Monday, May 18, 2009

Actually, Yes. That WAS Racist...

I was eating lunch last week with some of the counselors at the clinic. The Chinese food arrived and they were passing it around to everyone who had ordered. As they passed it to one woman, she exclaimed, "if I eat any more Chinese food this week my eyes are gonna slant!"

I turned to her, astonished, and said, "wow, I haven't heard a racial slur like that in a long time."

"That wasn't racist!" she demanded.

"Actually, Yes. it was. When you mock an already marginalized group of people based on their appearance, that's racist. You stereotyped a population based on physical attributes..." I retorted. She snarled at me and proceeded to eat her egg roll.

This happened last Friday. I came in to work early this week and found a Chinese food menu strategically placed on my office door. Is it a coincidence that someone wanted to share a Chinese food menu with me this week? Maybe. Am i being harassed? Possibly. Would they do this to me if I was noticeably Asian? Probably not.

I don't really understand why it's still acceptable in American culture to mock Asian Americans? Do people not realize the racism here because Asian Americans are the "model minority?" They supposedly have assimilated into American culture better than any other minority group and thus discrimination does not affect them? Or is it because the American stereotype of Asian Americans as "docile" is so prevalent that people think it is acceptable to discriminate a group of people that are "too well mannered" to speak up?

For reference, some truths about Chinese food, Americans, and discrimination all brought to you through a TED talk...


phd in yogurtry said...

Maybe this is seeking a logical explanation for something that is illogical and unthinking (at best).

Jay P. said...

So obviously this individual wasn't thinking about the meaning behind her statement, and while I agree that it is racist at it's most basic level, I can also see how those without the thought process to look at things deep enough could not even realize it. Sounds like the same type of a person that would be immature enough to leave a menu on your door as a "joke." However in discussion of Asian racism, something I have noticed over the years, as one who has had quite a few Asian-American friends, and Indian-American friends, and black friends (I refrain from the term African-American as many of the blacks I have known have been of Hatian origin and take offense to the "African-American" label), and friends of other ethnicities, they seem to often mock themselves. In my experience the worst offenders of this are the Asian-Americans. Constantly there have been jokes of "slanty eyes," with one friend even referring to himself and expecting to be called "slanty;" Chinese food, intellect, etc. Even the link that you supplied, to the Angry Asian blog, that fella admits to beginning his blog after sitting around with his friends and mocking his ethnicity, then he goes on to refer to "whitey!!" I'm sorry, but how can someone that states he is trying to draw attention to racism going to use a term such as whitey?? That is equally as bad in my opinion, but somehow the "reverse racism" is never made out to be such a big deal. Although it happens all the time, especially in the black culture, at least in my experience. Everyone is quick to try to attack those who refer to "minorities" in derogatory terms, but it seems that no one, including caucasians, ever wants to truly address the issue and put an end to ALL racism by making note of racist comments towards caucasians. Why is that?? Anywho, those are my two cents. Hey by the way speaking of lunch, what happened? I thought we were going to do lunch like two weeks ago?? :)

Kandeezie said...

Jay P. -

Reverse racism is not made out to be a big deal because there is no such thing as reverse racism!! Maybe racism is what you're trying to say here. Putting "reverse" in front is often used to show how whites are discriminated against equally when there are hard facts to support the contrary. Racism also requires an element of power, which we already know minority communities do not hold.

As well, a part of the legacy of racism and oppression is the internalization of the hatred put on that group. So when you hear people disciplining or making fun of each other based on racist ideas, it is the symptoms of oppression that you're witnessing. Just as the kid that was called stupid all his life grows up to see himself as stupid and subsequently calls himself and others stupid. It's always easier for society to wait until he turns 18 then says that he has to accept responsibility for something that was put on him rather than acknowledging that it was not his fault.

Point being, whites need not wait for minority groups to resolve their own issues with race to begin to do the hard work it takes to change their own culture so deeply rooted in supremist ideology. Especially when they are the ones with the most social power to actually affect people's lives based on race.

Jay P. said...

Hello Kandeezie,
Actually no, I knew exactly what I was stating. Had you not immediately begun formulating some plan of attack for what must be some white guy talking crap again as soon as you saw "reverse racism," you would have noticed that my call was to end RACISM, period. I made that clear by stating "ALL racism." However, and forgive me if I am mistaken, but I assume you to be a black female based on the tone of your response and your feminine appearing name. I can infer as much because you immediately assert that whites are not discriminated against "equally." I am not sure what you mean by the term "equally," however let me assure you that yes, whites are discriminated against for being white. I personally have seen or experienced the discrimination (yes, I am a white male) by blacks, Asians, Middle Easterners and Indians (which technically would be Asians, but for the sake of argument...). So please do NOT try to tell me that it does not exist!! My assumption is that you are in no position to do so, I would certainly never try to assert that there is no racism against blacks. That would simply be a foolish statement, and the same goes for your assertion.

I am well educated indvidual, however aside from my college level introductory sociology and psychology teachings, and my graduate level course in psychiatry, I do not have much in the way of formal training in those areas. Therefore I am unable to rebut your obvious attempts to appear to have great knowledge with your discussions of internalizations, powers, communities, etc., with equally as intelligent sounding responses. However I do have the education I have, and more importantly my life experiences. Experiences from growing up in a diverse community, to working in and with communities that are poverty-stricken, violent, not well educated. So yes, I DO know what is out there. In my opinion real life will speak volumes against whatever theories you read in books or discuss in class. So it just kills me when I see individuals such as yourself get up on a high horse and begin to spew out propoganda instead of just getting to the issue. Attitudes such as yours just continue to perpetuate racism.

Racism exists, bottom line. It exists against all races, in many different forms, because in some fashion there is always someone with power, "minority" or not. And please keep in mind that "minority" is really a relative term these days depending on your location. And because it still exists, it needs to STOP.

One last point/inquiry. In regard to your simile with the boy called stupid. How would you explain the Asian male, adopted by well-off whites, raised in a community where he did not experience oppression and hatred, did not have any similar appearing (Asian) authority figures instilling those ideals into him, that still proceeds to make fun of his physical attributes as an Asian-born individual? That does not quite seem to fit your stated theory.

Sydney said...

Wow...not a doubt in my mind a racist slur, if from a place of ignorant innocence. What I have no doubt of is if someone Asian had been in the room, she would not have made that remark, which to me is the most telling indicator. Good for you for speaking up.

C.L. Jones said...

I would hope that no one would think that it is appropriate to mock asian americans without calling that racist. The issue with racism in america is that I think it has become some normalized in a sense, that when people are being racists, they really don't think they are. That is not to excuse the comment, but i think some people don't know or really understand what racism is. Plus "racism" as so often been attached to black and white people that when you bring another marginalized group into the equation, some people don't believe that racism can spill over to other groups. Good read. :) said...

Hi there,

That is just SOOOO incredibly racist that I am floored that someone would even attempt to defend it.

I constantly hear negative remarks about Asian features and no one thinks that it's crude, rude, and stunningly ignorant.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa said...

@ Kandeezie

I am now picking myself off of the floor after reading your response to Jay P.

It is absolutely correct.

It is jarring to encounter white people who want to pretend that white privilege doesn't exist and that they are JUST AS marginalized as all other groups.

Ummmm...will someone please start brewing some coffee?

Jay P. said...

blackwomenblowthetrumpet: I find it "jarring" to encounter angry black women that insist in skewing statements, conversations, etc., to fit their own hippocritical ideals. No where did I even address white privilege or claim that caucasians are "Just as marginalized" as anyone else, all I simply made a call for was an end to ALL racism, whether it be against blacks, whites, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc., and it just so happened that I mentioned that yes, on occasion racism does occur against white people! Instead of agreeing that racism occurs in many forms and that in general our country as a whole needs to be educated and that racial acceptance should be promoted, a couple of angry black women then decide that it's a good idea to DENY aspects of racism that are not relevent to them because it so happens to be against a group that they are obviously BITTER against, which in turn continues the vicious cycle! Perhaps it would do some good if folks that want to allegedly promote acceptance, equality, etc., look a little closer to home to see what their attitudes and feelings as a whole are really like before approaching the rest of the world with their preachings.

Carly said...

Jay P,

As a white woman, (and my race and gender really shouldn't matter to you but clearly it does in your other responses) let me say that I completely agree with Kandeezie.

No one is saying that we don't want to end all racism, but the attitudes you have experienced towards white people by people of color is not technically racism. Kandeezie said it much better than I could, but I think you need to listen well when I say that just because it isn't technically racism doesn't make it right, good, or fair. We aren't saying it's ok, but it's not racism. I would have hoped your sociology classes would have taught you that as they did for me.

Also, way to go perpetuating more fucked up stereotypes like "angry black women" when they did not respond with anger? You're the only angry person I see here.

Anonymous said...

Isn't racism when one associates race with a negative character trait, like being lazy, stupid, etc.?
Or that violence or mistreatment is OK against a person of a certain race. It seems to me like this woman wasn't associating negative character traits or acceptable mistreatment against Asian people. She wasn't even associating positive character traits with Asian people. Rather, she was associating a race/ethnicity of people with food that originates from countries where people ARE of that race/ethnicity. This is racist in the sense that it REGARDS race, but the only association it makes is that Asian people often eat Asian food. Is this an unfair statement?

If she had said, "If I keep eating Italian food, I'll become Italian," would you have been offended? If not, what is it about physical race (physical skin color, facial feature structure, etc.) that is a more hot-button topic than nationality or ethnicity (country of origin of you or your family members)? Why is it that I can be proud of English or German decent (although German is speculative, because people tell me that of COURSE all Germans were/are rabidly supportive Nazis), but I'm not allowed to be proud of being white?

And how dare anyone say that when one sees a white person, and because they're white, thinks that they're rich or lazy or powerful or contemptuous or whatever, and say that that's not racism? That's CLEARLY racism, based on either definition above! I make no claims about who gets racially attacked more... I don't know. If it exists, how does that change the reality, or make the individual acts more acceptable?

All I'm saying is that in every conceivable group, there are idiots that will twist our ideas towards malice and fuck it up for the rest of us. I say that we stop bickering and work on dealing with those people first by being clear and calm. And part of our very rationality-prejudiced group, we should try either to not point fingers at race at all or to just accept race and not consciously associate it with outside qualities.