Wednesday, January 31, 2007
First of all, my first impulse, as a person trained by the institution-of-higher-learning-that-I-went-to, is to unpack the terminology. Who are "we" and what are we talking about when we talk about "equality"? And how do we define equality? Anyway, I wrote back about political power in relation to racial minorities. And as it turns out, what my friend meant was in terms of gender equality.
Meanwhile Wendao Jinxin, thinking along similar lines, posted his thoughts on his blog. I'm curious what you, all 9 readers who visit multiple times, think of this.
My conversations with both people are worthwhile. For the moment, I'll follow my original line of thinking, which was about racial equality and what that would look like, if we could attain it?
First of all, who are "we"? I'll take this as all underrepresented, underprivileged people, poor people, women, queer people, racial minorities of all kinds. Anyone who doesn't consider themselves to be equal right now, and lives in fear, to some extent, of repercussions that might result from who they are.
Equal to what? Defining it as The Man, would be too easy and too simplistic. I'll define it as those people, who can live without fear of oppression due to who or what they are. This definition is still problematic, but I'll let it stand for right now.
And finally, what is equality? Equality, at least in terms of social justice-y types, has become a signifier for equal rights and equal opportunity. When did equal rights for all citizens become an right, and a signal of an enlightened state? Certainly America did not begin as a society based on equal rights for all. I'm vaguely aware of the debate about man's natural rights, and the inherent rights of all human beings. Those of my 9 readers who are better versed in the Western canon than I, please feel free to enlighten me.
Equal rights and opportunity for everyone? What does this mean and what would this look like? To me it's almost inconceivable. Please show me a society which was truly equal. Even states which have been founded with the intent to create an equal society have failed to live up to their ideals.
So if it is impossible, or perhaps it's better to say improbable, why should we work for an equal society? In my opinion, the idea of creating an equal society is a bit like the idea of travelling to Atlantis (I am totally stealing from W. H. Auden's poem "Atlantis" and from Brooks Hansen Perlman's Ordeal). Although as Wendao Jinxin says, the old timers make the realistic decisions that actually help people, many activists initially became interested in social justice of some sort because of this idea of the equal society. The fact that Atlantis doesn't exist doesn't make make its presence any less powerful in our minds.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
I don't disagree with his concern for the poor and that aspect of his populism. However, if he's going to draw from that legacy, white populism and Jacksonian populism have some pretty nasty roots. Jackson became popular among white Americans through his slaughter of Native Americans.
My point is that white populism has consistently functioned by appealing to a white populace while oppressing or advocating for the oppression of people of color.
Webb clearly drew on this legacy in his speech and draws on this legacy in order to craft his political identity. However, he also raised some issues which reference the other xenophobic legacy of this identity in the speech. Through the indirect reference to American jobs being sent overseas. This makes me wary of Webb as someone whose outward appearance can easily be identified with the theft of jobs.
Webb seems like a fairly smart man, he knew what he was doing I'm sure. It's a successful way to be a politician. However it doesn't mean I have to get behind him.
Monday, January 29, 2007
However, as much as I've enjoyed my time here, I'm definitely feeling like it's time to come home. In fact, I kind of wish I was leaving a little sooner. However, being here a bit longer, I'll improve my Chinese a bit more. I'm just starting to feel more and more like it's time to move on.
Looking back on it, it's sort of difficult for me to say whether my time here has been well spent. It kind of is what it is at this point. There's no point in evaluating it. That said, I've certainly learned a lot here. Even if it wasn't what I thought it would be.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
When Webb was elected, he was dubbed a populist or a "people powered candidate." My far left politics nonwithstanding, I'm somewhat wary of white populists. According to my understanding of American history, many populists and labor organizers have historically mobilized working class whites against those swarthier than they. The questions of race and exclusion have played a large part in the history of organized labor. And anti-immigrant sentiment has always flared when jobs are scarce. Asian American history is an excellent example of this.
Looking at Webb's response to GWB's State of the Union address, there were a couple things that sort of bothered me. One of course was the mention of the "good American jobs" that were going overseas. It marks Webb to me as a populist to some extent. He positions himself in support of the working classes and the have nots. However, the flipside of the good American job line is that it has been frequently used in anti-immigration rhetoric and still is. I found its presence in Webb's speech rather disturbing. There was nothing overt about it, but to me it felt like a line was being drawn in the sand.
Furthermore, the presidents he referenced in his speech, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Eisenhower, were all war hero presidents. Given the circumstances surrounding the State of the Union address it's really not all that surprising. I find it sort of interesting to note, however, that many of these presidents became war heroes by imposing American imperialism upon those swarthier than they. Webb even identifies as a "Jacksonian Democrat." As I recall, Old Hickory, who was a populist president, spent a large part of his career murdering Native Americans. Populism has often widened divisions between white people and people of color rather than it's united them.
For all that he's married to an Asian American lady and has a half Asian kid. And for all that he won his election based on the racial remarks made by George Allen to his South Asian staffer. For all that I still prefer him to George Allen. (I would probably prefer Pauly Shore to George Allen.) Webb isn't a populist for Americans who look like me.
Oh yeah, Webb's Vietnamese American wife account of how "her husband often teases her about the escape. "He says that if [U.S. troops] hadn't rescued me, I'd be snaggletoothed and selling pencils on the streets of Saigon," she said. "It wouldn't be too far from the truth. If I'd stayed behind in Vietnam, I wouldn't be where I am today."
doesn't really make me want to jump on the bandwagon either.
Friday, January 26, 2007
I'm not even really sure what I think about this, however, I think that our identity is becoming less and less that age old story of being the only Asian kid for miles and miles around and having that warp a sense of self. You know, obsessing about the black hair and narrow eyes. Wanting to be blonde. Although in all fairness, I know people like that too. Instead, we've started identifying ourselves against other Asians. And there are tons more Asian Americans hanging with other Asians, not in a self conscious way, but rather like the characters in Derek Kirk Kim's "Same Difference."
This is proved of course, by my scientific theft of something off a group on The Facebook. The group itself is titled "I Ain't No Ghetto Asian." and the description reads,
As dubious as my source is, something that can be seen in the creation of this group is the effort of some Asians to distance themselves from the so-called "Ghetto Asian" which they obviously feel is somewhat overpoweringly prevalent or why bother making a facebook group to proclaim your non-identity?
I don't know if I'm necessarily saying that this trend will be something huge. I guess I'll say I think it's something that might become something. I won't be any clearer than that.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
It's often been a complaint among Asian Americans that our community is a difficult one to organize, because, uh, we don't really have a culture. However, I've read a couple articles in the last year that correspond to my general feeling that this is slowly changing. To be fair both of these guys are about 10 years older than me, and are therefore out of this cultural movement, if we can really even call it that.
"APA: So you're pretty positive that there will be an Asian American audience that will be identifiable within the next generation or so?
SK: I think it's happening now. I'm very positive. I was in New York and I realized [there are] these 13 to 16 year old girls and boys. It's the Fast and the Furious demographic: they want something that's quick – a popcorn movie, a summer action flick. But they see a character that speaks English, and they can identify with him, because he’s American. It just happens [that he’s] this Korean American guy in Tokyo. They like that. They want to see their faces without the kung fu, without the accent, without the emasculation, without and the asexual characterization; and you realize with these girls, they want their idol – they want their Johnny Depp. And you know they're going to go to college, they’re going to be educated, and they’re going to be the ones who are buying the tickets. Because it's not about being Korean American or Chinese or Vietnamese or Japanese. It's just Americans that happen to be Asian. I think it's changing. I felt that. ""I think the Asian American community right now is in the midst of defining itself. For a while I think we were all trying to be white. Then there was a period of time when we were trying to be black. And now we're finally coming up with something that's truly our own."
At Bishop O'Dowd, where he's in his ninth year of teaching, Yang says, "I see the difference in my students and how I was. They're much more aware of Asian culture. And they're much more proud. They wear their skin with a comfort that I didn't have."Asian car." How did we know? Well it was a souped up navy blue Acura with tinted windows and giant shiny rims. But more importantly, why were we able to both define it so definitively as an Asian car? Clearly we were picking up on cues, which we weren't even really aware of ourselves. Although memory has definitely colored how I view the experience, the certainty I had at that moment hasn't really gone away. It was an Asian car.
To me, the ability to identify something as Asian meant something. The accusation that is often leveled at our community, which I subscribe to in some part, is that we are indistinguishable from white people, in the things that count, consumer habits, political preferences etc., and are therefore ignored politically, while also being allowed into the white man's club.
However, at the same time, a lot of these canonical Asian American narratives of growing up as the only Asian kid in a sea of whiteness, I've never really related to. As much as it's become the dominant myth, and I'm sure there are lots of Asian Americans who have had those experiences, it's not mine. I grew up in areas with a healthy Asian American population. I've always had Asian American friends, and while there are definitely times when I felt estranged and still feel estranged from the Asian American community, it's always been there.
I also do feel like, younger Asian Americans are coming together, rather unconsciously. For example, Xanga. I mean really, how did the Xanga become the Asian American Live Journal? Does anyone really know how that happened? And yet it did. And it functions (functioned? I'm old and therefore out of touch with today's youth) as a community of sorts. An annoying community sometimes, but at the same time, a largely Asian American community nonetheless.
You know, if I keep writing this, it will become ridiculously long and Justin will kill me for clogging up his inbox when he's writing a thesis. I'll continue these "thoughts" (i.e. ravings) in another post.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
She then didn't ask me if I was taking it out, or drinking there. I was waiting for my Chinese teacher, so I was drinking it there. She was visibly rather annoyed, and I was visibly rather annoyed. The end.
However, being Japanese, and therefore already guilty in the womb, I now feel like I was an asshole, or even worse, an AMERICAN asshole. Oh horror of horrors. Or am I just succumbing to the Taiwanese sentiment that people who speak English ostentatiously are just trying to show that they're better than everyone else?
Monday, January 22, 2007
Thursday, January 18, 2007
On an unrelated note, I think I've now listened to the Blue Scholars for the past 2 weeks at all times excepting times when sleeping, showering, or teaching class. In fact, I very well may have irritated some people at school for listening to my mp3 player constantly while prepping classes. Could this be love? On the other hand, I just listened to DJ Shadow's new album. So maybe it's not.
The people next door are fighting again. This would be more bearable if the mom didn't have such a screechy annoying voice.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
I need some caffeine.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Just so's you know, this is Danshui.
Also as per the request of various people with an unhealthy interest in sweater vests, I probably took more pictures of myself in this batch than I have in the last year and a half. If you want them you'll have to e-mail me.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
All very well and good. However, sandwiched in between these examples, Egan will wave the yellow peril flag a ton. For example, the accompanying photographs consistently portray, as my sister astutely pointed out, the people in the picture are all East Asian Americans, and all seem to be fairly clean cut and honestly rather nerdy looking. Seriously though, shouldn't we have at least had one spiky haired dude just for representation's sake?
Characterizing Berkeley "overwhelmingly Asian" he goes on to paint this picture of the campus.
And at least on this morning, there is very little speech of any kind inside the Free Speech Cafe; almost without exception, students are face-planted in their laptops, silently downloading class notes, music, messages. It could be the library but for the line for lattes. On mornings like this, the public university beneath the towering campanile seems like a small, industrious city of über-students in flops.
So wait a minute, from the little table that the NY Times provides, Asian Americans are 46% at Berkeley 43% at Davis, 56% at Irvine and 43% at UCLA. So hold up, if there was a college campus was 46% or 56% white, would this college be described as "overwhelmingly white"? Overrepresentation of Asian Americans in proportion to their numbers in the populations aside, 56% of one ethnic group does not merit the charge of "overwhelming." And then tying it to a studious campus, and connecting it to the apparent lack of political activism on campus just seems sort of low.
The big stumbling block that Egan encounters is his inability to comprehend, as is the case with many journalists, that Asian Americans are a diverse group, with many different origins and economic backgrounds. He does pay some lip service to it. "A little more than half of Asian freshmen at Berkeley are Chinese, the largest group, followed by Koreans, East-Indian/Pakistani, Filipino and Japanese." So where are the Vietnamese Americans? If Egan did his research he should know that Vietnamese Americans are a fairly significant portion of the population of California. Poorer Asian Americans are hurt just as much by the absence of affirmative action as poor whites, poor African Americans and poor everyone else. Not that Egan sees this,
IF Berkeley is now a pure meritocracy, what does that say about the future of great American universities in the post-affirmative action age? Are we headed toward a day when all elite colleges will look something like Berkeley: relatively wealthy whites (about 60 percent of white freshmen’s families make $100,000 or more) and a large Asian plurality and everyone else underrepresented? Is that the inevitable result of color-blind admissions?
Why are white people the only ones who get the benefit of class analysis? Everyone else just kind of gets lumped together regardless of economic background. Perhaps this is the future of great American universities, minorities are not allowed to have an economic background. Then Egan definitely goes the yellow peril route with this little gem
One study at the institute looked at Asian-American students in lab courses, and found they did better solving problems alone and without conversations with other students.
What the HELL does this have to do with affirmative action? I mean, I thought the article was about affirmative action. What does this one study on Asian American study habits have to with anything? However, it does have a lot to do with conflating all Asian Americans and reinforcing the robot-like model minority stereotype which Golden condemns in the quote on the first page. Awesome.
One final kick in the teeth
But Berkeley is freighted with the baggage of stereotypes — that it is boring socially, full of science nerds, a hard place to make friends.
Honestly is this really true? I've never heard that about Berkeley.
Well if you've made it to the end you deserve some sort of prize. I'll go out and take some pretty pretty pictures today to make it up to you.
On a totally unrelated note, I am for the moment completely in love with the Blue Scholars.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Saturday, January 06, 2007
In other assorted news, there are few things I hate doing more than shopping for clothes, and there are fewer items of clothing that I hate buying more than I hate buying pants. I bought two pairs of pants. I may even have to buy a few more, so I don't wear them into the ground like I usually do with my clothes. I also bought a sweater vest. I'm not sure exactly what this says about me.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
On a completely unrelated note, I'm getting kind of disturbed by presidential funerals. I mean, I guess I'm still too young to remember most other presidents dying, but did they really get this royal funerals, with their body being paraded around the country? It just seems like the president is becoming more and more like a king.
Also I don't really know much about Gerald Ford, but it seems like a lot of the articles I've been reading valorize his loyalty to Nixon. I mean, is everyone forgetting, this is Nixon, you know the guy who broke a lot of laws and stuff? Incredibly anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist blah blah blah. I mean, if Ford says this type of guy was his best friend, and they were on the same page, what does this mean exactly? Loyalty is great and all, but just cause the guy died doesn't mean we should forget the other dead presidents he associated himself with.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Honestly, I didn't intend for it to look quite so bombastic, but there it is.
Monday, January 01, 2007
My mother often says that the stuff you do on New Year's Day will be rather common throughout the year. If this is true, I guess I'll be seeing a lot of doppelgangers, old coworkers, and I'll climb a lot of stairs in 2007.
Since I was by myself, I could go as far as I wanted, so I walked to the top of 茶壺山．Everything's in black and white, clearly I miss my old SLR camera.
Mostly though, it just seems a little creepy.