadly generalizing all as "the same" borders on dangerous territory.

So - if you are willing to agree that these organizations you are referring to by no means represent "Asian-American-ness" and should not be used to stereotype a whole race (and more), I'm with you on your assessment. However, if you believe that "Asian-Americans" are all one homogenous group whose goals and behavior can be boiled down to the acts of a very specific sub-set, then I don't think there's much more that can happen with this conversation.

Please clarify when you have an opportunity (and thanks for the dialogue so far).

d.k. said...

The argument that Asian Americans are so diverse that no characterization can effectively be made reminds me of the disingenous line that Colorblindness advocates always promote: "We are all just individuals."

By this logic, NO generalization or characterization of ANY social group could EVER be made--whether that be gender, class, sexuality, religion, or nationality.

After all, we are all just individuals--free floating atomized souls with no connection to broader socio-political forces and communities.

I fundamentally disagree with this argument and logic.

Of course, Asian American are not a homogenous group (this is merely a straw man argument anyway).

However, there are dominant and subordinate political trends in these "diverse" Asian American communities.

And I submit to you that the dominant political trend is that of assimilationism, that of playing the role of Model Minority that Whites use as a political buffer and weapon against Blacks and Latinos.

In short, the dominant political tendency in diverse Asian American communities is that of the classic House Negro.

Now, there are some more radical political trends among Asian Americans, but they have been effectively marginalized in terms of voice, money, and power.

Jennifer said...

d.k. (and anyone else still reading)

Thanks for keeping up such a lively discussion.

I have to say that I continue to feel bruised in the solar plexus, but in the interest of keeping up the dialogue that CVT (and you?) would like to have on this subject, I'm going to continue to offer up my polite disagreement of your analyses.

First of all, the whole term "house Negro" while being offensive to many (and I don't just mean me, as one who is potentially being labeled as such by you, I mean that for many African Americans and for scholars who have studied the effects of slavery, the idea that somehow enslaved African Americans who worked inside plantation homes uniformly existed as wedges or buffers in a slave economy is generally oversimplifed and masks the real suffering/trauma that those inside or outside the home suffered by being enslaved. As a term used to denigrate people being labeled a sell-out, again, I'd point to my comments from before: calling people names rarely empowers them to take a different course of action).

I don't want to speak on behalf of CVT, but when I wrote about Asian Americans being a diverse group and thus naming this as a reason for why, perhaps, Asian Americans have been invisible and silent in certain discourses, I was pointing to the fact that until very recently, Asian Americans have not been mobilized to act as a racial/political body but have, instead, focused on their own ethnic-communities.

I don't think it's either using a straw man argument or in your words an overgeneralization to say that this is true. I think that various organizations and activists have come together on issues that impact Asian Americans (Vincent Chin's murder in 1982 is one that immediately leaps to mind, so does the redress and reparations movement for Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during WWII and so does anti-Arab and Muslim and South Asian American discimrination post 9/11).

I don't know where you are getting your information from--what your experiences have been with Asian American organizations and activists. Like with any other group, there are those who are more politically active or radical than others. As a whole, Asian Americans tend to be more conservative in their politics than African Americans, Latinos and American Indians, (and I'd add Jewish people as well) largely because of the difficulty of uniting such a large and disparate group under a single political umbrella. There isn't a single historic event that tends to unite Asian Americans (unlike American Indian displacement/genocide or Transatlantic Slave Trade or the HOlocaust) and there isn't a predominant linguistic/cultural tradition to fall back on (like Spanish for many Latinos). This makes it hard for Asian Americans to unite politically. But those of the second generation and beyond are doing so.

I'm gleaning, from your comments, that you may have very radical political leanings and a distrust for mainstream political or academic organizatoins. And I can understand that distrust.

But in speaking of my own experience and truth, I can tell you that I know many Asian American people who are politically conscientious and anti-racist and who, in their own ways, are trying to make the world a better place. A former student of mine, who is Asian American, started her own chapter of a homeless advocacy group while in high school and is the youngest person to sit on the national board. Another Asian American former student of mine works for a non-profit queer advocacy and educational group and she will be joining a national Asian American non-profit in Washington DC shortly to work on community organiing nation wide. And in the population that I'm personally in, Asian American scholar-activists who speak truth to power on a regular basis, who put their money where their mouth is.

Yes, there are conservative Asian Americans who have bought into the "model minority" myth, who do not involve themselves in social justice movements or even pan-Asian American issues.

But the truth is, d.k., I think you are smart enough to recognize that the world is more complex than the simplistic stereotype that you seem intent on promoting: Asian Americans are house Negro minorities.

Let me ask you this: where does making such a statement get you? Lets just say, for argument's sake, that I am one of these "House Negroes" you speak so disparagingly about. Does being called this make me want to change my opinion or actions? Does it help to educate me about my apolitical and opportunistic lifestyle? What it overwhelming does is make me feel defensive and angry.

And if I feel, as I do, that there are many Asian Americans who are NOT buying into a model minority stereotype and who ARE working cross-racially, in many activists fields, then I think your comments are either naive or intended to insult. And I just have to ask why?

The world is too mean already to be adding insult to injury. I believe in calling people on their b.s.--and I applaud you for doing so--but I think your continued hammering away at this single point is not instructive or constructive but just plain mean spirited.

And I don't mean to be calling you names either--I'm sure you are working in your own way towards making the world a better place--and I applaud you for that. All I'm asking is for more tolerance on your part and less name calling.

And CVT, sorry for writing a novel on your comment section for this post. I just can't help myself! Feel free to write a novel on one of my post's comment sections. At least you know I'm engaged with the discussion on your blog!

CVT said...

Jennifer - don't ever apologize for a long comment. And I am pretty sure that I have, in fact, left novels on your blog (pretty much why I felt like it was time to write my own).

Anyway - I also thank you for getting in there and throwing in your arguments. And addressing why "House Negro" is a problematic term, in general.

Because, d.k., I find myself coming back to this question - what is your experience with the Asian-American community? Because you seem stuck on your own definition of it - and both Jennifer and I have told you (repeatedly) that your definition doesn't stand.

And we're talking from personal experience. As representatives of the Asian-American community that don't - AT ALL - buy into the "model minority" myth and encourage white privilege - with numerous Asian-American friends and acquaintances that do not do so, either - I am looking for concrete examples at this point to support your claims.

And no - we don't necessarily represent the majority of "Asian Americans," but we are part of a much larger sub-set than you seem to be willing to acknowledge. Don't let the media mis-direct you - we're out here, and in numbers deserving of more than a casual dismissal.

And "Asian-American" as a diverse population is hardly a "straw man" argument. Jennifer mostly addressed it - but what other racial "movement" involves so many different languages and cultures? Skin-tone and features ranging from almost-black (Indian and southeast Asian) to pale white (Japanese, more northern Asians). A conglomeration of nations that have fought each other and hated each other through history (are you familiar with the Rape of Nanking and the history around it?).

"Asian-Americans" are not unified. Certainly not first-generation Asian-Americans. In fact, most first-generations cannot even understand the CONCEPT of "Asian-American" as a blanket category -because they are so aware of the differences and issues between ethnicities.

It is not until later generations that the "Asian-American" experience begins to be something that unifies. A shared experience. And it is these later generations that Jennifer and I are talking about.

So there IS a huge difference between Asian immigrants in the U.S. and their families. Even were I to accept that "Asian-American" was one single identity, I could not accept that recent immigrant "Asian-Americans" share much, politically, with later generations.

And so - I want to re-direct this conversation, as I think we're starting to re-hash the same points over and over.

D.K. - please speak a bit to your personal experience, so I can get over the feeling that you are simply arguing through stereotype, as opposed to direct experience or facts.

I don't think you are trying to offend here - just trying to state your opinion and your "truth" - but you have offended, and I'd like to know a little bit about where you're coming from, so I can better understand your position.

d.k. said...

CVT/ Jennifer. Here's my response to your comments:

1. As said earlier, I was referring to native born Asian Americans--not Asian immigrants in the USA--in my previous posts. Hence, some of the comments about the political distinctions between Asian Americans vs. immigrants are not really pertinent.

2. The argument that Asian Americans are so diverse that no broader generalization can be made is intellectually suspect for the reasons I mentioned above. (And yes, I know about the Rape of Nanking.) But even if you accept the premise of this assertion, you can focus on *individual* Asian American ethnic groups (like Chinese, Indian, or Filipino-Americans, etc.) as the unit of analysis. In this case, isn't it true that the dominant political orientation of these individual AA ethnic groups is the Model Minority, or House Negro, paradigm?

3. As I admitted above, there are militant political tendencies in Asian American communities, but these groups are marginalized with respect to mainstream Asian America in terms of power, influence, and money. Moreover, one can make broader characterizations about Dominant vs. Subordinate political trends in the different Asian American communities. These dominant trends are decidedly not radical. They are assimilationist.

For example, it's documented that the Japanese American Citizens League actively collaborated with the US government's imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII. This collaboration included: providing the American government with names of community leaders; fingering those "troublemakers" who opposed the incarceration; blocking attempts at legal challenges to this imprisonment; suggesting the creation of "Suicide Battalions" (!) of Nisei army recruits to prove their loyalty to America; and the promotion of post-WWII programs for the assimilation of Japanese Americans into White America.

What phrase other than "House Negro" should one use to describe this type of behavior?

And this was the behavior of one of the most established Asian American community organization in the USA, which essentially provided the ideological template for contemporary organizations to follow like the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA); Taiwanese-American Citizens League (TACL); Korean-American Citizens League (KACL); and the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), etc.

4. The term House Negro designates not only actual slaves that lived in the White Master's house during America's slave era. It also symbolizes a broader political concept describing the behavior of minority class elites who wish to advance their own relative privilege through political collaboration with a system of White oppression--past and present. If this phrase "denigrates" House Negroes, it's because their actions deserve to be called out as such. Remember, House Negroes in the slavery era didn't just reside in the Master's house but aided and abetted the "real suffering and trauma" meted out to their own people. This racialized class collaboration pervades minority elites in the USA today--albeit in more sophisticated postmodern form. To be blunt, some people who complain about being labeled as "sell-outs" are angry because it raises questions about power, racism, and themselves that strike a little too close to home, and they'd rather not face it. Ignorance is Bliss.

5. "Let me ask you this: where does making such a statement get you? Lets just say, for argument's sake, that I am one of these 'House Negroes' you speak so disparagingly about. Does being called this make me want to change my opinion or actions? Does it help to educate me about my apolitical and opportunistic lifestyle? What it overwhelming does is make me feel defensive and angry."

Jennifer, I didn't call you personally a "House Negro." I doubt the (stereo)typical assimilated Asian would even be on this website discussing these issues. I was using this term to describe the dominant political orientation of Asian American communities today. However, I apologize for your personal hurt or anguish caused by my statements. I am very sorry.

In terms of offending people in general though, sometimes that's necessary, don't you think? Confrontation is just one of many tactics and tools one can use, depending on the audience and the goal.

6. "Because, d.k., I find myself coming back to this question - what is your experience with the Asian-American community? Because you seem stuck on your own definition of it - and both Jennifer and I have told you (repeatedly) that your definition doesn't stand."

If you're asking if I'm Asian American, the answer is yes. My short bio: I am a Chinese American dude that grew up in Kansas and went to college there (Univ. of Kansas). I then went to grad school on the East Coast (Brown University in RI), where I got my doctoral degree in English and specialized in Asian American literature/studies. Now, I am living and working in Oregon, though not in academia.

One important part of my experience going to grad school was my political maturation as a result of the environment at Brown, which was quite different from Kansas to say the least. In short, I was radicalized by the different political perspectives that I encountered there both inside and outside the classroom from both teachers and fellow students/friends alike. Upon leaving Brown and going back into the "real world," I realized there was no going back to my old way of understanding the world, which was a Euro-American worldview. And so here I am….

Anyhow, that's my story.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your clarification, although again, I don't know that much more can be said because my gut level reaction is that I don't feel you are *hearing* the things I'm trying to say--like about the term "House Negro" being both inaccurate and offensive as well as the nuances of the term "Asian American."

I have a similar educational background to yourself, so we've probably read many of the same things yet arrived at different conclusions--which means I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Maybe at the end of the day, it's a philosophical difference of seeing the world as glass half full vs. half empty or perhaps I just choose to think that while confrontation is a useful activist and pedagogical tool, like everything else, there are various ways of confronting people that are going to be more or less effective.

Personally, I find both your arguments and way of presenting your "confrontation" not helpful for myself--and I wasn't personally offended by you using the phrase "House Negro" as in it didn't cause ME pain because I felt attacked by you, it caused me pain because I felt like it was a misapplication of the term to a group of people, Asian Americans, who are more complex (in my estimation) than you give them credit for.

In other words, I am pained not for myself, but for all the Asian American people I know and allies working on Asian American issues who are not model minority sellouts.

And I'm pained, for you, for not being in a generous place to see that your words can be construed as both offensive and painful to people whom, I think at the end of the day, you'd probably want working with you on issues of social justice.

I'm out of this comment thread.

CVT said...

Jennifer - I'm sorry that you have been pushed out of this thread, but I understand. I hope that this doesn't keep you out of future conversations.

D.K. - I pretty much agree with Jennifer that there may be nowhere else to take this particular dialogue (as any two-way part of this seems to have ended).

Again - we (the two people involved in this conversation) have told you that using the term "House Negro" is offensive. In reality, "House Negroes" had much less choice in the matter than you give credit for in your use of the term (they were SLAVES), and the rape and abuse often associated with that situation makes it - to me - inappropriate as the derogatory term you are using it as here. I would hope that in further conversations, if somebody asks you not to use a term because it offends them, that you would simply change up, as we get what you mean without you using that term.

In terms of offending people in general though, sometimes that's necessary, don't you think? Confrontation is just one of many tactics and tools one can use, depending on the audience and the goal.

Sometimes people get offended, that is true. But when it is so easy to stop doing so (by simply using another term that we can all be okay with) it definitely is not necessary. That is the kind of thing I would expect to hear from a white person claiming people of color are "too sensitive" and "can't take a joke" when they are saying something offensive. People will never truly listen if you go out of your way to offend them, and I think that - at this point - you have done just that.

Finally - I understand what you are saying about the "dominant" Asian-American political movements tending to support white privilege more than not. We've established that. It's your continued use of simply "Asian-Americans" to describe that situation. You are generalizing everyone based on a some. Period. It doesn't matter if that "some" may (and I emphasize the use of the word "may" here) be the majority.

Because insisting on using "Asian-Americans" every time you actually mean "a sub-set of Asian-Americans" is the same stereotyping and prejudice that the dominant white industrial complex supports. I am sure somebody in that situation would be very pleased to read your posts, as they can now say, "See, an Asian-American guy himself says that all Asian-Americans are submissive and support white privilege."

You are arguing for the sake of arguing, while acknowledging that EVERY TIME you use the term "Asian-American," you are actually referring to either "most" or "the dominant Asian-American political movements," etc. So why do you insist on dropping those qualifiers when you make your definitive statements on "Asian-Americans"?

THAT is the issue. And that is why we've been dancing in circles on this thread. Two simple things:

1) You were told "House Negro" was offensive, but instead of saying, "I don't see it that way, but if it offends you, I'll stop," you argued that fact and continued to use it - even knowing it did not sit well with others.

2) We ask that you qualify your statements and don't speak in generalities for a ridiculously large group of people. When you speak of a sub-set, clearly state that that is what you are doing. Doing anything else is using the mind-set and tools of stereotypes and prejudice - which all too easily lead to the racism that, I believe, you wish to combat.

3) When you push somebody like Jennifer out of a conversation, it should make you seriously look at the tactics you are using. This is somebody that is strongly "on your side" as an ally: an Asian-American woman actively fighting against white privilege in her everyday life (not just talking about it). She also isn't new to these types of conversations. She has experience dealing with the ignorant, racist, sexist - you name it. So - again - you pushing her out of the conversation should tell you that your tactics aren't working.

You're not "breaking eggs" here - you deliberately used language and tone to push away somebody on your side. I hope you don't believe that that is how we're going to fix the issues you see out there. You changed what began as a good-natured debate into a defense that lost you an ally (and one that you would very much want on your side were you to move on to active solutions).

I commend your change in views through your time in Brown. But realize that "radical" thoughts mean nothing if you are not willing to figure out a way to communicate people in a way that makes them actually want to join you in "radical" action.

This is probably the last I will post on this particular thread, as well - simply because there isn't anything more to say.

ric said...

Here is nice tidbit info of interest to explore

Why is porn sub divided into race catergories? Notice how prevalent " asian" is in porn, especially in western world.

If man's thinking is so grained into sex and then porn must have shaped that part of their brains in some shape or fashion. Then can asian white relations or for that matter asian FEMALE interracial have some footing in Porn ( western)?

ChineseCanuck said...

Some people believe that white men who date Asian women (almost) exclusively have some sort of fetish. Wouldn't that work the other way around? I don't usually hear about that. When it's about the woman, she's usually labelled as "brainwashed" or a "sell out." Isn't this just some sort of sexist terminology?