White Envy not White Entitlement

It looks like I am not the only Asian, who recognized that Elliot Rodger is not quite as white as people think. Although Rodger identified as white, his obsession with blondes may have stemmed from the fact that he didn’t feel white enough. Although Asian voices are seemingly invisible, they can provide valuable insight. This is a close reading of Rodger’s Manifesto by writer Jeff Yang.

But after seeing him consistently described as fitting the “typical mass shooter profile” of a young, mentally disturbed white loner, I realized that both the conventional news and much of social media were making a profound and possibly important error. Because if you’re Asian, a single look at his picture is all you need to realize that Rodger was not white.

Being a Eurasian that doesn’t pass for white, who has a brother that does and identifies as white, I can tell what you look like is not insignificant in how people perceive you and treat you. Although I was recently told by a co-worker that she didn’t know how people recognized me as Asian because I didn’t have tiny eyes. Yang’s analysis is pretty much spot on in what Americans are raised to value.

It turns out that Rodger’s mother is a Malaysian Chinese nurse, who works for film productions. Rodger came to internalize racism against other races and even Asians growing up around the film industry.

In fact, based on the memoir-cum-confession that he left behind, Rodger’s murderous rage was rooted in an obsessive self-hatred, born from his belief that he was entitled to, and thwarted from obtaining, a trifecta of privileges: Race, class, and gender. He saw himself as not quite white enough. Not quite rich enough. Not quite “masculine” enough, in the toxic, testosterone-saturated way that that term is defined in our society.

He expressed surprise and anger at the sight of an Asian talking to a white girl…

“I came across this Asian guy who was talking to a white girl. The sight of that filled me with rage. I always felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party talking to a full-blooded Asian. I never had that kind of attention from a white girl!

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“And white girls are the only girls I’m attracted to, especially the blondes. How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage. I glared at them for a bit, and then decided I had been insulted enough. I angrily walked toward them and bumped the Asian guy aside, trying to act cocky and arrogant to both the boy and the girl.”

In his mind, attaining a white girl would show everyone that he was one of the “cool kids”,and not an “ugly Asian.” I don’t look at this new information about his race as the key to how he became unhinged. It is more interesting to me how toxic the messages our society sends out about what is valuable in a person.

It is still odd that Rodger’s values were so two dimensional and shallow. That he never learned to value things outside of the narrow white supremacist end of the spectrum. We all get these messages as soon as we begin to understand that people are different skin tones. I didn’t know I was different in the mostly white kindergarten I went to until I was teased about it. But throwing a temper tantrum about it won’t change a thing. Learning to unlearn stereotypes and getting to know people as individuals is by far a more enriching experience.

Asian Cultural Sensitivity 101: Why is Katy Perry’s “Geisha” performance considered racist?

I know no one asked me to weigh in on this, but what the heck. I am the resident East Eurasian here. Seriously though my social media is awash in East Asian outrage and also cultural insensitivity over Perry’s performance yesterday at the AMAs dressed in modified,sexy geisha apparel.

perry geisha

It is a Kimono mixed with a Chinese Cheongsam, so manages to neatly appropriate 2 different cultures.

There are a number of comments on the story that ask why is this performance racist and/or offensive?

Like these:

Oh I see, she shouldn’t sexualize geishas who were “Just entertainers”? Wrong. Geishas hairstyles were designed to sexually entice and attract men to spend time with them, who do these twits think WOMEN were entertaining in Japan during this era? Other women?? They were appealing and “forbidden fruit”. Not to mention that a young geishas virginity was sold to the highest bidder in a tradition called “mizuage”. Nope. No sexuality there.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnCLgIh4

They should just stop and not try to explain someone else’s culture to them when they barely understand it themselves. At least this person has been to Japan, but they still don’t get it…

I agree. I have been to Japan, and I thought it was beautiful. I think a lot of western people don’t get the folklore, and mysticism, and traditions that Japanese hold dear. Most of them don’t even know about the many festivals in Japan , like “The Cherry Blossom”, or Tsukimi.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEEOptU

At least this person claims to have a Japanese step-mom, so they must get it right?

I agree. Being offended by everything and making uninformed, false accusations about people is classless and a waist of time. I find it ironic that this is considered “racist”. My stepmother is Japanese and she’s laughing as she reads the posts that call Perry out for racism. “I thought it was beautiful and artistic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s cultural take on things.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/katy-perry-amas-opening-act-called-racist-article-1.1528285#ixzz2lnEkifH3

Nope. It’s the old “I have a/an (insert ethnic relationship here)”, so therefore it can’t be racist as if you can adopt authority by proxy.

Hannah at afternoonsnoozebutton has already done a pretty good job of breaking down what people found offensive about the performance. If you are really interested in why people find it offensive, read her thorough explanation there. Here are her 5 key points that she nailed…

1. Katy Perry’s “geisha” performance tonight was culturally appropriative.

2. There is a long history of mistreatment and ill-will towards Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

3. Western culture “otherizes” Asians by assigning all Asians certain characteristics.

4. Asian women in particular are fetishized. This sexualization of Asian women causes increased sexual violence against Asian-American women.

5. Racism against Asians is often swept under the rug because of the model minority myth, and that won’t change until we start to address racist acts head-on.

Point 4 is particularly powerful as she supports here…

This fetishization has been empirically proven to hurt Asian women. 41-61% of Asian women experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime, the highest rate for any ethnic group. Between 5,000-8,000 Asian women are trafficked into the US each year for sex slavery, also the largest amount for any ethnic group.

This is one more perspective on it from Jeff Yang on The Wall Street Journal Blog

The thing is, while a bucket of toner can strip the geisha makeup off of Perry’s face, nothing can remove the demeaning and harmful iconography of the lotus blossom from the West’s perception of Asian women — a stereotype that presents them as servile, passive, and as Perry would have it, “unconditional” worshippers of their men, willing to pay any price and weather any kind of abuse in order to keep him happy.

So basically Perry’s performance appropriates Japanese culture in a way that perpetuates harmful stereotypes. The Asian submissive, hypersexual stereotype is particularly damaging to Asian women. I’ve been involved with people, who I didn’t understand at the time had no interest in me other than an Asian fetish. No interest at all in my intellect or talents. No human woman neatly fits into a stereotype, and this stereotype is demeaning and dehumanizing.

What bothers me is how unquestioned these stereotypes are and how uncritically they are accepted. Otherwise enlightened friends post stories like this one about Korean beauty contestants that supposedly had plastic surgery and looked freakishly alike from Jezebel to social media. To date there is no retraction that the photos were photoshopped to intensify the similarity. The stereotype that Asians are weird in this case obsessed with looking white is uncritically accepted.

And if you think the stereotypes of Asian women are bad, Asian men are stereotyped as sexually unattractive, dorks in American culture. Despite kick ass examples of Asian male masculinity like Bruce Lee, the stereotype of the Asian male as a lesser male persists.

Bruce Lee JudgingThe stereotype such as perpetuated in movies like Sixteen Candles have been so damaging that Asian men are thought of as undateable by women of other ethnicities. long duck dong

 

Asian men’s supposed lack of virility is still comedy fodder today. In this Guardian article which manages to combine all three negative stereotypes: Asians are weird, Asian men as unattractive dorks, and includes a former Asian prostitute as sex expert to boot. The story is about how the Japanese are having less sex based on falling marriage rates, which is a trend here too as Salon points out.

In fact this story became comedy fodder for Bill Maher, he facetiously used the story to propose posters to encourage the Japanese to have sex. Among the punchlines were the same old tired tropes like… “He’s Japanese it’s not like it’s gonna hurt.” In the same breath he bemoans progressive causes like overpopulation, yet there is the same old stab at Asian males’ dignity, that has gone on ever since American colonialism. Many in his audience don’t take a minute while they’re laughing at the expense of the Japanese to question the stereotypes.

The more things change the more things stay the same. I grew up not feeling proud of my Asian heritage. Years of having my hair pulled as a kid, being mistaken for the Japanese exchange student, having people ask where I am from and the doubtful looks when I say I am American add up. I am raising my daughter to be proud of her Asian ancestry. She even wants to start a Japanese appreciation club at her school. Japanese culture is becoming more acknowledged and popular here.

But there is a difference between appreciation and appropriation and reinforcing stereotypes. The comments on this story have been more offensive than the performance itself. They reveal how little these commenters actually question how the media portrays East Asians in this case. For all the declaring about wanting to know why people find this offensive; the comments show and unwillingness to listen to the reason why. Most offensive is in place of listening these commenters seek to tell East Asians in this case what their experiences are and how they should feel about them.  As for Ms. Perry herself if you are still wondering if she has some of the same unquestioned cultural insensitivity there is this quote about how she feels about the Japanese…

 “I’m so obsessed I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,”

I hope that this helps people to understand why Asians are tired of being portrayed in American media in the same predictable and stereotypical ways.

 

[important]Much of the ideas in this article were discussed first in The Secular Asian Community facebook discussion group. If you are looking for secular Asian support or to support secular Asians, they are a great group. We are putting something together for the next FtBCon, so watch out for that. [/important]